A supposed goldfield: Ben Lomond and Tower Hill, 1859 (Tasmaniana Library, SLT)
Gold mining began in 1847 when John Gardner found gold-bearing quartz on Blythe Creek, near Beaconsfield. The first payable gold was found in 1852, in alluvial deposits at Mangana, which immediately attracted some 200 fortune seekers. Reef mining replaced alluvial mining at Mangana and nearby Mathinna in about 1858. After a thirty-year struggle at Mathinna, Tasmania's second-largest gold mine was established; the Golden Gate mine produced over 7 tonnes of gold between 1888 and 1932.
During the 1850s and early 1860s, several government-sponsored expeditions searched for gold on the west coast. Mining commenced around Corinna in 1879. This district produced Tasmania's largest gold nuggets, up to 7.6 kg. In 1862 geologist Charles Gould found small quantities of gold in the King River. Further exploration led to the discovery of alluvial deposits at Lynch Creek in 1881, and reef gold at the 'Iron Blow' which became the world famous Mount Lyell copper mine.
Meanwhile, northern Tasmania continued to provide significant finds, including deposits located at Lefroy, Back Creek and Waterhouse in 1869, Lisle in 1878, Gladstone in 1880 and Mount Victoria in 1882. The Lisle goldfield is estimated to have produced about 10 tonnes of gold, in alluvial deposits for which the hard rock source is still unknown.
Perhaps the most important gold discovery in Tasmania occurred in 1877, when William and David Dally found a rich reef on the eastern side of Cabbage Tree Hill, Beaconsfield, which eventually became the Tasmania Gold Mine. This mine produced about 30 tons of gold to 1914, was reopened in the 1990s and is again in full production.
Since the 1880s, there have been only two significant new gold mines opened, with a brief 'rush' in 1935 on the Jane River alluvial goldfield in the south-west, and the Henty lode found in about 1986, north of Queenstown. The Henty (opened in 1990) and Beaconsfield Mines are Tasmania's only large operating gold mines, but considerable amounts of gold are also recovered as by-products of some other mines (especially Mount Lyell and Rosebery).
Further reading: H Julen, A history of goldmining on the Tasmanian west coast, Launceston, 1981.
Ralph Bottrill and Greg Dickens