Historically over 22 million ounces of gold came from the gold field surrounding the city of Bendigo.
Bendigo is situated in the centre of the area of Victoria known as the ‘Central Goldfields’. In this region are four of Victoria’s biggest gold mines located at Stawell, Bendigo, Fosterville and Ballarat.
Gold was first discovered in the beds of creeks and rivers in the region in the early 1850s. The easily obtainable alluvial gold was soon recovered, and the professional miners turned to the exposed quartz reefs and began crushing the quartz manually to release the gold. By the end of that century gold was being won from a depth in excess of 1 kilometre.
Gold occurrences in Central Victoria including Bendigo are predominantly contained or associated with branching veins of underground Quartz reef, uplifted and deformed by the ancient movement of the earths crust. The nature of the gold in such reefs in the Bendigo region is ‘shotty’ or ‘coarse’ – and it is found in dispersed or erratically distributed deposits, with grade and volume changing significantly over even modest distances - rather than a uniform grade. This has caused issues in the interpretation of exploration results. It is however generally accepted that the historical average grade from the Bendigo region is over 10 grams per tonne of ore – although grade may vary considerably within a resource. Confined high grade zones within reefs, known colloquially as ‘jewellery shops’, abound within the Central Victorian gold deposits – with localised grades up to 5 ounces per ton recorded in such zones. Like the original Bendigo goldfield, the Greater Bendigo region contains many areas that have been well explored, developed and mined in the past. Some of the data upon which geologists base their present programmes is drawn from historical exploration and mining data.
Mining in the region declined through the impact of both World Wars when men, steel and explosives were obviously applied elsewhere, and was further impacted post war by economic conditions causing production costs to rise to unecomic levels above the return achievable on the then fixed gold price.
The price of gold became free floating in the early 1970s, and as a result has risen from US$35 per ounce to now around US$1400 - 1500 per ounce. This movement coupled with relatively stable costs and the availability of modern technology, has meant mining of gold from the historical gold fields in the Bendigo and Central Goldfields region is being looked at in a new light.