The high country figured in the famous Australian gold rush of the nineteenth century. From the original strikes in central western New South Wales in 1851 and the rich Victorian fields at Ballarat and elsewhere, the fever moved on to yield discoveries in mountain places such as the Ovens valley, Kiandra, Omeo, Mitta Mitta, Dargo and Crooked River. The diggers’ early primitive ‘cradles’ (devices that separated the gold from soil, rock and water with a rocking action) were in time superseded by more sophisticated methods such as steam-powered stamper batteries, hydraulic sluicing, and dredging.
Today in the Alps, visitors can see the sites of come of the places that played a role in Australia’s mining history, and can witness the impact on the landscape as well as study remains of equipment.
Kiandra – which for a brief summer had a population of 10 000 – has few remaining buildings (although part of the 1890 courthouse survives inside the roads depot). But on the hills around are the water races and sluicing scares from the late nineteenth century, and several stamper batteries and boilers can be seen in the cemetery, with its collection of lonely headstones.
Copper and tin were also mined. At Ravine (Lobbs Hole) stand the ruins of copper works as well as the crumbling pise (rammed earth) walls of Julius Forsstrom’s 1909 Washington Hotel, which traded when the mines were a going concern.
Similarly, in Victoria, the Alpine National Park and adjacent historic areas have their share of mining sites including shafts, machinery and sluicing excavations. The Howqua River and Crooked River, for example, have numbers of historical sites; at Mitta Mitta is the Pioneer mine’s former sluicing area; earthworks are seen at Omeo; the former Grant township site near Dargo has been marked out and preserved as a historic area; the 1860s cemetery in the Buckland valley survives; and not far from Mt Hotham, the Red Robin mine has been worked on and off since 1941.
More information can be found in the Australian Alps education kit