Primary Sources 50 stories from 50 years of the Archives

Mining the collection

Prior to 1880, many of Australia's early mines were small in scale and woefully under-capitalised. Combined with the freewheeling nature of our frontier society, mining provided a colourful if somewhat chaotic backdrop to the economic and political development of Australia before Federation, and was a major contributor to the national character as well as the economy.

Melbourne became the mining capital of Australia with the discovery of payable gold in the 1850s and it has arguably retained that mantle. Many mining companies have come and gone; others, notably BHP and Rio Tinto (a successor to the once all-powerful Collins House Group), have grown and diversified into global leaders. The records held by UMA provide many insights into why and how some companies succeeded when others failed.

UMA holds records from more than 20 mining companies. These records are enhanced by significant collections of personal papers of miners, engineers and company directors, and by the records of mining unions.

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