The first miners
Before European settlement, minerals in Australia were highly valued for their pigment-producing qualities and used in to create the ancient rock art which is recognised worldwide for its cultural value and significance. The origins of commercial mining in Australia dates back to the era of the 1790s, with coal discovered near Newcastle within a decade of the First Fleet arriving.
The first minerals to be exported from Australia were copper and lead, mined in South Australia, which triggered the very first mining boom which lead to an influx of miners from Cornwall who along with their mining equipment and expertise established copper mining in South Australia, across the region now known as the Copper Coast.
The Aussie Gold rush
The Australian gold rush of the 1850s was a mining boom that attracted the attention of the world. Gold was first discovered in New South Wales in 1823, but it was in the Victorian towns of Ballarat and Bendigo where immigrants flocked to seek their fortune. It was the gold rush that established a large-scale mining sector in Australia and by 1850, the country was producing nearly 40% of the world’s gold.
Start of the large scale super mines
Once the reserves in the Victorian goldfields had been exhausted, the mining sector in Australia had to look further afield. It also became clear that to extract the larger and deeper minerals, serious mining machines and equipment would be needed. At the end of the 19th century, large deposits of copper and gold had been discovered at Mt Morgan in Queensland, lead, silver and zinc had been found in Broken Hill, New South Wales and gold fever started all over again in Western Australia with significant underground deposits of gold discovered at Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie, while in South Australia, iron ore followed on from copper and lead in the discovery of new mineral deposits. It was during this period that the foundations were being laid across the regions that would later play major roles in the Australian mining boom of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.