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Tuesday, 23 June 2015

ALLUVIAL DIAMOND MINING IN THE NEW ENGLAND REGION OF NSW AUSTRALIA



Most gem hunters seem to be unaware that diamonds have been mined in NSW (off and on) since the gold rush days in the middle of the 19th century. The list of places where at least one diamond has been found is very extensive and I suspect that it would be much longer if the old time miners had not suffered from tunnel vision. “If it’s not gold (or tin) we’re not interested in it. Chuck it out.”
Only at Bingara and Copeton (formerly called Boggy Camp, south of Inverell) were the workings extensive and even then they could hardly have been very profitable. Both places were being prospected for gold or tin when “these funny looking stones” turned up. Sufficient curiosity was aroused for specimens to be sent off for identification and minor rushes followed.
Subsequent searches for primary deposits (like those now being mined in Western Australia) have not met with much success, despite the fact that the diamonds had to reach the Earth’s surface somewhere. From the gem hunting point of view, this is probably a good thing, as modern diamond mining is very big business and casual fossickers are most unwelcome in the vicinity.
Your only real source of accurate information is in the records of the Geological Survey and the Mines Department of NSW. I have mentioned DIGS on numerous occasions, but it is a website that anyone with an interest in things geological needs to get to know. Simply follow this link (here) to DIGS and make sure you bookmark it or put it into your Favourites, if that’s what your web browser does. Click on “Search DIGS” enter “diamond” in the Subject Terms/Keyword box, press “Search” and you will be confronted with a list of 1000 records.  If this seems somewhat overwhelming, try putting in a locality (eg Copeton). This reduces the 1000 to 94, a much more manageable number if you want to start researching. It’s a series of logical steps to bring up a document on your screen, where you can read it, save it or delete it as you please. Note the size of the document before you commit yourself to waiting for it for maybe half an hour.
If you want a short cut to a few interesting documents, just copy these numbers into the second box at the top of the initial search box.
R00003264 will take you to the Annual Report of the D of M for 1900. Notes on diamond mining for that year are on pages 60/61 of the report.
R00050830 takes you to the document “Industry 18: Mineral Industry NSW - 1980 - Gemstones 2nd Edition”. The section dealing with diamonds is on pages 32/67.
R00047949 brings up the most comprehensive document of them all – “Diamonds in NSW”, from which much of the previous document has been taken.
So you want to go and look for diamonds yourself? The references above will give you lots of clues to locations, nearly all of which will turn out to be privately owned. Make sure you get permission before entering any private property and respect the wishes of all landowners.
Staggy Creek on the Copeton Dam road near Inverell is the only place that seems to be easily accessible to the public. Google Staggy Creek fossicking and you will find lots of web pages to explore. Some of them even mention finding diamonds there! You can always go and look at the specimens at the Inverell Tourist Information Centre if you want to compare your finds with the real thing.
The illustrations accompanying this blog were adapted from the above references and similar ones found on DIGS.
I also recommend you check out my video on the subject, which does not include any footage of actual fossicking but does reproduce these illustrations and other similar ones. The link is here.

Addition 27/06/2015. I came across this interesting ebook today. It's called Sydney and the Cudgegong Diamond Fields, written in 1870 by Angus Mackay, MLA. It describes a journey from Melbourne to Sydney by ship,then by train to Bowenfels (the end of the line in 1870) and on via Mudgee to the Cudgegong River, where diamonds had been discovered not long before. It really does give a great insight into the conditions of the times. Download from Trove here.
You will find my gem hunting/mining You Tube playlist here. I have three other playlists - the Blue Mountains, Glen Innes and New Zealand.

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