The Perth Mint and Australia’s Biggest Nugget Collection
By David Lowe
Due to the usual mix of commitments, prospecting trips have been few and far between lately but I did have the good fortune to visit Perth recently. Unfortunately I was only there for a few days so a quick trip out to the goldfields wasn’t on the agenda but, not wanting to visit the ‘Golden West’ without indulging my obsession in some way, I decided to check out the Perth Mint.
Construction of the new mint started in 1896 using limestone quarried from Cottesloe Beach and Rottnest Island and it was finally opened on 20th June, 1899.
I’d read somewhere that the mint housed Australia’s biggest collection of gold nuggets, including one of the largest natural nuggets in the world, the Normandy Nugget, so I decided the nugget display was definitely at the top of my ‘to see’ list.
Although gold had previously been found in other regions of Western Australia, it was the discovery of gold by Arthur Bailey and William Ford at what was to become Coolgardie, on the 17th September, 1892, that triggered the big rushes to Western Australia’s eastern goldfields. These rushes led to a rapid increase in the population and this, coupled with the large quantities of gold being recovered and sold by the miners, quickly led to severe currency shortages.
To deal with this situation, the Premier at the time, Sir John Forrest, presented his case to the British government and in due course a branch of the Royal Mint was opened in Perth.
Other branches of the
Royal Mint had already been established in Sydney and Melbourne to refine the gold mined on the goldfields in the eastern states.