Australia currently ranks as the 2nd largest producer of gold in the world, trailing behind China. The first major gold rush to the country took place just a few years after the famous California Gold Rush, which attracted thousands of prospectors from around the world in search of gold. Many of those men originated from Australia, and returned when news of the discoveries reached the goldfields.
There had been reports of small amounts of gold in Australia prior to the large strike, but it was the discovery in 1851 at Ophir, New South Wales, followed by the discoveries in the colony of Victoria that really attracted attention to the continent. The population of the continent was believed to have doubled in less than a decade, as the vast mineral wealth was found to be widespread across the country.
Mining has taken place in every state and territory in Australia, and is still a major contributor to the nationís economy today. In Western Australia, gold is ranked as the fourth largest commodity produced in the region. The mining industry is still thriving around towns such as Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie in the west, as well as numerous other regions throughout the country.
In addition to the overall gold production of Australia which topped out at 250 metric tons in 2012, Australia is also noted as producing the largest solid gold nuggets in the world. Nearly all of the biggest gold nuggets ever found have come from the island continent. The largest gold nugget ever found, the Welcome Stranger Nugget, was found near the town of Dunolly in Victoria in 1869. It is believed to have weighed 2,284 troy ounces, and sadly was smelted down as quickly as it was found.
The largest gold nugget still in existence today was also found in Australia. The famous Hand of Faith Nugget, currently owned by the Golden Nugget Casino in Las Vegas, weighs 876 troy ounces.
The relative abundance of sizable gold nugget makes Australia a true mecca for many gold prospectors who enjoy searching for gold nuggets with a metal detector. Despite a history of gold mining that dates back over 150 years, there are still some huge gold nuggets being found every year. Gold prospectors can find gold using other methods as well, but a lack of water in many of the best gold bearing areas across the country make metal detectors the best tactic for most recreational gold prospectors.
The commercial mining sector makes up 2.2% of the labor force in Australia. Three of the largest operations in Western Australia are the Golden Mile, Tefler, and St. Ives gold mines. The Boddington Gold Mine has recently begun production, and is poised to be the largest gold mine in the country. Australia remains one of the most mineral rich countries in the world.