Thursday, March 26, 2009

Theme Thursday - Mineral

This country that once grew on the sheep’s back has in recent years become completely dependent on the mineral rush once again. We export gold, silver, copper, bauxite, iron ore, yellow cake to name a few . . our landscape is dotted with enormous open cut mines and pillaging their contents to sate the Chinese desire to modernise has stood us in good stead over the past 10 years.


It took a long time for anyone here to actually realise the potential of Australia’s mineral deposits and it all began with one very special mineral . . . gold.


In 1851, a portly and slightly ridiculous Edward Hargraves travelled with his companion Lister and the Brother’s Tom just over the Great Dividing Range. Despite being very unsuccessful in his hunt for Gold in California he was confident that this was gold rush country and declared to his friend:


" The resemblance of its formations to that of California could not be doubted or mistaken. I felt myself surrounded by gold.

"This is a memorable day in the history of New South Wales, I shall be a baronet, you will be knighted, and my old horse will be stuffed, put in a glass case, and sent to the British Museum!"


Hargraves did find a small deposit of alluvial gold and was willing to reveal the location of the field, but he cleverly ensured he would be rewarded regardless of whether any further gold was mined there. The field was examined and five hundred pounds paid to Hargraves for his discovery.


The government declared a gold discovery on May 22, 1851. Prospectors cancelled their trips to California. Clerks, labourers and servants failed to appear for work as thousands rushed west for the newly named "Ophir" gold field,soon to be followed by digs at Bathurst, Sofala and Hill End. The Australian gold rush was on. In 1852 alone, 370,000 immigrants arrived here and the economy began to boom.


Speculators spread to Victoria at Bendigo and Ballarat where more than one third of the world's gold output in the 1850s was found. Australia’s burgeoning economy boomed turning the wide brown land in the arse end of the world from a colony, into a bustling national economy.


Just as he had prophesised, Hargraves was appointed Crown Commissioner of the Goldfields, and paid 10,000 pounds for his trouble. Hargraves never shared his wealth his companions Lister and the Tom Brothers, despite their protests and he made a hasty effort to silence his original financier, ensuring no claims would be made on his wealth.

The audacity of Hargraves knew no bounds,


"it was never my intention ... to work for gold, my only desire was to make the discovery, and rely on the Government and the country for my reward".

Of course in those days, Gold was the standard – the mineral against which all promissory notes (money) were levied. Who knows what drives the value of today’s notes . . .

I think Mae West had a point :


“No gold-digging for me, I take Diamonds,we may be off the gold standard one day.”


30 comments:

Grow Up said...

Diamond prices are artificial and likely to tumble in the not too distant future as the technology for artificial stones that are indistinguishable from the naturally occurring variety. Sooner the better if you ask me, De Beers are a bunch of fuckers and could do with a good kicking. My uncle learned to pan for gold in Aus. and the two of us found a reasonable number of really tiny specs panning up in goldmine river in the hills above Woodenbridge near Arklow.

Mrsupole said...

They just did a story on our local news about how gold mining here in California is on a comeback. And people are finding gold again. They say that there is still over 80% of the gold still left to be found here.

Hubby says when he retires next year that he wants to pursue his dream of hunting for gold. I sure do hope he buys a large life insurance policy before he disappears in those mountains here in CA. Too many bad ass mountain lions up there. Just kidding. He will just have to get another job. At least part time and then he can go do his dream thing.

Loved the history story. I love history. Too bad he did not share with his buddies. I guess greed always takes over. So sad.

God bless.

Megan said...

There's gold in them thar hills!

California got lucky, maybe? We had gold. But it was gone pretty quick, and everybody had to settle down. Or move on to the Northern Territory or backtrack to Nevada and be satisfied with silver...

Megan said...

Shoot, I just read Mrs comment. I've got to tell my dad about that...

nick said...

What drives the value of today's notes? I guess the same thing as always - confidence in their value. Even if they're supposedly backed up by gold, you still have to believe in the back-up. If nobody believed a banknote was worth anything, you'd just have to bin it. The same goes for believing in a cheque.

Ronda Laveen said...

I live in upper northern California and there is still a lot of gold panning or sluicing that goes on here. A lot of nuggets are found on a regualr basis. Come across the pond for a visit.

jay said...

Fascinating story! Those old gold-rushers really did work hard for their fragments of gold, didn't they ... except for people like Hargraves. There's always a Hargraves.

Interesting to reflect that just the rumour of gold can bring so many people into the area that business booms anyway, whether they find it or not.

subtorp77 said...

Baino, love the history lesson! Well done lass :) I panned in the upper Colorado river with Pop, when I was a kid. We never found much, but I hear panning is on a come-back there, as well!

Baino said...

Don't you believe it GrowUP those who like Diamonds will always want the 'real thing'. Although no blood diamonds for me. I'm a jewellery free zone.

Panning is great fun but the kids get very bored with it (best to 'plant' a couple of flakes).

Mrsupole, I heard that in Japan, somewhere, they're finding gold in sewerage! Amazing what washes into the system!

