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FRIDAY SEMINAR SERIES | Comparing Australia's Mining Booms



Start Date

31 Mar 2017 1:00 pm

End Date

31 Mar 2017 2:00 pm


Room 586, Social Sciences Building, Sandy Bay Campus

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This is a free seminar and everyone is welcome to attend.

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An Institute for the Study of Social Change and School of Social Sciences seminar

presented by

Dr David Lee, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

This paper compares the mining boom, which began in the early 1960s and continued through to the end of the China resources boom in 2012, with the gold rushes of the nineteenth century. The discovery of gold in 1851, argues economic historian Ian McLean, ‘delivered a major shock to the predominantly pastoral economy of Australia and ushered in a dramatic episode in the country’s prosperity’. The economic consequences of the gold rush did not last a mere number of years. They lasted for about half a century. McLean argues that it is appropriate to look at the entire half-century from 1851 to 1900 ‘as a single era of economic expansion, rapidly increasing population and rising incomes’ substantially influenced by the mining of gold in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia. This paper argues that we may look at the period from the early 1960s to 2012 as a similar epoch in which Australia was transformed by a renaissance in mining. A ‘second rush’ began unexpectedly with the development of new export industries, the most prominent of which were coal, iron ore and bauxite. Australia’s move to greater economic openness began well before the 1980s with the 1957 Australia–Japan Agreement on Commerce, the end of the export embargo on iron ore, federal subsidisation of coal ports on the eastern seaboard and the wave of industrialisation across Australia that accompanied the development of bauxite. The ‘second rush’ continued in the 1970s, despite rising oil prices, with the ‘resources boom’ from 1977 to 1982. Despite a downturn in mining globally, mining remained a vitally important sector of the Australian economy in the 1980s and 1990s before embarking on the most dramatic period of boom conditions between 2002 and 2012.

David Lee is Director of the Historical Publications and Research Unit of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

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