Article ID: CBB857064398

Early theories and practicalities on gold occurrence in Australia (2021)


The discovery of gold in Australia forced many changes to theory on the occurrence and origin of gold deposits. Initial discoveries appeared to confirm existing ideas on the global distribution of gold-bearing terrains. Later discoveries and research would show that this confirmation was largely coincidental, but nevertheless helpful in early prospecting. Prior to the first Australian gold rush, theoretical predictions of payable gold were made by Sir Roderick Murchison and Rev. W.B. Clarke based on knowledge of accidental gold finds and geological analogy with known areas of significant gold occurrence, particularly the Ural region in Russia. These predictions were overwhelmed when Edward Hargraves, realised he might be able to spark a gold rush that would prove the existence of payable gold. Hargraves travelled to the Bathurst region of New South Wales where numerous gold finds had already been made and with local guides, prospected Lewis Ponds Creek and the Macquarie River. He demonstrated the methods of alluvial mining, to John Lister and William and James Tom enabling them to find sufficient alluvial gold to initiate a gold rush. The crowd of attracted diggers demonstrated the existence of a payable goldfield. The unstoppable first rush resulted in the pragmatic introduction of government regulation and administration to allow alluvial gold mining. Other discoveries of payable goldfields quickly followed. As the local scientific expert on gold, W. B. Clarke was commissioned to conduct two extensive surveys of the goldfields between 1851 and 1853. Clarke also drew on his geological knowledge to provide practical advice to the thousands of prospecting gold diggers. Gold-bearing quartz reefs and lodes were discovered, but it was predicted that these could not be mined economically. Theory also predicted that the reef gold would not continue to depth. Practical observations and mining experience from the numerous discoveries led to revision of the widely held dicta on gold occurrence. Alluvial gold was found in a range of settings, including the recent drainage and ancient and buried leads. A wider variety of rock types was recognised as favourable for gold. Different styles of reef gold were identified and found to be economically mineable to great depth. Evolving ideas on the origin of gold deposits were widely discussed, tested, and refined. Of the many players involved in the early discovery of gold in Australia, Clarke, Hargraves and Murchison probably had the greatest overall influence in terms of theoretical predication and practical outcomes that initiated the Australian gold-mining industry.

Citation URI

Similar Citations

Article Lawrence, Susan; Davies, Peter; (2014)
The Sludge Question: The Regulation of Mine Tailings in Nineteenth-Century Victoria (/isis/citation/CBB001421414/) unapi

Book McCalman, Iain; Cook, Alexander; Reeves, Andrew; (2001)
Gold: Forgotten Histories and Lost Objects in Australia (/isis/citation/CBB000100967/) unapi

Article Dubey, R. K.; (2007)
Souces of Gold in India as Described by Ṭhakkura Pherū---An Assessment (/isis/citation/CBB000720210/) unapi

Article K. R. Aalto; (2017)
Philip Tyson's 1849 Study of California Gold Prospects (/isis/citation/CBB904353285/) unapi

Article Darragh, Thomas A.; (2001)
Ferdinand Hochstetter's Notes of a Visit to Australia and a Tour of the Victorian Goldfields in 1859 (/isis/citation/CBB000100954/) unapi

Article MacLeod, Roy; (2000)
Of Men and Mining Education: The School of Mines at the University of Sydney (/isis/citation/CBB000111884/) unapi

Article Pigott, Louis J.; (2002)
John William Lewin's Birds of New South Wales: Notes on the Later Editions (/isis/citation/CBB000740305/) unapi

Book Collie, Michael; Diemer, John; (2004)
Murchison's Wanderings in Russia: His Geological Exploration of Russia in Europe and the Ural Mountains, 1840 and 1841 (/isis/citation/CBB000771625/) unapi

Article Diemer, John A.; (2008)
Murchison's Research Method: An Example from Southern Norway (/isis/citation/CBB000850787/) unapi

Book Judith Godden; (2017)
Crown Street Women's Hospital: A History 1893-1983 (/isis/citation/CBB568881618/) unapi

Book James Dunk; (2019)
Bedlam at Botany Bay (/isis/citation/CBB190377131/) unapi

Book Godden, Judith; (2006)
Lucy Osburn, a Lady Displaced: Florence Nightingale's Envoy to Australia (/isis/citation/CBB000931028/) unapi

Article McCarthya, Louella; (2005)
All This Fuss about a Trivial Incident? Women, Hospitals, and Medical Work in New South Wales, 1900--1920 (/isis/citation/CBB001030838/) unapi

Book Lee, Robert; (2001)
Colonial Engineer: John Whitton, 1819-1898, and the Building of Australia's Railways (/isis/citation/CBB000101781/) unapi

Article Rae, Ian D.; Brock, William H.; (2013)
Liebig's Australian Connection: James King's Scientific Viticulture (/isis/citation/CBB001213669/) unapi

Article Kass, Dorothy; (2013)
The Nature Study Idea in New South Wales: The Role of Charles Tucker Musson (1856--1928) (/isis/citation/CBB001213671/) unapi

Book Cassandra Mark-Thiesen; (2018)
Mediators, Contract Men, and Colonial Capital: Mechanized Gold Mining in the Gold Coast Colony, 1879-1909 (/isis/citation/CBB081623457/) unapi

Authors & Contributors
Lawrence, Susan C.
Diemer, John A.
Godden, Judith
Darragh, Thomas A.
McCalman, Iain
Goodman, David
Historical Records of Australian Science
Earth Sciences History: Journal of the History of the Earth Sciences Society
Archives of Natural History
Indian Journal of History of Science
Histoire & Mesure
Women's History Review
Cambridge University Press
New South Wales Univ. Press
British Geological Survey
University of Sydney Press
University of Rochester Press
NewSouth Books
Mines and mining
Earth sciences
Great Britain, colonies
Women in medicine
Murchison, Roderick Impey
Hochstetter, Christian Gottlieb Ferdinand von
Whitton, John
Pherū, Ṭhakkura
Lewin, John William
Brown, Robert
Time Periods
19th century
20th century
20th century, early
20th century, late
New South Wales (Australia)
Ural Mountains region (Russia)
University of Sydney

Be the first to comment!

{{ comment.created_by.username }} on {{ comment.created_on | date:'medium' }}

Log in or register to comment