From melting house to gold pouring attraction
At the end of their working lives in 1990, 15 furnaces were removed from the original Melting House at The Perth Mint.
Ironically, they ended their days in yet another furnace, which was used to extract particles of embedded gold from their crushed remnants. The process recovered an astonishing amount of yellow metal worth roughly a quarter of a million dollars.
For nine decades the Melting House was the centre for the smelting, refining and casting of gold into ingots and the production of sovereigns.
It was a difficult and perilous place, where a splash of molten gold was an ever-present danger to the men who worked there. In summer, with all 15 furnaces in operation, they regularly endured temperatures in excess of 55⁰C.
The Perth Mint Melting House circa 1960.
Gold pouring demonstration
Today, visitors can get a feel for what it must have been like. Despite the installation of auditorium seating, the room retains much of its original character, complete with hulking gantries and industrial–sized pulley systems.
A presentation area occupies the wall where the old furnaces once stood side-by-side.
At its centre is a single, gas-fired furnace which roars noisily as its temperature climbs towards 1,300⁰C – more than enough to melt gold.
In low-light that emphasizes the drama, a Kevlar-clad presenter highly-practiced in the art of gold pouring cautiously retrieves a crucible from its molten interior.
The crucible contains six kilograms of bright orange liquid gold, which he skillfully pours into a bar-shaped mould.
As the gold begins to cool, the presenter dunks it into a barrel of water, which emits a fierce hiss on contact.
The result is a solid bar of pure gleaming gold.
Amazingly, this same gold has been melted every day (bar public holidays), seven days a week for more than 20 years – testament to gold’s imperishable nature. Meticulous attention to detail means virtually none of the original gold has been lost during the course of 40,000 pours!
Like the old furnaces, however, crucibles gradually absorb minute quantities of gold. Each crucible is used in the demonstration for just two weeks, after which it ends up at the The Perth Mint’s modern refinery complex where $200 worth of gold can be recovered for restoration to the original pool.
There’s another remarkable fact the presenters love to reveal during the presentation. During its 90 years as a working Melting House, atoms of gold literally floated to the ceiling where they accumulated in soot. In 1993, the room was scrubbed prior to opening as an attraction.
From the dirt and debris, the gold recovered was valued at an amazing ... well, why not come along and hear for yourself?
For more details of when you can see the amazing spectacle of a gold pouring performance at The Perth Mint, click here.
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