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Mining Around the World – Australia

Mining Around the World – Australia

Australia is the world’s leading producer of bauxite and iron ore; the second largest producer of alumina, lead and manganese; the third largest producer of brown coal, gold, nickel, zinc and uranium; the fourth largest producer of aluminium, black coal and silver; and the fifth largest producer of tin. Australia not only exports raw materials: it is the world’s top supplier of mining technologies and services. At least 60 per cent of the world’s mines operate with Australian-made and designed software.

Australia’s mining industry began when gold was first discovered in New South Wales in 1823 but it wasn’t until the discovery of payable alluvial gold in 1851 near Bathurst and soon after in Victoria that the metalliferous sector of the mining industry exploded. Soon after, almost 40% of the world’s gold was being produced in Australia.

In 1883 the Broken Hill Lode was discovered by Charles Rasp. He and six others formed a syndicate (The Syndicate of Seven) to develop the claim and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited (now know as BHP) was established. This lead-silver-zinc deposit at the Broken Hill Lode is the largest ever discovered producing over $100 billion in wealth.

With the discovery of tin in 1872 at Mt Bischoff in Tasmania and mining of the metal beginning also in New South Wales and Queensland, Australia became the major world source of tin in the late 19th Century. It was at this time when the first extensive mines were founded with Copper and Gold at Mt Morgan, Zinc, Silver and Lead at Broken Hill, Gold at Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie and Iron ore at Iron Knob and Iron Baron.

Although the beginning of the 20th century was prosperous for the mining industry, mining began to ebb with the affect of World War 1 and the Great Depression. Also, It was at this time that petroleum products began to replace coal in industry and railways. Petroleum had been highly sought after and it was in 1924 near Lakes Entrance, Victoria that crude oil was finally discovered. The other major find of this period was the Mount Isa lead-zinc-silver deposit in 1923 but the full potential of this discovery was not realised until the 1950s.

The second half of the 20th Century saw the discovery of metal, iron, manganese, nickel and uranium resources and Australia’s petroleum industry was also established. The world economic growth of the 1950′s and 1960′s saw an increased demand for mineral resources and Australia was already established and experienced to provide these resources. By the late 1960′s Australia was dominating in black coal, titanium, bauxite, nickel, iron ore, zirconium and manganese.

The 1970′s saw a rise in concern for protecting the environment and Native Title tracts and by the 1980′s the industry was becoming increasingly pressured by the public over their concerns for the environment and the impact the industry was having on it. With the rising public interest in the preservation of the natural environment and plant and animal habitats, the government increased controls on the release of pollutants. Although many Australians are under the impression that large areas of the continent are used for mining, it is in fact less than 0.02% of Australia that is used for mining resources. However, the mining industry is continually being required to legitimise its activities in contention with other potential uses of the land. Environmental impact assessments are required as well as rehabilitation of mined out sites.

Today, there are over 400 mines operating in Australia The mining industry’s contribution to the Australian economy is now $121 billion a year and provides work for over 750,000 Australians.

Resources:   Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Mining, Broken Hill Australia, Geoscience Australia, This is Our Story

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