WATER AND MINING
quartz claim of the Ballerstedt's (father and son) on the
Victoria reef was one of the earliest to be worked to prove
gold at greater depth. It was started as an open cut in
1855.Llater acquired by George Lansell who became a famous
Bendigo mining magnate.
Bendigo, then and now, experiences droughts and flooding rains
and, when gold was discovered in 1851, Bendigo Creek was the only
immediate source of water
. This was quite inadequate for the influx of miners and was
soon polluted by gold washing. In 1858 the Bendigo Waterworks
Company was formed to dam water locally but only when a competition
in 1862 produced a scheme to harness the waters of the Coliban
River and bring it via 70 kilometres of tunnels, aqueducts and
siphons in 1877 was there a reliable water supply. This remarkable
scheme has been supplemented and is still in use,
with the original system having been supplemented by substantial
additional storage on the Coliban River and, since 1964, by pumping
from Lake Eppalock which dams the Campaspe River.
After the easily obtained gold had been washed from the beds
of the creeks, a system of puddling was developed, whereby the
topsoil down to bedrock was dug up and carted to puddling machines.
By1853, the alluvial gold was increasingly hard to find and some
miners turned to crushing the quartz reefs which were standing
above the surface, first using hand methods and then crushing
machines. The miners followed the quartz reefs below the surface,
until, in the 1890s, a few shafts were nearly 1,500 metres deep.
Booms in quartz mining occurred in 1859 and 1871; gold production
declined gradually as the mines were deepened but there was a
revival during the 1890s depression and, in the early 1900s, production
was maintained with the cyanide treatment of gold left in the
The complex history of mining in Bendigo is available, with illustrations,
in the book ‘Bendigo’s
Gold Story’ ( by Lerk, J. & Birrell, R.).
When the price of gold soared in the 1980’s, exploration
to find new reefs worth mining was recommenced and is continuing.
The company Bendigo Mining
Limited is now developing a decline (sloping tunnel)
from Kangaroo Flat to the Deborah Reef right under the city centre
in order to explore new reefs below the 900 metre level. The company
is optimistic that it will find reefs with sufficient gold to
enable it to mine another 10 million ounces at depths between
900 metres and 1500 metres.An instructive continually-running
DVD video presentation concerning the gold reefs of Bendigo is
available for viewing at the Visitor Information Centre (old Post
The visitor to Bendigo wanting to catch the feeling of the past
mining days is encouraged to visit the Central
Deborah Mine where, in addition to above-ground displays
of equipment and historical artefacts relating to mining, there
are realistic tours underground into the actual old crosscuts
and drives of the previous underground workings.
(Back to main menu)