The Queensland goldfields were much more remote than the Victorian goldfields of Ballarat and Bendigo, home to the well-known modern-day Fosterville Mine owned by Kirkland Gold.
In the mid-1850s, when Queensland was still part of New South Wales, the colonial government encouraged the search for gold on the northern frontier. It hoped that a discovery would attract European settlers from the south. Captain Maurice O’Connell, the leader of a government settlement at Gladstone, reported “very promising prospects of gold” in 1857. But it was a discovery made a year later that sparked the first Queensland gold rush. A prospector named Chapple found gold at Canoona, near Rockhampton, in 1858. By the end of the year, 15,000 hopeful miners had arrived.
The first major gold discovery in Queensland came almost a decade later. In 1867 James Nash discovered gold in the small agricultural town of Gympie, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) north of Brisbane. This was the start of the Gympie gold rush. Within months of Nash’s discovery, 25,000 people came to the area to try their luck. The influx of miners gave a much-needed boost to the struggling economy of the young colony.
Late 1871 an indigenous boy, Jupiter Mosman, found gold in a stream near what became Charters Towers. The town of Charters Towers was founded at the site, and miners flooded in. The population reached a peak of 30,000 during the gold rush of the 1870s and ’80s.
Farther north, a find along the Palmer River pulled miners to the frontier in the mid-1870s. Then, in 1882, Edwin and Thomas Morgan made one of Australia’s most important gold strikes at a site known as Ironstone Mountain, near Rockhampton. The brothers renamed the mountain Mount Morgan after themselves. Mount Morgan, the so-called “mountain of gold,” would become one of Queensland’s richest and longest surviving gold mines. Mt Morgan was operationa until the eraly 1980’s.
Known modern deposits in northeast Queensland include Kidston (5 Moz Au), Ravenswood/Mount Wright (5.8 Moz Au), Mount Leyshon (3.8 Moz Au), Red Dome/Mungana (3.2 Moz Au) and Mt Morgan (17 Moz Au and 239 Kt Cu). The deposits occur in a wide range of geological settings including porphyries, breccias, skarns and veins.