Photo of gold-pan.

The riches flowing from Victoria’s ‘new gold rush’

The Gold Rush of the 1850s transformed Victoria, its riches providing the highest standard of living in the world at the time.

But for all the gold mined at the time, some believe there is still more to discover.

A recent scientific investigation supports this idea.

“There is about as much gold left in Victoria as has ever been mined in the whole state. This is an estimate from Geo Science Victoria,” said James Sorahan of the Victorian branch of the Minerals Council. of Australia.

And with the price of gold skyrocketing, currently at around $2,600 an ounce, the mining sector is booming.

Mining exploration

Last year, mining generated $1 billion for Victoria’s economy.

More than half was spent on wages and services at state mines.

And a record amount of nearly $200 million was invested in mineral exploration.

If previous miners had gone in a different direction, they would have driven their pickaxe into this large layer of gold-bearing ore. (Tim Lee)

This year is expected to smash those numbers in what’s being called the “New Rush.”

“Gold mining is more important than it has been for a very long time, and we expect it to become even more important. People think of the 1850s, 1860s, 1870s, but we see to a new rush in the 2020s.”

This is made possible by new technologies, such as geothermal mapping that detects mineral deposits from the air and exploration drills that take cores from a kilometer underground.

Photo of a man standing next to a gold mine relic.
Richard Darby inspects gold mining relics left behind by a town with a maximum population of 500. (Tim Lee)

These sophisticated tools bring new life and activity to the long-abandoned goldfields the ancients thought had yielded their last.

New mining leases

At Swift’s Creek in the high country of Victoria, the Australian gold exploration company First AU has taken up major mining leases in the area.

With modern exploration techniques, he re-evaluates old workings in search of new mineral sources.

The first results show high-grade gold deposits.

Photo of two men with torches.
Richard Darby and Ryan Skeen of mining company First AU deep inside Richard’s gold mine.(Tim Lee)

Mr Skeen believes that in the past, the region’s remoteness and rugged terrain deterred miners.

Geology also played a role with mineral veins running erratically, making gold deposits elusive.

But it was gold that drew Swift’s Creek storekeeper and lifelong miner Richard Darby to the area 40 years ago.

Gold panning in his childhood captivated him.

“Like, if you’re having a bad day, well, you just think of gold, think of a reef, and that’s like a religion to you,” said Mr Darby, 77.

Mr. Darby searched for gold all over Australia, studied old mining records and extensively surveyed the streams and ravines of the region.

Photo of bush and hills.
It is hoped that the rugged high country of East Gippsland will be Victoria’s next big gold deposit.(Tim Lee)

find gold in the garden

But his biggest strike might yet be in his own backyard, in a long-abandoned mine on a steep hill.

Digging in the opposite direction to the old miners, Mr Darby discovered a wide seam of rust-colored mineral ore at the end of a 30-metre-long shaft.

Early results suggest it contains payable gold and other metals, but even better, exploratory drilling indicates the vein extends some distance down the hill.

First AU hopes this discovery could herald a big new gold deposit for Victoria.

Photo of the entrance to a gold mine.
The Fosterville mine in central Victoria is one of the richest gold mines in the world.(Tim Lee)

Geological evidence suggests that the area is linked to the rich gold deposits of central Victoria, home to Fosterville, Victoria’s largest gold mine.

It is one of the most profitable high-grade gold mines in the world and produced more than half a million ounces of gold last year.

Stimulate the economy

If mining takes off in the hills around Swift’s Creek, it will give an economic boost to a remote area struggling to retain its young people.

Richard Darby’s grandson, Tom Darby, 23, is already employed by First AU, with more job opportunities expected to follow.

The favorable economic climate sees further mining activity in the region and throughout the state.

But gold is not the only goal.

A man is holding a gold bar
The Victoria region is experiencing a gold rush renaissance with huge economic benefits.(ABC News: Jarrod Lucas)

“The more raw materials, the more mines, the more minerals, the more resilient this industry will be and the more it will add to our regional economies.”

At Swift’s Creek, First AU will bring much-needed capital and expertise to Mr. Darby’s promising prospect.

“It requires new skills, new training, new infrastructure, all of those things, so if someone could start something, I think it would be really important for the local community.”

Watch this story on ABC TV’s landline at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, or on ABC View.

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