On our recent trip to Perth, Scottie and I popped into the Perth Mint, not only a fine example of a colonial-era monument, but also hosts a fantastic tour about the history of the mint and gold mining in Western Australia.
The Perth Mint was opened in 1899 following the discovery of large quantities of gold in Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie in the Goldfields, particularly as it was taking the prospectors a long time to cash in their treasure at the other ‘local’ mints in Sydney and Melbourne.
In 2011 the Mint made the largest gold coin in the world, weighing in at over 1000kg of 99.99% pure gold. Its legal tender is A$1 million.
The Mint was only built after the first Premier of Western Australia, Sir John Forrest, lobbied the British Government for WA to have its on mint; he laid the foundation stone in 1896. The beautiful building itself was designed by George Temple Poole and is very impressive. It continued to make gold sovereigns until 1931 when they were no longer used by the British empire and carried on refining until 1990.
The exhibition holds a number of the worlds largest golden nuggets.
1899-1931: over 106 million sovereigns and 700,000 half sovereigns were made.
1940-64: hundreds of millions of pennies and half pennies.
1946: 1.3 million shillings.
1966-73: 829 million 2c coins and 26 million 1c coins.
A key part of the exhibition involves watching a live gold pour in the original 1899 melting house, using the same gold that has been poured since the inception of the tour.
Since 1990 all of the refining in WA has been done in a modern facility in the east of the city. It refines around 90% of all the gold in Australia and still mints coins and bars from metals from Australian and abroad.