Tag Archives | Australia Mining

Australian Prospectors and Miners Hall of Fame Historical Profile – James “Philosopher” Smith (1827-1897)

The legendary Tasmanian prospector and discoverer of tin at Mt Bischoff in 1871

James Smith was born in 1827, the second of three children to John Smith and Ann Grant, who married after coming to Tasmania as convicts. James had an unsettled family life and in 1836, at the age of 9, he became the ward of John Guillan, a Launceston miller and merchant.
Smith wrote little about his early life, though it appears he had a rudimentary education in Launceston. At an early age he started working at Guillan’s flourmill at the Supply River, where he also began to take an interest in exploration and minerals. Smith’s fellow apprentice Charles Monds probably introduced him to Congregationalism (also known as Independent), which would provide much of his moral framework.

Smith’s zest for self-education was already evident in his adolescence. He bought books on many topics, possibly doing so as a result of the influence of the popular Scottish geologist Hugh Miller, who encouraged ‘self-culture’ – the idea that workingmen could improve themselves by achievement and study, particularly of the Bible. Smith and the journeymen he lived with attended the Independent Church where, according to Monds, Smith’s developing faith set him on his successful life’s course. It is also likely that membership of the church community shaped Smith’s lifelong friendships and business associations, perhaps even where he subsequently lived, for James Fenton, the pioneer Forth settler and Smith’s neighbour, was a Congregationalist and Charles Monds’s brother-in-law.

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Australian Prospectors and Miners Hall of Fame Historical Profile – Jupiter Mosman (1861-1945)

The Aboriginal horseboy who discovered the Charters Towers goldfield in Queensland

Jupiter Mosman, whose tribal name is unknown, was born in north-western Queensland and, as a small boy, ‘came in’ to Kynuna Station. There he was ‘acquired’ as George Clarke later wrote, by Hugh Mosman who gave him his non-indigenous name. Soon afterwards the Mosman brothers and John Frazer sold Tarbrax to the McIntyres of Dalgonally and set off for the Cape River diggings. They visited Ravenswood where they became friendly with the prospector George Clarke and decided to look for gold around the Seventy Mile Pinnacle (Mount Leyshon).

Clarke described Jupiter riding behind Mosman, strapped to him and never allowed out of his sight. The party rode through the gap on the western side of what is now called Towers Hill and camped on a creek where, in December 1871, Jupiter discovered the gold-bearing quartz of the North Australian reef: the first mine of the Charters Towers goldfield, the field that ensured the survival of north Queensland as a European settlement.

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Australian Prospectors and Miners Hall of Fame Historical Profile – May Brown (1875-1939)

May Brown was a famous mining entrepreneur; the Northern Territory’s ‘wolfram queen’.

May Brown, mining entrepreneur, the Northern Territory’s “wolfram queen”, was born in Sydney on 24 May in 1875. She first visited the Northern Territory in 1890 when she joined her sister, Florence, who with her husband ran hotels in the ‘Top End’. May Brown continued to visit the Territory until 1901 when she settled in Sydney after marrying George Seale, a former amateur boxing champion. In 1902, they had a son, George, who later married Mary Fisher, a Territorian.

May’s first husband, George, died in 1906 and six months later she married James Burns, a Territory wolfram miner. The pair moved to Pine Creek a small township near Burns’ Wolfram Creek and Crest of the Wave mines. May started to work in the mines alongside her husband and their Chinese tributers.

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Australian Prospectors and Miners Hall of Fame Historical Profile – Lang Hancock (1909-1992)

Lang Hancock discovered and promoted  the vast iron ore deposits in the Pilbara of Western Australia

On 16 November 1952 prospector and pastoralist Lang Hancock and his wife Hope were flying over the Hamersley Range in Australia’s rugged Northwest. Bad weather forced Hancock to fly low over the headwaters of the Turner River. From the cockpit Hancock noticed large bands of red rock on the hills below and wondered if they might be iron ore. Six months later he returned to the Turner River and confirmed his discovery; a discovery that provided the impetus for the establishment of the huge iron ore mines in Australia’s Northwest. Hancock’s aerial prospecting earned him the title “The Flying Prospector”.

Langley Frederick George Hancock was born June 10 1909. He was a descendent of the pioneering Hancock family who had arrived at Cossack on the Sea Ripple in 1864. His father, George Hancock, built the homestead at Mulga Downs station and it was here that Lang Hancock spent most of his childhood, eventually becoming the station manager.

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Australian Prospectors and Miners Hall of Fame Historical Profile – Edward Townley Hardman (1845- 1887)

Edward Townley Hardman was a geologist who discovered payable gold in Western Australia’s Kimberley District
Western Australia

As an inductee in the category of Prospectors and Discoverers, Edward Townley Hardman is recognised for his important role in the first discovery of payable gold at Halls Creek in Western Australia in 1885.

