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Palmer Goldfield Mining Landscape

Palmer Goldfield Resources Reserve, Palmer

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Western descent and cutting on the Laura to Maytown Coach Road, 2009; Heritage Branch Staff

Western descent and cutting on the Laura to Maytown Coach Road, 2009

The Palmer Goldfield Mining Landscape comprises a section of the Laura to Maytown Coach Road – the only trafficable road to the goldfield, which opened in 1876 – and eight former mining complexes: German Bar; Revolver Point; Mount Atlas and Echo Town; Louisa; Butchers Creek; Ida; Pioneer; and Gregory Gully. The complexes contain a range of reef mining equipment, Chinese market gardens, domestic and commercial sites; stone pitching and dams created by alluvial mining activities; and burial sites. Gold was discovered on the Palmer River in 1872, on the first European expedition to far north Queensland. Following a rush to the area, the Palmer Goldfield was proclaimed in 1873. Settlements sprang up across the rugged goldfield, and Cooktown was established to serve as the goldfield’s port. Up to 30,000 people were on the Palmer Goldfield at its peak in 1875, when it was by far the richest alluvial goldfield in Queensland. Over 1.3 million ounces of gold were mined by 1897, and although mining activities fell away in the 20th century, the Palmer remained the fourth highest producing goldfield of the 19th and 20th centuries. Most of its returns came from alluvial gold deposits, which could be obtained with minimal equipment. European miners also tried underground reef mining, requiring heavy equipment, but the Palmer’s reefs were far less profitable than its alluvial gold. Unusually for an Australian goldfield, the Palmer had more Chinese than European miners – up to nine Chinese miners for every European. In 1875, it had the largest Chinese population in Australia, an estimated 18,000 people. The Palmer retains a significant archaeological record of Chinese life on a 19th century goldfield. Mining interest in the Palmer was renewed in the 1980s, and a 16,200 hectare resources reserve was declared in 1986. Mining activities continue today, but the coach road and mining complexes continue to pay tribute to 19th century mining processes and goldfield life.

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Coordinates: -15.91518151, 144.26632325

Full details of this heritage-registered place are in the Heritage register.

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Last reviewed
1 July 2022
Last updated
28 February 2023