We've got buckets of the stuff Megs but they don't mine it like the old days . .big open cut monstrosities now . . although I think iron ore, tin, copper and bauxite are the new precious metals!

Nick I don't think the old gold standard exists any more. Everything seems to be market and commodity driven. Sad really, rather liked the idea of massive Fort Knox type safes full off boullion.(or is that clear soup?)

Ronda just give me some time to pan a few nuggests of my own and I'll be able to afford that spa of yours!

The Gold Rush actually got the economy and infrastructure moving out here. It's not credited enough for the development of the colony we tend to think of Australia as being largely agricultural . . not any more . .we're back into mining and resources . .well until China finishes modernising anyway.

Thanks Subby. . I'm curious, your use of the word 'lass' are you English by heritage? It's a well used term in the North of England. Yeh, we used to camp occasionally at Sofala n the gold fields and there's always a flake or two to be found . . .

Susan said...

I love history and enjoyed this post much!

Very interesting to read all your exports too, including bauxite that I'd never heard of (but now googled) and 'yellow cake'. Does it have chocolate icing? Can you send me some?

mouse (aka kimy) said...

love learning more about this bit of australia's history....

nick said...

My point is that the reason you can buy something with a $10 note is that the shopkeeper believes it's worth $10. If they didn't, it would be useless. But there's no real money there, just a piece of paper.

hokgardner said...

After my mom's father died, she was going through his family papers and such and found letters from distant relatives who had gone to Australia for the gold rush and then returned to Ireland, whence my grandfather hailed. It was amazing to read the experiences written in the first person.

Brian Miller said...

great post and history lesson...funny what the desire for a few minerals will drive us to. what drives the value of todays notes...if we can figure that out, maybe we can rescue the economy?

Candie Bracci said...

Great post Baino :)

Wings said...

Very interesting. Love the Mae West quote. :)

Colette Amelia said...

Great history lesson! I really enjoyed it!

willow said...

I'm with Mae.

Megan said...

I forgot my other story - when we go camping up north we always take the gold pans with us.

Do you know how many hours young children will spend panning for gold (while the adults have a beverage or two)? HOURS!

Baino said...

Susan I didn't know the Hargraves story too well either and yellow cake is only good with mushrooms. We also export diamonds from Argyle in WA so if you're buying diamonds make sure they're from there ... no slavery involved!

You're right Nick it's all about confidence which is why our currency slides around some much.

Hokgardener I guess we're lucky as are you to live in 'new' countries where our histories (although short) were so well documented. Lovely story about your relos, I guess they didn't strike it rich down here!

Not sure Brian, that one got me thinking. I mean when the market's weird, people do buy gold but I think these days its much more dynamic.

Thanks Candie

Wings she was a card . .so many quotes!

Collette I quite enjoyed finding out more about it frankly. It's been a long time since school!

Ha Willow, I love shiny things but don't really own any!

Megan I've been there done that but I cheated when we went to Bathurst and went to a place where you pay them $5 and they slipp a few gold flakes into the creek! Assured of a catch.

Squirrel said...

gold is pretty

Squirrel said...

I panned for gold in californy--at the theme park "Knotts Berry Farm" and got pretty flakes.

Dakota Bear said...

I love information, so thank you for the lesson.

Melissa said...

I love how the horse even gets a big deal made of itself in this guy's gold dream! There is a gold-rush town in Alaska named Ophir, too, and it's a checkpoint on the Iditarod trail. Eli's great-grandfather struck a little bit of gold in AK and made enough to buy a house. E's grandmother had a gold ring band made from some of the gold her dad panned ... but a disgruntled family member made off with it and it hasn't been seen since ...

kj said...

all i could think of while reading this fascinating history story is how much i love diamonds!

xo!

River said...

I like a bit of gold myself. In fact I even own a bit. There's a wedding ring kicking around somewhere.......
I also have a diamond, in a tiny, tiny pendant that my mum gave me for my 40th. You need a microscope to see the diamond, but mum laybyed it on her pension and paid it off over several months, so I'll treasure it forever. It means more to me than the biggest sparkler in any jewellery shop.

reyjr said...

Gold! (Gold) always believe in your soul... (lol)

I think in the middle on this recession, the best asset we have is ourselves: our bodies, our minds, our skills.

So, bet your money on yourself!
Get an education, and get experience and invest in yourself. :D

Kris said...

There's also the whole story of the exploitation of Chinese labour and its shameful denouement too...

Baino said...

Squirrel, I think we've all done it now and then. I had a few little flakes in a test tube for years!

Dakota, you're welcome. Learned a few things myself.

Oooh Mel you have such interesting anecdotes. You should post about them. The only gold I own is my engagement and wedding ring which are secreted away.

kj you're such a girl! I like schparkly things too!

Aww River, sentimental jewellery is lovely. I have my mother's rings but her fingers were so slender, they don't fit. Perhaps I should get them remodelled.

Wise words from one so young. . .I love Spandau Ballet! Nearly posted that clip actually.

Ah Chris . . .could have waxed lyrical for ages . .then there was Eureka et al

Auntie, aka cagny said...

That Mae West is a girl after my own heart.