The first recorded gold discovery in Australia was in 1823 by James McBrien who discovered flecks of alluvial gold in the Fish River of New South Wales.
Further traces of gold were discovered in areas of the Blue Mountains in the ensuing decades.
Early discoveries of gold were kept secret as it was feared that the promise of easy wealth would incite riots amongst the convicts.
Further, discoveries were usually made by settlers who did not want their valuable sheep and cattle properties to be degraded by the sudden influx of prospectors and lawlessness that would inevitably follow.
There was little incentive to report gold finds in the early 1800s, as all gold was owned by the government, and would not provide any personal gains.
However, some enterprising individuals still saw the value in prospecting, realising the benefits of minerals and metals as the Australian colonies grew.
Captain Charles Sturt, whose charting of the Murray River was a significant catalyst to the establishment of the southern colony, was among the first to recognise the likelihood of mineral wealth in the ranges of South Australia.
His claims were backed by German immigrant Johannes Menge, who was employed by the South Australian Company as their Mine and Quarry Agent and Geologist.
The men were proven correct when silver was discovered at Glen Osmond in 1841 and copper and traces of gold were discovered at Montacute in 1842.
On the back of these discoveries, on 22 December 1845 Frederick Wicksteed, on behalf of the Victoria Mining Company, paid 799 pounds for 147 acres at Montacute, to be used for copper mining.
Within a few months of opening in 1846, the investment paid off.
Captain John Terrill discovered high quality gold, and the copper mine became Australia’s first gold mine, five years before gold was ‘officially’ discovered in New South Wales.