New South Wales may very well have been the first state in Australia where authentic gold nuggets were first reported and discovered, although mining did not start in earnest for several more decades.
James McBrien, an Assistant-Surveyor from the NSW Lands Department, while engaged in the survey of a road along the Fish River, found the precious yellow metal as flakes in the area between Ryal and Bathurst on the north side of the Fish River while working on the main line from Sydney to Bourke.
The area was in close proximity to the site of the memorable Hargraves gold discovery, which impacted a radical transformation in the economic and social fabric of the nation three decades later. These events became the prelude of the Australian gold rushes and the enormous influx of people into the Australian Outback.
HISTORICAL GOLD DISCOVERIES IN NEW SOUTH WALES
Several other minor discoveries were made in subsequent years.
However, it was Edward Hammond Hargraves who was credited with the discovery of the first payable goldfields at Ophir, near Bathurst, New South Wales in February of 1851. Hargraves believed that the similarities in geological features between his homeland and the California goldfields, from where he had just returned, indicated the existence of gold. His theory was proven right after he discovered a grain of gold in a waterhole at Lewis Ponds Creek.
He was later joined by John Hardman Lister and the Tom brothers, James and William, to prospect further along the Macquarie River where they found a bit more color. Two months later, Lister and the Tom brothers used a rocker box at the intersection of Lewis Ponds Creek and Summer Hills Creek, where they recovered a 14-gram gold nugget in a rock bar, named Fitzroy Bar.
Within a span of only three days, they further recovered a total of 113 grams of payable gold including a 55 grams gold nugget, which was the first sizable gold nugget to be recorded in all of Australia. The area was later to become the township of Ophir, the name given by William Tom’s father after a biblical region known for its abundance of gold.
GOLD LOCATIONS IN NEW SOUTH WALES
The history of gold in payable quantities that began in 1851 encouraged an aggressive prospecting campaign throughout the state. It led to further discoveries of valuable gold ores, and subsequently, other important ore deposits containing valuable metals such as silver, zinc, lead, tin and copper. New South Wales has become one of the most mineral rich regions in the world, producing a wide variety of precious and base metals.
The principal localities of New South Wales where gold has been further discovered, explored and worked in sufficient quantities to sustain mining operations up to the present time are mentioned below:
Bell’s Point – Diggings in the area were situated along the Bell River and a number of its tributaries. The river itself borders the western part of Wellington County and feeds the Macquarie River in Wellington Valley. In 1851, most who worked the site realized substantial profits.
Braidwood – Mining in the area occurred in St. Vincent County, 16 miles from Braidwood Town. The principal mines were located at the Araluen Creek, a tributary of the Deua River. But gold was also produced in significant amounts at Major’s and Bell’s Creeks, and along the Little River or Mongarlowe River.
Bungonia or Shoalhaven – Both localities in the southeastern coastal region of Goulburn Mulwaree hosted gold mines dotting the vicinity of the Shoalhaven River, in Argyle County.
Carraway Hut Cattle Station -Located in the vicinity of Lake George in Murray County, Flat and Black Swamps were sparsely mined, but both appeared productive.
Hanging Rock – Diggings in the area were developed towards a small creek that flows into Dungowan Creek, a tributary of the Peel River, below the craggy portion of the Liverpool Range, known as the Hanging Rock.
Louisa Creek – Nestled on a tableland 30 miles from Mudgee, Louisa Creek is considerably marshy, yet, proliferates with quartz boulders and pebbles on auriferous soil.
Major’s Creek – Located in the vicinity of the Shoalhaven River, diggings in the area were rewarding. Miners reportedly obtained from 2 to 3-ounces of gold per day.
Monaro – Recent diggings are highly promising and generative. They are located along the Snowy River, and some of its tributaries.
