Gwalia – a ghost town in Western Australia

In 1963 the Sons of Gwalia gold mine closed abruptly. It is essentially a ghost town now. Mining from 1897  to 1963 produced 82.24 tonnes of gold! It is located 828 kilometers east of Perth, near Leonora, in the Great Victoria Desert.

From Wikipedia “… a young American geologist (was sent) to the area to develop the find into a working concern. That geologist was Herbert Hoover, who would later become President of the United States. Hoover arrived in Albany, Western Australia in May 1897, traveled by train to Coolgardie, then eventually to the Gwalia area by camel. He suggested himself as manager of the new mine. Among his suggestions for cutting labour costs was to hire mostly Italian labourers. As a result, the town’s population was made up mostly of Italian immigrants, as well as other Europeans, who sought riches in Australia’s newest gold rush…. Hoover’s stay in Gwalia was brief; he was sent to China in December 1898 to develop mines there. The house that Hoover lived in, overlooking the mine operations, still exists, and today operates as a museum and bed-and-breakfast inn. Hoover returned to Western Australia and Gwalia in 1902 as a partner in Bewick Moreing and manager of all of their interests in Western Australia.”

When the mine closed in 1963 the town’s population disappeared almost overnight. It is a popular tourist attraction today for those willing to travel the distance. I took the opportunity to visit the site when I was working in the region in 2003. An employee from the Regional Development Commission in Leonora gave me the tour! Leonora locals look after the deserted cottages to keep their original appearance – it looks like the miners just left yesterday!

Cheers

Lorraine

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