In terms of single-mine output, no Tasmanian gold mine can surpass the Tasmania Mine at Beaconsfield, in the north-east, which has so far had a total production of well over a million ounces.
However, in terms of widespread finds of worthwhile deposits in Tasmania, west coast gold comes up clearly on top.
Gold was known from the Arthur / Hellyer system since at least 1860. Minor workings were carried out in the Hellyer by Europeans and Chinese in the 1870s. In spite of this, the area remained very remote. Due to the lack of roads and tracks, no major discoveries occurred till the development of the Corinna goldfield in the 1880s.
Rosebery – Zeehan – Dundas
After the start of tin mining in Mount Bischoff, prospecting for west coast gold picked up. The Corinna goldfield also stimulated gold prospecting in the west coast generally.
Gold was known in small amounts from many west coast streams, and further south in the Queenstown area there were rushes in the 1880s that I’ll cover in another post.
The Rosebery – Zeehan – Dundas area is renowned mainly for its silver-lead, zinc and tin deposits. However, some decent finds of gold were also made. The main gold workings in this part of the west coast were in the Ring River goldfield and Melba Flats. Interestingly, both of these produced some sizeable nuggets. You can find some of the early records of these in my gold nugget database. Other minor workings dotted the area, from the Wilson River to the Farrell Rivulet area.
The Ring River goldfield
In the early days of developement of the Zeehan mines, the main means of access were by ship through either Trial Harbour, or later, Strahan. The Emu Bay railway line to Zeehan was being built in the early 1890s, at a time of severe depression in the mining industry. Gold was discovered in the western slopes of Mount Read, at the headwaters of the Ring River.
Since the mining depression meant that there were a lot of people in Zeehan out of work, a rush quickly developed. The main workings in the Ring River goldfield were along the small creeks draining the eastern side of the Ring River valley. These include Scott, Baker and Booker Creeks, and Conliffe Creek. An area of important workings was the perched alluvial along the ridge separating Baker and Booker Creeks, known as the “Terrace Claim” in early reports. As the small deposits in the creeks became exhausted, attention turned to the bed of the Ring River itself. This last one was hard to work due to work, as the river spends such a high proportion of the year with very high water levels.
The Ring River goldfield today
If you’re keen to find some west coast gold, and you’re thinking of heading to the Ring River area, be aware that it’s pretty much totally covered in tenements.
As of the time of writing (Nov 2015), about 2/3 of the historical goldfield are inside the Rosebery mine lease, with signposts warning against trespassing. The rest is under a couple of different exploration licence areas.
Unlike other goldfields, access is pretty easy, as the road to Williamsford puts you right in the middle of the action, and the Montezuma Falls track follows the valley right along the Ring River, crossing most of the major creeks that were worked for gold back in the 1890s. Your reward could be a decent nugget: the largest two found in the area weighed 10.25 and 4 ounces.
My experience of the creeks that formed the main part of the Ring River goldfield is that they’re pretty worked out. It can be hard to find colour in Booker Creek, and Baker Creek is pretty choked up: it became the conduit down which a lot of the junk coming off the Hercules mine was sent down. Your best bet would be to work crevices that the old timers missed, if you can find any. The terrace claim is pretty steep and scrubby, but might be worth a go. I don’t know of any modern finds from in there. My best find in the area of the historic goldfield was the little nugget pictured here. It was covered in brown ironstone and needed a good clean. Keep in mind that gold can be found in many streams in the general Dundas area, and some of them might not have been payable enough to get a decent working in the past. It’s often these streams that have more gold in them today: the old timers usually did a pretty good job of cleaning out the gold in the streams that they DID work. The thre nuggets in the featured image at the top are from a small, nameless creek also within the Dundas area.
Have you found a decent spot for panning in the Ring River goldfield area and you don’t mind sharing it? Do you find the posts useful, or want to leave some feedback? If you like the content at Apple Isle Prospector, feel free to get in contact, or leave a comment. If you enjoyed this article, then let others know by sharing it on Facebook or liking our Facebook or Twitter pages: