Australia’s Engineering and mining history.

1851 and Melbourne had caught gold fever, gold had previously been discovered in New South Wales. In the 1900’s century mining could make you suddenly rich and it was legal. 1000’s of people left their jobs and families and headed up to the country. The most valuable gold fields in all of Australia was just 100 miles from Melbourne and it was found just beneath the surface.

If you marked out a claim for yourself you had to be digging on it, you couldn’t just be claiming bits of land at random and leaving them. Gold represented Autonomy. You’d be your own man, no boss. Mining was a gambler's game. Mining was now the catalyst for the first major immigration into the country.


People came from across the world from North America to China they came. For every person living in Victoria, another five arrive. Within a decade the Gold boom would push the population to half a million people. By 1853 Melbourne is the fastest growing city in the world, however, it can’t cope. With the first six months of 1853 they built a 1000 new buildings within the city of Melbourne then the authorities allowed the building of a tent city on the banks of the Yarra. Home to 10,000 homeless diggers.

Within a few years, one in ten Victorians would be Chinese’s and they’ll make up a fifth of all the miners on the goldfields. Lowe Kong Meng (1831–1888), tried his hand at mining without success however her began trading, tea, spices, opium, and alcohol. Mining was spawning business and trade needed to support it, in a trickledown effect. He also transported many Chinese’s people to the work for him, making him one of the most successful traders of the day. Melbourne was awash with gold. Gold worth more than $15 million in today’s money was pouring into Melbourne every week. A new treasury was commissioned to store all the bullion in.

The rush for wealth formed the basis of the white Australia policy due to the huge amount of Chinese’s people arriving. The fundamental question of who deserves to cash in on the countries mining boom, lead to the political institutions of the day passing racist laws. 1855-1857 more than 15000 Chinese migrants determined to cash in on Australia mining boom sailed to South Australia. From there they walk 500 kilometres to Victoria’s gold fields avoiding Victoria’s immigration authorities. A race riot was about to begin.

It was in the Ballarat gold digging that Australia’s only civil insurrection took place. Refusing to pay a gold miners tax imposed by a corrupt government The miners gathered at a place called Eureka Stockade in 1854 and defied the authorities by raising their own flag. Government troops attacked and defeated the miners, 22 lives were lost. The miners had public support. One the miners, Peter Lalor lost an arm but survived. The Eureka Stockade was an event controversially identified with the "birth of democracy" in Australia. Peter Lalor is famous for being the only outlaw to make it to parliament. 

From 1858 onwards, the major capitals were progressively linked by telegraphy, culminating in the addition of Perth in 1877. Australia was linked to the rest of the world for the first time in 1872, through the Overland Telegraph which ran some 3200 km from Adelaide through with the half-way point being a waterhole in the middle of the country called Alice Spring, from there it ran to Darwin. The telegraphy office in Alice Springs is still standing, although not in use. From Darwin, the telegraph hooked up with an undersea cable that ran to Malaysia and across the world to London. The network continued to expand in size and sophistication until 1959 and in heavy usage until 1945, after which time telephone usage began to erode public patronage of telegraphy services.

By the beginning of the 1860’s gold worth 18 billion dollars in today’s money has been discovered in Australia. News of a find at Lambing Flat in New South Wales sent European and Chinese’s miners heading for the territory. The 1861 riot of Lambing Flat drove the Chinese out of the camps. Once again a law ‘The Chinese Immigration Act’ was passed this time in New South Wales which made it harder for Chinese to make any claims.

By the mid-1860’s across Ballarat and Bendigo the surface gold had disappeared. But it was now time to dig deep below the surface it was now the age of the big money mining operations. They needed money to do this so people started forming syndicates and corporations. Individual miners joined together with companies taking shares. The diggers can buy shares in the company they work for and get a slice of its corporate wealth. Local stock exchanges spring up in mining towns from Victoria to Queensland.

In 1880’s Broken Hill raised its initial money for their ore mine via a game of cards. A stranger won the hand and with he got one fourteenth of BHP. In 1885 the new syndicate floats their company, Broken Hill Proprietary is formed.  In today’s money that one-fourteenth share would have been worth $12 billion. As the boom times begin for BHP the money from the gold rush had built towns across Australia,

However what does up must come down, and that’s what happened in 1893 bring about bank collapses.

In 1893 Gold had been discovered in Kalgoorlie in Western Australia and the rush was on again. They came in 10’s of thousands from the recession back east. Mining in the West propped up the east, Miners sent money back east to their families while Eastern companies supplied all the needs of the Western Miners. This integrated Australia in a common economy and a common market. That was one of the greatest things that happened out of the 90’s gold rush.

Soon to be US President Herbert Hoover lead the foreign rush. He bought in Italian and Yugoslavian workers to work cheap and for long hours. It was the corporations turn now and they chased the independent miner off his land. It was easier to find alcohol thank good drinking water. People were dying of dehydration.

In 1898 they commenced work on the 600-kilometre long water pipeline from Perth was built, in 1903 fresh drinking water arrived in Kalgoorlie. The richest miners in Australia had been saved and new industries around it group up everywhere. It was a boom industry for sex workers.

By the end of the 1800’s many rail lines had been laid however there was no line linking east to west. Early in the 1900’s, a plan was formed to build a railway across the Nullarbor Plain. The completion of the railway created one of the longest rail lines in the world, From Sydney to South Australia and across the Nullarbor to Perth. Freight and passengers could be transported across the country in days instead of weeks.

Darwin is the only place in Australia where WWII reach our shores, The Japanese bombed it in 1942. 

At the end of WWII, the government got started on the Snowy River Scheme. The Snowy River Scheme not only to redirect the water from the Snowy River westward into the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers for irrigation but also to harvest the melting snows of the Great Dividing Range. They stored the water in a series of dams by a network of tunnels and harness the energy of the falling waters to generate electricity to the energy-starved cities of Sydney and Melbourne.

Australia invited European refugees and migrants looking for a new start to come to Australia and work on the Great Snowy River project. 100,000 workers from 34 different countries worked to get the job done. It took more than twenty years to complete. 90 dams were constructed, many tunnels drilled through solid rock and enormous pipes channelled water to a huge underground PowerStation. I provided water for irrigation in three states and generators fed power to where it was needed.


1952 Lang Hancock discovered iron ore ‘his rivers of gold’ in the Pilbara region. He signed a deal with Rio Tinto to mine an area that would grow to be beyond the size of Tasmania. The interesting thing about the Rio Tinto deal was there was no ‘sunset’ clause meaning the Hancock’s profits from Rio Tinto never ends. This has made Gina Rinehart, Lang’s daughter a billionaire. 

The 1960’s was a boom time for Australian industry. Along with the Pilbara, there was Bauxite in Darling Ranges and in Weipa is located on the northwest coast of Cape York Peninsula, Plus the Bowen Basin contained the largest coal reserves in Australia. These huge discoveries transformed Australia.

Unfortunately for Australia, areas like the Pilbara had to be financed by foreign interests. Leaving Australia with all the resources but very little of the income. By the 60’s Australia for all her race riots over mining had given up the lion share of her resources to foreign investors. 

In 1966 Nickel was found at Leinster, Mt. Keith, Kambalda, it was Poseidon who first manufactured the Nickel causing a stir on the stock market until the bubble burst. About 99 per cent of Australia's nickel is produced in Western Australia supplying about 13 per cent of world production.