No other substance has entranced, and empowered humanity liked gold. The lustrous yellow metal has been used as a standard for barter and trade and has only increased in value and utility in the modern age. Ancient cultures coveted gold and adorned their elite members with ornate jewelry, modern-day celebrities drape their necks in dripping gold chains, and the fascination continues.
Adding the mystique of gold are its celestial origins. So dense is gold that could have only formed in the nuclear fusion of a star. Gold and other heavy elements are spewed out from a young star as it burns in on itself, these elements swirl around in the vacuum of space, until they merge into clouds of matter, eventually forming rocky bodies and sometimes planets.
Imagine a shiny yellow metal from the sun itself, the forge of creation, waiting patiently for eons to be brought to Earth’s surface by tectonic plate movement and other geological events, waiting billions of years to be found by man. Gold mining is historically hard work, often taking place in isolated locations, in hazardous conditions deep under the ground.
Gold has always been valuable because it is rare and often very expensive to extract from the Earth. All cultures universally adore this metal and before the reserve bank set your home loan interest rate, golds value was directly linked to a nation’s paper money. This monetary system is called ‘the gold standard’ and was used by most countries until the early 20th century.
The discovery of gold boosted many countries, and Australia has a short but fascinating history of these discoveries. There are hundreds of beautiful towns across Australia that formed around elusive pockets of gold, and for the adventurous, gold can still be found.
Home amongst the goldfields.
If you are interested in gold, its history in Australia, or even Australia’s brutal colonial past, it’s well worth visiting some of these towns for yourself. No matter the state you live in, there is a trail of gold discoveries that can be followed, allowing you to be transported back in time, to the slum-like conditions of a gold mining camp, where weathered people labored for little pay for unimaginable amounts (in today’s terms) of gold.
Life was extremely tough in early gold mining towns, and much of the gold was transported back to England to be hoarded by the Queen. Most miners where extremely poor and often succumbed to disease or fatigue. Medical knowledge was limited, with many miners treating their ailments with hard liquor and morphine.
Much of Earth’s gold has sunk into the core, never to be seen or touched by humans. The rest that remains accessible to humans is locked in underground reefs; even today’s sophisticated mining machinery has trouble extracting quantities than offset the massive cost of running a mining operation. Commercial gold mining is becoming more difficult, but the market is opening to small teams and hobbyists.
Miners in these early mining towns would sometimes strike it rich and manage to keep some gold for themselves; these resourceful people managed to secure a legacy for their families, and their surnames still carry on proudly in gold mining towns. Today, you can buy a plot of land that might contain a gold reef for under $10000, all you need is a real deal home loan and the steely resolve of your ancestors.
Where’s the gold?
The enterprising geologist can take out a home loan and buy a cheap claim of land and find their fortune. Gold that has been moved by erosion can be found in rivers, this is called alluvial gold and requires little equipment to find. Living in a home amongst a gold-bearing area can be a fun and unique way to make a living.
Some areas in NSW that have historically harbored massive amounts of gold are Hill End, Majors Creek, and Adelong. Many old mining towns have become tourist destinations, and gold can still be found if you know where to look. These areas include Mogo, Moruya, Pambula, and Araluen.
Gold is sometimes dismissed as flashy or ostentatious and is imitated often, but there is no escaping its importance to humanity. Australia’s deep and sometimes confronting history as a gold-producing country is ripe for exploring. With most gold-bearing locations being remote and harsh, land prices are cheap, making it a perfect time for a new wave of prospectors to emerge.
A gold pan can be had for the price of a pizza, and with a little practice, you can find fine gold in rivers and creeks. If you are fortunate enough to live near a gold-bearing area, do your self a favor and have a look for yourself. Gold might be as ancient as the stars, but our love for it will never grow old.