Early Gold Rushes to Tasmania

Early Gold Rushes to Tasmania
Tasmania's gold is often overshadowed by the gold deposits on mainland Australia. The island state has small but important goldfields that contributed greatly to economic development. Industrial-scale gold mining began in the late nineteenth century and fueled an unparallel period of growth on the island.

We'll look at the history of gold in Tasmania, covering the discoveries that changed the fate of the island forever.


Gold in Northern & North-eastern Tasmania


Gold was first discovered in Northern Tasmania. Goldfields like Lefroy, Beaconsfield, and Lisle, produced most of Tasmania's gold output.


The first discovery of gold is linked to a convict who found it at a place called 'The Den’ (now Lefroy). This discovery was reported in 1840. Later in 1847, a man named 'John Gardner' found gold-bearing quartz in Blythe Creek on the bank of Tamar River. In 1849 deposits were again found in Lefroy. This time a man named Mr. Riva of Launceston discovered gold with slate rocks at the same place where a convict first discovered it some years ago.

Although the last finding in 1849 stirred up some interest, none of these discoveries could attract enough attention, and no major gold strikes followed until 1869.

1st Major Strike in Lefroy/Gold Rush: Samuel Richards found gold deposits at Nine Miles Springs, in 1869. The discovery drew many prospectors to the creeks nearby, which soon became the first "gold rush" in Lefroy. But enthusiasm soon dissipated because the new deposits were found to be quartz-bound. Industrial mining took over in the area and it turned out to be the most profitable goldfields of Tasmania at that time. It is said that Lefroy has yielded more gold than any other goldfield in Tasmania however mining boom at Lefroy was over by the late 1890s.


In 1850, major gold discoveries happened in Mangana, then known as 'The Nook'. The attention shifted from Northern Tasmania to the North-Eastern coast.

In 1851, ‘Old Major’ found gold in what is now called Major’s Gully. Following year, the town formally announced the discovery of gold when James Grant found payable alluvial deposits near Fingal.

This began a small gold rush, many prospectors flooded to explore in Fingal and the neighboring town of Mathinna and Tulloch Gorum. It is also the site of the first major gold strike, Charles Gould reportedly found about 2 lbs. of gold here.


The first discovery Beaconsfield (formerly called Brandy Creek) emerged in 1870, later William Dally found more deposits in 1877.

The ‘Tasmania Gold Mine’ was established at the site. It remained the largest source of gold in the state for a long time and produced about 30 tons of gold until 1914. The mine was reopened in the 1990s and it's still in operation today.


After the late 80s, Lisle became the third biggest goldfield in Tasmania. After a strike by Charles Bessel at Tobacco Creek in 1879, a mine was established that ran for many years. The area was so rich that it is said to have produced over 250,000 oz. of Gold.


Other Discoveries on Northern Coast


Smiths Mineralized Area: Named after Tom Smith who found alluvial gold in 1881. The area now called 'Smiths Creek' produced more than 450oz of gold. Tom also obtained 180 oz of gold from another nearby creek now called Townsend Creek.

Mount Victoria: In 1883, R.J. Wilson obtained gold in the Dorset River creek (now called 'Wilson Creek') on Mount Victoria. Later on, more gold was discovered in the nearby town of Branxholm in the same year.


Gold in West Coast of Tasmania


After gold was discovered in other regions, the government initiated many expeditions (in the early 70s-80s) to explore gold in the western region of the island. Substantial deposits were found by both sponsored expeditions and individual prospectors. Some major discoveries are listed below.

Mount Lyell: First discovery was reported in the town of "Corinna", and mining began there in the year 1879. Three men Steve, Bill, and Mick McDonough discovered gold in the Linda Valley (later renamed Queenstown) in 1883. The area was mined for a decade and more than 500,000 Oz's of gold were produced. Making Queenstown the world's richest mining town at that time.

‘Mount Lyell Gold Mine’ was opened in 1886, which later became the famous 'Mount Lyell Copper Mine' after commercial quantities of copper were found alongside gold in the area.

Specimen Reef: Gold was first discovered in 1881 at various locations on Specimen Creek (Later renamed as Specimen Reef). The Lucky Hit, Second to None, and Goldfinger mining dig produced 40 ounces of gold each.

Lynch Creek: Named After Cornelius Lynch who found alluvial deposits at Queen River Valley in 1882.

Further exploration in the following year led to even more discoveries. Soon many goldfields sprung up on the Whyte, savage, and Donaldson Rivers in northwest Tasmania.

No major goldfields have been discovered in the state since 1880. Only two mines, the Henty Gold Mine and the Beaconsfield Gold Mine, currently produce gold in Tasmania.

Next: The Kalgoorlie Gold Rush