Meroo or World’s End – Gold diggings were located on the Meroo Creek, south of Mudgee. They were found in alluvial deposits lying on beds of greasy and yellow-colored clay. In and below the clay no gold occurs. Gold recovered was in the form of nuggets of all sizes — from a fine dust to 4 ounce nuggets — or appeared as gold within quartz.
Mookerra – As a tributary of the Macquarie River, in Wellington County, the auriferous creek is productive. But it is regularly dry, which necessitates diggers to cart ores for long distances to obtain water to wash out the gold.
Moruya – Area diggings were located on the banks of the Moruya River, which stretches along the western boundary of St. Vincent’s County.
Oakey Creek – The creek banks in the Liverpool Plains’ district are gold bearing. A miner was once reported to have found eight ounces of gold within six days.
Ophir – The celebrated area comprises the gold diggings at Lewis Ponds, Summer Hill Creek, and Frederick’s Valley in Bathurst County. The region owned the richest goldfields in the colony. Roads leading to the area were reported to be paved with gold since the rocks along the roads were auriferous. In both Lewis Ponds and Summer Hill Creek, gold dust was characterized to be coarse around its mica-slate hills, numerous quartz veins, and in the creek’s bed and narrow serpentine course.
In Frederick’s Valley, the of 6,000-acre Wentworth estate was believed to be rich in gold. The ground’s vicinities were abundantly composed of basaltic rocks and, in most locations, the well-watered and fertile soil is a blend of quartz and red clay. Gold nuggets occur in varying dimensions, ranging from a pea to a walnut in size.
Parshish – Gold diggings were in the vicinity of the Abercrombie River, nearly 50 miles to the south of Bathurst.
Tuena – Mining operations in the area existed 60 miles from Goulburn, and production has been profitable.
Turon – The area is currently the principal goldfield in the state. The Turon River itself, which rises near Hartley at a place called Golden Point, receives several auriferous tributary creeks such as, Little Oakey and Cunningham’s Creeks, and flows through Roxburgh and Wellington Counties, and ends up into the Macquarie.
Other notable gold locations in New South Wales were found at the following locations:
• Peel River; Bingara; Uralla & Rocky River; Timbarra; Toomloom; Ironbark, Solferino, Boorook, Little River, Cangai, Nymboi & Chambigne; Bingera; Puddlelock; Cameron’s Creek; Spring Mount; Upper Hunt River;Barrington; Gloucester; Tia River; Nowendoc; Bingera; Yulgilbah; Bora Creek; Orara; Torryburn; and Hillgrove at the Guyra River.
Needless to say, there are an abundance of places to find gold in New South Wales.
GOLD NUGGET DISCOVERIES OF NEW SOUTH WALES
Besides being renowned of owning the honor as the first state where gold was discovered in Australia, New South Wales also holds the claim of producing the largest mass of gold that was ever recovered and countless other remarkable large nuggets. The humongous nugget was the Holtermann Nugget, which was found in Hill End in 1872. It weighed 630 lbs or 93.2 kg and netted an estimated 3,000 ounces of gold.
Another notable nugget found at Hill End was the “Rita’s Dream Nugget”, found in 1979 and weighed 37 ounces. The second largest nugget, named “Kerr’s Hundredweight”, weighed 300 ounces and was found at Big Nugget Hill in Hargraves in 1851.
The third largest was the “Brenan Nugget”, weighed at 1,364 ounces. It was recovered in Meroo Creek, which is a tributary of the Turon River. Also along Turon River, the “King of the Waterworn” nugget was found in the following year. Its official weight was at 157 ounces.
The “Fathers’ Day Nugget” was a specimen with an overall weight of 199 ounces and a net weight of gold at 168 ounces. It was retrieved at Ophir in 1979 and became the fourth largest nugget found in the state.
Throughout the period of notable prosperity that New South Wales was building its mining industry, the overall gold output continued rising. Records valued gold productions to as high as £2,660,946 in 1852. As years went on and productions decreased, the total gold production in New South Wales decreased.
Gold mining continues here today, along with active mining for many different mineral resources.
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