Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Chinese Mining Methods on Australian Goldfields

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In 1861, Chinese immigrants made up 3.3 per cent of the Australian population, the greatest it has ever been. These Chinese were nearly all men (38,337 men and only eleven women!) and most were under contract to Chinese and foreign businessmen. In exchange for their passage money, they worked on the goldfields until their debt was paid off. Most then returned to China. Between 1852 and 1889, there were 40,721 arrivals and 36,049 departures.

The Chinese, like so many others, came to Australia to dig for gold because there were problems in their own land. Drought and famine and a downturn in trade had caused poverty in China. By 1854, there were 4000 Chinese on the Australian goldfields.

The Chinese miners used different mining methods to the Europeans. They are said to have seldom tackled new ground, preferring to go over ground abandoned by the Europeans. It is thought that they found much gold which had been missed by European miners in their haste. On those occasions when the Chinese did dig for gold, it is commonly believed that they constructed round shafts rather than square or rectangular ones. This is both sound engineering and a likely deference to the superstition that evil spirits would hide in corners.

It also angered some diggers that the Chinese were successful in finding gold. They would work very carefully, for long hours, to get just a little gold. They would take up a claim that the European diggers had given up, and would find gold there. It was easy for some rowdy and hot-headed diggers to convince their disappointed mates that the Chinese were their enemies. The Victorian government became worried about the numbers of Chinese arriving, and tried to stop them. The captain of a ship arriving in Melbourne had to pay the government ten pounds in tax for every Chinese passenger. The captains avoided this by landing the Chinese in South Australia, which had no gold rushes. The Chinese diggers then walked hundreds of miles across country to the Victorian goldfields.


At 1:12 AM, Blogger Dimity Davidson said...

thanks i needed it for my study


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