About Gold

The Origins of Gold

Gold is one of the elements that occur naturally and make up our planet. As best we can tell, gold formed from a supernova that exploded scattering metal-containing dusts into our region of space where they later condensed into our solar system and the Earth.

Pure gold is very rare in nature. It mostly occurs as an alloy that contains around 10% of silver.

Gold is found in ores made up of rock with very small or microscopic particles of gold. This gold ore is often found together with quartz in a lode deposit.

Gold is also found in the form of free flakes, grains or larger nuggets that have been eroded from rocks and washed into waterways.

The Value of Gold

Gold is one of the first metals to have been used by humans and has been highly valued throughout history. Gold has long been considered the most desirable of precious metals.

It is seen across many cultures as a symbol for purity and royalty and hence is commonly used in ornaments to portray these values. One very special quality of gold that assists in its ornamental use is its ability to be rolled thin and shaped without cracking.

The value of gold has traditionally been used as the standard for many currencies (known as the gold standard) in history.

This has now been abandoned though by many national governments which have issued “fiat” currency in its place that avoids linking the amount of money that can exist to the amount of gold available.

Reef Gold – Mining the Matrix

Reef mining operations typically started as small scale ventures between syndicates of two to six miners who would peg out their claim and start mining down the line of a quartz reef.

As reefs rarely went straight down, this work usually required a shaft to be sunk first up from where drives could be put in to work the reef at different levels.

As the work developed down to deeper ground, better winding equipment was needed to get materials and men in and out of the mine. As a result extra investment via company take-overs was often crucial to the longer term development of the mining venture.

This photo from Trunkey Creek shows a new steam powered system in operation. It would have replaced the horse powered circular whim still seen on the right of the shaft.

Crushing the Ore & Recovering the Gold

One of the biggest challenges facing the development of reef mining was the problem of crushing the ore to extract the gold. Setting up a crushing plant in remote locations was an expensive undertaking well beyond the means of the average small scale miner. Accordingly these batteries were usually run as independent operations that crushed ore from a variety of mines in the surrounding region.

At Hill End for example in the early 1870s several major batteries were in operation around the clock – truly the town that never slept!

These included the Pullen and Rawsthorne battery (seen below) that crushed the famous gold specimen extracted from the Beyer and Holtermann claim in October 1872.

Perhaps the finest of the Hill End batteries though was Thomas Chappell’s, seen below alongside the dam which provided the water so essential for its operations.

For all their imposing stature however, these crushing plants were very rudimentary in how they recovered the gold from the pulverised ore. This meant that the tailings from the battery were often reworked in later years to win some of the gold missed the first time around.