Gold Prospecting in Tasmania

Significant amounts of gold has been produced on the island of Tasmania, even though it has not received as much attention as other on the mainland of Australia. Gold production began over a century ago at Beaconsfield and Lefroy. The northeastern parts of Tasmania, Alberton, Mathinna, Mangana and Warentinna in particular, are the primary gold producing areas. Although both the Lisle District and Savage river have yielded small nuggets, most of the gold in Tasmania comes from quartz reefing.

Since Tasmania was not part of the gold discoveries that brought hoards of immigrants to the Australian mainland, the government attempted to encourage gold exploration during the 1850s through the 1970 by offering a reward of £5,000 to any prospector who located gold on the island. Eventually gold was being recovered at Beaconsfield, Cygnet, Corinna, Gladstone, Fingal, Lisle, Lefroy, Queenstown, Savage River, Mathinna, Urquhart River and along the west coast.

The first anecdotal discovery of gold was at Nine Mile Springs in 1840, by a convict on Apple Isle. In 1847, records indicate that gold-bearing quartz was discovered near Beaconsfield on Blythe Creek by John Gardner. A substantiated gold discovery was recorded in 1849, found in the slate rock near Nine Mile Springs. Profitable alluvial gold was recorded in 1852 by James Grant at Tullochgorum. Smaller finds were reported in 1852 at Tower Hill Creek and Lefroy. A further minor recovery of gold occurred at Mount Mary in the southeast, and 1856 marked the opening of Tasmania’s first reef gold mine.

The first profitable reef gold was discovered in 1858 at Mangana and Mathinna. In 1859, James Smith recovered gold at the River Forth, and at Calder, a tributary of the Inglis River, Peter Leete found yet more gold. Smaller amounts of gold were found in the King and Franklin Rivers near Macquarie Harbor, and on a tributary of the Jane River called the Acheron River, as well as Lyndhurst, now called Waterhouse.

Also Read: Gold Prospecting in Victoria

In 1869, Samuel Richards recovered alluvial gold at Specimen Hill in Lefroy, triggering the first Tasmanian gold rush. A town sprang up along the main road from Bridport to Bell Bay, and miners began staking claims nearby and also at Back Creek. Mining the gold was not an easy endeavor, as the majority of the gold was beneath the surface in quartz. Mining companies equipped to crush the ore moved into the area, as this was made for more profitable recovery than individual prospectors. Lefroy was considered to be the first really profitable area in Tasmania.

Further discoveres in the north included: Sheffield Quadrangle south of the Minnow River in 1881; Specimen Creek in 1882 (later renamed Specimen Reef, including diggings at Lucky Hit, Second-To-None and Golfinger; and in 1893 surface and underground mining produced gold at Narrawa Creek in Moina.

  • Beaconsfield Goldfield – The most important discovery occurred in 1877 when a gold reef was discovered at Cabbage Tree Hill by William & David Dally. The area was renamed as Brandy Creek and subsequently became Beaconsfield. Soon there were 53 mining companies operating in this area, which made Beaconsfield Tasmania’s third biggest town. In the Tamar Valley, the Beaconsfield Goldfield was re-opened around 1877. Gold had been discovered there several decades earlier, but larger mining operations made gold recovery more profitable, and the Grubb Shaft Mine was sunk in 1879, elevating Beaconsfield to the largest source of gold in Tasmania, peaking in 1900. Reports indicate that this particular goldfield yielded 855,000 ounces of gold.
  • Lisle Goldfield – a significant reef gold strike occurred at Tobacco Creek, near Golconda Creek, in 1877 in the Mount Arthur Goldfield (later renamed Lisle Goldfield. Producing in excess of 250,000 ounces of gold, the mine at Lisle Creek was the most productive in Tasmania. In 1883 gold was discovered in Wilson Creek on the western flanks of Mount Victoria in Alberton. Four promising quartz veins were found halfway down the mountain toward the Dorset River. The town of Branxholm, near Mount Victoria also yielded gold in 1883.
  • Corinna Goldfield – alluvial gold in the Denison River was found in 1872, but they were not mined until 1876 and 1877. Shortly after, gold was found between Heemskirk and Waratah, and along some creeks flowing into the Heazlewood, Donaldson, Pieman and Whyte Rivers near Waratah. Gold was recovered east of Golden Ridge, although the surrounding area was more productive than Golden Ridge itself. More alluvial gold was found at near Brown’s Plains, near Middleton Creek. The following rush was inspired by finds in the Pieman River Goldfield, from the Meredith Range to the Donaldson River. The following years included many gold finds, including Smith’s Creek, Savage River north of Long Plains, Grays Creek on a flank of Golden Ridge, a creeks near Mount Strahan on the Garfield River, the western side of Mount Read. The Ring River at Mt. Hamilton near Zeehan in 1891marked the discovery that precipitated the last gold rush in Tasmania. The town or Rosebery has a healthy economy at the present time, due to a large mining operation at Mount Black in 1893, which produced 138,000 ounces of gold.
  • Gladstone Goldfield – Gold was discovered in the Mangana Goldfield in the 1850s and mining activity began in earnest in 1870, while at the same time operations began near St. Mary’s at Tower Hill and Mathinna, when quartz ore crushing operations began in 1877. Lynch’s Creek on Queen River reported alluvial gold discoveries in 1882, and as prospectors reloated to the area from the Pieman River, The Golden Gate at Mathinna was established by 1888 as the second largest gold mine in Tasmania.
  • Linda Goldfield/Mount Lyell/Queenstown Goldfield – A thick ironstone mass called Iron Blow yielded fine gold in 1883 at Gormanston Hill, later known as Queenstown. The gold was traced to the eastern flank of a ridge connecting Mount Owen to Mount Lyell. In 1886 the Mount Lyell Gold Mining Company was established at the site and 512,000 ounces of gold were recovered. It was worked from 1883 to 1890, and Queenstown became a boomtown with subsequent discoveries at Mt. Lyell.
  • The place to look for gold is where gold has been found in the past. Australia is a gold-rich area, and there is still gold to be found for the energetic prospector.

    Next: Gold Prospecting in New South Wales

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