Mining Development Western Australia
history kalgoorlie The town was founded in 1892, when gold was discovered in the area. Australia had seen several major gold rushes over the previous three decades, mostly centred on the east coast, but these had mostly been exhausted by the 1890s. With the discovery of a new goldfield, an entire new gold rush began, with thousands flocking to the area. By 1898, it was the third largest town in the colony, with a population of 15,000, and another 10,000 in the surrounding region. At its peak, 700 mining companies based in Coolgardie were registered with the London Stock Exchange. The town also supported a wide variety of businesses and services, including a railway, a swimming pool (first public baths in the state), many hotels and several newspapers.
The value of Coolgardie to the colony in the late 1890s was so significant that it was used as leverage to force Western Australia to join the Australian federation – Britain and the eastern colonies threatened to create a new state to be named Auralia around Coolgardie and other regional goldfields, such as Kalgoorlie, if the government in Perth did not agree to hold a referendum on federation. The Western Australian government reluctantly complied and a referendum was held just in time to become a founding state in the new federation. When federation did occur in 1901, Coolgardie was the centre of a federal electorate, the Division of Coolgardie. Soon after in November 1901, Alf Morgans from the state electorate of Coolgardie was elected Premier of Western Australia.
However, the gold began to decrease in the early 1900s, and by World War I, the town was in serious decline. The federal electorate was abolished in 1913 due to the diminished population as many of its residents left for other towns where the gold was still plentiful, and it soon ceased to be a municipality. The situation remained unchanged throughout the century, as its population slipped to around 200 and it became a virtual ghost town. Despite this, many of the buildings from its peak were retained, which in recent years has helped start a small revival in the town’s fortunes. The development of a tourist industry has once again created some employment in the town, resulting in a small increase in population, and it appears to be no longer in danger of dying completely.