Excerpt from the WA Mining Club's Minesite Annual publication.
Its historical might and its ongoing wonder
Gold has retained a hallowed place in the history of the Australian resources sector and beyond for generations, and its central part in Western Australia’s past is both colourful and fascinating. However, the story is far from over, and the importance of this rarest of precious metals in today’s economy can be seen when, at this year’s Diggers and Dealers Mining Forum in Kalgoorlie, almost 60% of the program of speakers comprised presentations by gold producers, explorers, prospectors or suppliers.
Representing a united voice for Australia’s gold industry, the Gold Industry Group works to promote the importance of the sector, including raising awareness of the metal’s past and present contribution through initiatives aimed at the general community. Explaining further, and looking ahead at the metal’s exciting future, is the Group’s Chairman, Richard Hayes, who is also the CEO of The Perth Mint.
The discovery of gold in Australia carved the way for an industry that has significantly contributed to the growth and development of the nation.
Today, the gold industry employs more than 50,000 Australians nationally, directly and indirectly, and is the world’s second largest producer. As the sixth largest export industry in Australia, it is valued at $16 billion. Western Australia is at the heart of gold mining in Australia, accounting for more than 70% of the nation’s overall gold production.
Australia’s first gold rush took off in 1851 when the precious mineral was found in New South Wales, closely followed by discoveries in Victoria and later in WA. With workers flocking to get lucky, Australia’s population tripled to 1.1 million by 1860, making the gold industry one of the biggest contributors to the country’s population growth at that time.
A decade later, Australia was producing more than 40% of the world’s gold output, making it Australia’s largest export, exceeding wool exports, and creating strong economic growth.
Western Australia’s rich history of gold mining dates back to the 1880s, with the first gold rush sparked by the discovery of the ‘Golden Mile’ at Kalgoorlie in the 1890s, believed to be the richest square mile of gold reserves in the world.
The gold industry in WA survived the challenges of the First World War, which saw mining activity and investment decline. However, the Great Depression in the 1930s brought revitalisation to the gold industry with a rise in the gold price and an increase in foreign investment. It was the discovery of the largest gold nugget in Coolgardie in 1931, the ‘Golden Eagle’, that saw many prospectors return to WA.
Unfortunately, World War II once again devastated the industry and it was not until the 1970s that WA’s gold industry showed signs of sustained recovery.
Since then, the state’s gold mining industry has maintained a lasting period of prosperity that has shaped the way for WA’s population growth and economic development.
Today, Australia is the world’s second largest gold producer after China, whose increasing demand has underpinned the gold price in recent years.
Building our future
Gold miners face a challenging operating environment in which deposits are deeper, costs are relatively higher and margins are tighter. To secure and build gold’s contribution to our economy, the industry relies on a healthy flow of capital.
We must remain viable and competitive in a global market, where stable and competitive tax and royalty arrangements are vital to attract future investment. Protecting the reputation of our mining sector is a key role for government – any form of uncertainty simply damages that reputation.
Exploration is the lifeblood of Australia’s gold industry. Without new discoveries, gold production will fall over time. In Western Australia, gold exploration has been declining since a peak in 2012.
Government incentives, such as Western Australia’s Exploration Incentive Scheme and the federal government’s Exploration Development Incentive, are important in attracting new exploration campaigns as well as discoveries in frontier areas.
Our role in working with our communities is essential. The strength of our industry affects many companies who employ men and women in a wide range of skilled jobs, and partner with local businesses to supply goods and services.
The gold industry is critical to the social and economic fabric of our nation’s most remote societies, and in many regional towns, gold mining is the main source of economic activity. Australia's gold miners pay more than $400 million in taxes and royalties every year, which helps to build vital infrastructure and support communities.
Gold industry collaboration
The Gold Industry Group (GIG) provides a unified voice for the industry and promotes gold across Australia and beyond. It seeks to make the wider community aware of, and understand, the contribution and value the gold industry brings to Australian society.
The GIG represents the interests of gold producers, explorers, prospectors and service providers to champion Australia’s gold sector. Collectively, our members represent the entire gold value chain – from geological exploration through mine site operations, to refining and fabrication, and the global distribution of gold to the end consumer.
GIG membership is growing as more and more organisations see the importance of uniting to collaborate on a range of initiatives.
Cultural setting for gold
An aim of the GIG is to lead community and industry initiatives and create change that will positively influence future generations. In support of this aim, the GIG has embarked on a long-term community engagement project in Perth to educate students, tourists and families alike.
A virtual ‘Heart of Gold Discovery Trail’, incorporating a ‘Golden Eagle’ nugget sculpture and pop-up gold panning activity in Elizabeth Quay, will provide an engaging, fun and interactive way for visitors to learn about WA’s gold industry.
Once complete, visitors will be able to download an application onto their mobile device that will take them on a gold treasure hunt from Elizabeth Quay to the historic Perth Mint. These activities will be integrated into the Australian curriculum for primary and high school students.
Only in its first year, the GIG has made great progress, providing value to its members and embarking on a number of initiatives in education, tourism, innovation, diversity and investment to promote gold. By educating and supporting our community, we can enable a strong, connected and sustainable industry.
Read more about our members who are also featured in the WA Mining Club's Minesite Annual Publication.