After graduating with a Diploma in Mining from the Royal College of Science in Dublin, he joined the staff of the Geological Survey of Ireland then was chosen by the Colonial Office for the position of Government Geologist in Western Australia. Hardman accompanied expeditions to the Kimberley district in the mid 1880s and after panning for gold in several watercourses, discovered the colony’s first commercial goldfield in the headwaters of the Elvire River, later to become known as Halls Creek.

During his time based in Perth, Hardman was also active in examining the geology of the South West. He is generally credited with being the first to find tin at Greenbushes and to report on the prospects for finding artesian water in the Perth area.

Hardman will always be remembered for his pioneering geological work in Western Australia leading to the first discovery of gold in the East Kimberley and to the beginnings of the State’s mining industry. The success of his work led directly to the establishment of the Geological Survey of Western Australia as the colony’s first scientific organisation.


Tim Griffin

For more profiles of the men and women who made Australia a global mining powerhouse, go to:  http://www.mininghall.com/Home.php

Australian Prospectors and Miners Hall of Fame Historical Profile – John Campbell Miles

John Campbell Miles 1883-1965John Campbell Miles (1883 – 1965) was the prospector and pastoral worker who discovered the mineralisation upon which the famous Mt Isa Mine was established in Queensland.

John Campbell Miles was born on 5 May 1883 in Melbourne. He was a wanderer and an adventurer from the time he ran away from school to work with a bootmaker. Blainey listed his quick progression of jobs as ploughman, miner, carter, railway navvy, wild-pig hunter and windmill repairer.

At the age of twenty-four (1907) he took a job as underground worker at Broken Hill, but stayed only until the following April before riding his bicycle 1,500 miles to the Oaks goldfield in north Queensland. While Miles would return to labouring work within a few months, his inauspicious prospect at the Oaks led to his discovery of the greatest twentieth century Australian mine.

From the Oaks, Miles worked as farm labourer in the Wimmera, then returned to Queensland where he spent ten years drifting from station to station, probably supplementing his wages by fossicking. After a brief visit to Melbourne in 1921, he decided to follow up the reminiscences of an elderly boundary rider who claimed to have seen gold on the Murranji Track, a cattle trail in the Northern Territory.

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The Australian Prospectors and Miners Hall of Fame – Stan Sudol

Australian Prospectors and Miners Hall of Fame in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia - Supplied PhotoAustralia is considered the third largest minerals producer in the world, larger than Canada. The value of minerals exports (including oil and gas) is forecast to reach A$116 billion in 2007-08. As a result, Australian mining, supply and service companies and expertise are in demand around the world. In fact 60% of global mines use software designed and produced in Australia.

Both, the enormous iron ore deposits in the Pilbara region of Western Australia and the vast bauxite reserves at Weipa in the state of Queensland are among the top ten most significant mining regions in the world. The mineral deposits at Mount Isa, Kalgoorlie, Kambalda and Bowen Basin, just to mention a few regions are all world class.

Australia is the world’s leading producer of bauxite and alumina, number two in gold, iron ore, uranium, lead, zinc, number three in nickel and silver, and the fourth biggest black coal supplier. This is by no means a complete list.

Like Canada, Australia has experienced many gold rushes and other mineral booms in the past century and a half, that helped open up unexplored parts of their vast interior, increase immigration as well as contributed to the country’s economic development.

As well-known Australian journalist Trevor Sykes once stated about his country’s mining history, “…a saga of tough men, iron-nerved gamblers, violence, death and glittering riches set against the backdrop of some of the most awful country on earth.”

Noted Australian history professor Geoffrey Blainey, who wrote the much acclaimed, “The Rush That Never Ended – A History of Australian Mining” stated in his book, “Australian prospectors found or pioneered new mining fields from the Rand to Rhodesia to New Zealand and the Klondike. Australian mining investors opened Malayan tinlands and New Guinea and Fiji goldfields, and there is hardly a mining field that has not used Australian innovations in metallurgy.”

The Australian Prospectors and Miners Hall of Fame has graciously given Toronto-based Republic of Mining.com permission to post individual profiles from their digital archives of some of the most famous Australians who have made major contributions to their mineral industry.

Opened in 2001 and located in the Western Australian city of Kalgoorlie, the site of one of the country’s most famous gold rushes, the Australian Prospectors and Miners Hall of Fame tourist attraction offers many exhibits that colorfully explain mining history as well as current industry practices. You can go 36 metres underground with a retired miner and see how mining was done at the turn of the last century with picks and shovels and wheelbarrows.

You can also watch a gold pour demonstration in the original 1920s Paringa Mine Gold Room or try gold panning in ponds on the property. Other galleries showcase a mineral collection, explain mining laws and regulations and environmental issues. The facility also has a major education outreach program.

The following website has more information on the Miners Hall of Fame as well as extensive archives profiling the men and women who made Australia such a global mining powerhouse: http://www.mininghall.com/Home.php