Home' Scoop : Scoop 52 Contents In the late 19th Century, man's lust for gold helped forge Western
Australia's identity. Now, more than 100 years later, the state is
poised to once again reap the rewards of gold fever as worldwide
demand surges for this most coveted of precious metals.
text georgina walsh « images aaron bunch
GOLD. In Western Australia s 1890s it was
the stuff that dreams were made of, and today it
sets the standard of excellence... the gold medal...
worth your weight in gold... golden opportu-
nity... as good as gold...
And though today iron ore may be the driving
force behind the state s development, Gold is still
right there behind it, powering the economy. It
was on gold that our state was built. The tremen-
dous development and wealth that is evident all
around us is largely courtesy of the gold boom at
the turn of the 19th Century.
The grand old buildings that line the streets
of Kalgoorlie-Boulder, York and even St Georges
Terrace; the unexpected pockets of civilisation in
places such as Leonora and Cue; and the incred-
ible engineering feat that is the Perth to Kalgoorlie
pipeline, are all testament to the wealth that gold
brought to our state.
And then there are the iconic names of men
such as Paddy Hannan, Claude de Bernales, Her-
bert Hoover (yes, the future president of the USA)
and C Y O Connor, that are synonymous with the
history of gold in WA -- men truly worth their
weight in gold.
Australia was in its infancy when Edward
Hargraves struck gold at Bathurst, NSW, in 1851,
bringing men of all classes and nationalities to the
eastern states in a mad rush to find their fortune.
It was Australia s first official gold find and one of
many gold rushes. Many more were to follow and
each brought with it population explosions, as well
as social, political and economic changes with far-
Australia s first gold boom, which lasted about a
decade and had a peak production of three million
ounces (100 tonnes). A succession of finds in WA s
Kimberley, Pilbara, Yilgarn and Murchison regions
created a ripple of mini-rushes between 1884 and
1891, but it wasn t until 1892 that gold fever really
hit WA after word spread of the rich Coolgardie
finds of Arthur Bayley and William Ford.
While Bayley and Ford s discovery created
Coolgardie, nine months later it was the luck of
three Irishmen (Paddy Hannan, Tom Flanagan
and Dan Shea) that gave birth to Kalgoorlie and
Boulder and the famous "Golden Mile", reputedly
the richest concentration of gold mineralisation in
Not even the harsh desert conditions 600km
inland from Perth could stop the charge of people
from all over the world. Driven by the prospect of
instant wealth, many sacrificed what little they had
and travelled to the harsh interior, some with horse
and cart, but many on foot, pushing wheelbar-
rows containing their possessions. This kicked off
Australia s second gold boom lasting two decades
and reaching a peak annual gold production of just
under 4 million ounces (125 tonnes) in 1903.
These first two gold booms changed the shape
of the nation. Settlements and towns were estab-
lished, some to just as quickly become ghost towns
as gold ran out, others becoming the foundation
for modern-day agricultural and industrial towns.
Coolgardie alone swelled from a population of
39,000 in 1886 to 138,000 a decade later, while
Kalgoorlie boasted an incredible 93 pubs and 25
brothels. Between 1892 and 1902, the population
of the "Golden West" almost quadrupled from
58,000 to 215,000. And as highlighted by Sandra
Close, renowned gold commentator and author of
The Great Gold Renaissance, "it was the votes of the
miners in the Kalgoorlie region which ensured WA
became part of the Commonwealth of Australia at
the time of Federation in 1901".
They were days that shaped the nation, but
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