Golden journey for The Perth Mint
Gold, the most precious of metals, has captivated the human imagination for centuries.
Used first as currency and later to denote status in the form of jewellery, ornaments, coins, bars and medallions, the glittering metal has always been a symbol of power, prestige and extraordinary value.
However few are lucky enough to glimpse the metal’s journey as it is extracted from the depths of the earth to be refined and crafted into an object of exquisite beauty – until now.
A one-of-a-kind tour, Mine to Mint takes guests to Australia’s largest operating gold mine, Newmont Australia’s Boddington Gold Mine, before journeying to The Perth Mint, Australia’s oldest operating mint, to experience the metal’s awe-inspiring transformation.
Members of The Perth Mint team had the opportunity to participate in the groundbreaking daytrip and were excited to witness firsthand a gold production process rarely revealed to the public.
The tour began at The Perth Mint, where sleepy guests climbed onto their luxury Go West bus at 7.30am. Greeted by affable driver and guide David, a Boddington resident, tourists were treated to a brief history of Western Australia and the role gold had played in its development as the bus departed the city.
A comfort stop at the Rusty Camp Oven Café and Gallery in Boddington included a delightful morning tea with a selection of coffee, tea and cakes, and gave visitors the opportunity to browse a range of locally made gifts.
Visit Australia’s largest operating gold mine, Newmont Australia’s Boddington Gold Mine and The Perth Mint as part of the Mint to Mint tour.
Nestled on the Hotham River, Boddington was established as a farming and cattle settlement.
Gold was discovered near Boddington in 1980 and mining commenced just a year later. By 1989 the Boddington Gold Mine had become Australia’s largest producer of gold – a title it reclaimed in 2017 after several years of care and maintenance and a huge expansion project completed in 2009.
At Newmont Boddington Gold Mine
After guests donned the necessary protective gear including high-vis vest, hard hat and safety glasses, the tour bus made its way through magnificent jarrah forests to the mine site, 13km from town. Visitors began to get an idea of the size of the operation when the accommodation village, which has capacity to house more than 2,000 workers, came into view.
After passing the main gate and security, David explained the strict environmental regulations within which mine owner Newmont operates. These have helped encourage the successful implementation of programs to contain dieback, one of Australia’s most destructive native plant diseases.
Excitement mounted as the first production equipment, stockpiles and rock dumps appeared – huge objects jutting from an otherwise flat terrain.
We made our way past the colossal ore stockpile, the largest processing plant in the southern hemisphere and a 2.1km overland conveyor belt.
We were thrilled to step off the bus at the South Pit lookout where we had a fantastic view of the multi-tiered open cut pit spanning several kilometres. In the midst of yet another expansion project, the two Boddington open cut pits will eventually have a footprint of about 4km in length, 1km in width and up to 700m in depth.
At the lookout we witnessed ore being mined by enormous electric rope shovels and transported by haul trucks capable of carrying loads of more than 300 tonnes at a time. The mammoth 155 tonne haul trucks looked like ants in the distance as we took advantage of the superb photo opportunity.
Continuing our journey through the massive processing plant, which operates 24 hours a day, guests watched the gigantic machinery at work in the crushing and extraction process. The resultant gold is sold to The Perth Mint as doré, a semi-pure alloy to be further purified by the Mint’s state-of-the-art refining process.
Back in Boddington we were treated to a delicious buffet meal after which guests could try their hand at gold panning. The drive back to Perth after lunch was a time to relax and admire the Australian countryside while David further enlightened us about The Perth Mint and its role in WA’s transformation over the past 120 years.
Significant gold discoveries in Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie east of Perth spurred the establishment of The Perth Mint in 1899 as a branch of Britain’s Royal Mint for the refining and minting of gold coins.
Now operating one of the largest and most efficient refineries in the world, The Perth Mint turns doré from mines into gold with a purity up to 99.99% purity.
This gold, along with silver and platinum, is transformed by The Perth Mint into exquisite collector coins as well as internationally renowned bullion products, which are exported to more than 130 countries.
Where the precious metal comes alive
Once safely returned to The Perth Mint, we stepped into the splendour of the oldest operating mint in Australia.
Guests then enjoyed the one hour Gold Exhibition tour, marvelling at the world’s largest pure gold coin weighing one tonne, viewing Australia’s most extensive collection of gold nuggets and hearing tales of the country’s historical gold discoveries.
The interactive tour additionally allowed visitors to find out their weight in gold, hold a pure gold bar, engrave a medallion and witness the coin pressing process.
Bringing the Mine to Mint tour full circle, an awe-inspiring gold pour in the original melting house demonstrated how the precious metal is melted down into a liquid form at temperatures of over 1200 degrees Celcius.
The white-hot crucible captivated the audience with its ethereal glow as six kilos of pure melted gold was poured into a mould and transformed into a solid gold bar.
Enriched with the knowledge gained throughout the day, tour participants were able to fully appreciate the craftsmanship and beauty of the collector coins and luxury jewellery pieces showcased in The Perth Mint’s Shop.
Free to browse for as long as they wished, Mine to Mint tourists finished the day at their leisure, enthralled by the unique creations on display.
Where does gold come from?
The beginnings of gold are nearly as old as time itself. After lying in wait inside the Earth for millions of years, gold has changed the course of humankind’s history. But where exactly did it come from?
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