Mining Records

The State Records Office holds various series of records relating to mining and resource development within Western Australia. These records have been created by several government agencies including the Department of Mines and its successor agencies, the Department of Industrial Development and its successor agencies, and the various Mining Registrars and Mining Wardens from throughout the State.

Miner drilling underground using air-leg drill in a shaft, Kalgoorlie, 1951. [816B/C/5669] [000013D] Department of Mines

The Department of Mines was created on 1 January 1894 in response to the rapid growth in mining in Western Australia following the discovery of significant deposits of gold.
The records of the Department of Mines and its successor agencies can be located through the listings in the hardcopy AN 350 and 539 finding aids available at the State Records Office Search Room as well as through our online catalogue

Early colonial references to mining in Western Australia may be found in the indexes to the Colonial Secretary's Office correspondence, under the headings "Mining", "Gold" and "Lands". See also further information on the records of the Colonial Secretary's Office.

The following are examples of Department of Mines records held by the State Records Office:

  • General Files, 1892-1992, AN 350 & Series 20
    Files for the Department of Mines are listed in AN 350, with the majority of files located in Acc 964. These early files consist largely of correspondence files relating to gold mining lease applications, although there are also miner's right applications, reports, circulars to wardens and various other files included.

Listings of correspondence files from the later half of the twentieth century are filed within Series 20.

It should be noted that not all general correspondence files have survived. Nominal, subject and numerical indexes to the general correspondence are available for the period 1892-1909 and can provide an indication of whether a particular file has been archived or destroyed.

  • Mining Tenement Nominal Indexes, 1892-1909, Series 1028, Consignment 4603, Items 6 and 7
    Entries are listed alphabetically by name of lease or lease-holder and noting district and date lease cancelled. Details of the leases can then be found in the relevant Lease Registers which are available through the Department for Minerals and Energy.
  • Subject Files - History of Gold Mining Vols 2-5, 1881-1980, Acc 2507, Items 3350/1970 - 3353/1970, AN 350

Mining Registrar / Mining Warden Records

Following the establishment of the Department of Mines in 1894, mining districts were created and Mining Registrars and Mining Wardens appointed to the various mineral fields. Mining Registrars were responsible for recording mining claims; Mining Wardens who were also Resident or Stipendiary Magistrates, presided over the Mining Courts which were established in the major goldfields.

The State Records Office holds a variety of records created by the Registrars and Warden's Courts of various mining districts. These records include letterbooks, indexes and registers. Mining Registrar and Mining Warden records are available for a number of districts including: Cue, Kalgoorlie, Ravensthorpe, Yandanooka, Kanowna, Laverton, Marble Bar, Northampton, Southern Cross and Yalgoo. These records can be located online using the name of the required locality. Additional material can also be located in the Clerk of Court records for the various districts.

Some examples of Mining Registrar and Mining Warden records include:

Collie Coal Mine, The First Shaft, c. 1880s. [1175B/2] Mining Leases

Prior to the establishment of the Department of Mines control of mining was regulated by the Lands Department. The following represent some of the early records of mining leases for the Colony which were created by the Department of Lands and Surveys and its predecessor agencies:

The following are selected examples of mining lease records held by the State Records Office:

Miner's Rights

Information relating to miner's rights (a form of prospecting licence) can be located within the records of Mining Wardens, Mining Registrars, local courthouses and local police stations, as well as through the records of the Department of Mines. Some examples of the types of records which provide information with regard to miner's rights are:

Other Mining Records

The following agencies maintain information relevant to researchers investigating mining history.

Companies Registration Office
The State Records Office holds records transferred from the Companies Registration Office dealing with defunct State and Local companies, as well as records of some defunct Foreign companies operating in Western Australia. These records date as far back as 1893 and include references to mining companies that have gone bankrupt during this period. The company files themselves are contained in a number of consignments with the listings located in the hardcopy AN 193 finding aid available at the State Records Office Search Room. Original indexes to the files are available in the State Records Office Microform Area, however it should be noted that the holdings are incomplete and not all files indexed have survived.

Information pertaining to mining companies prior to 1893 may be located through the Register of Mining Companies Registrations, 1888-1893 (Acc 2805), which was maintained in compliance with the Mining Companies Act 1885.

Records relating to bankrupt mining companies prior to 1961 may also be located through the Supreme Court bankruptcy records listed in our online catalogue.

Colonial Secretary's Office (CSO)
References to mining can be found within the Colonial Secretary's Office correspondence. Records can be located through the Subject Indexes located in the Search Room. Headings to check for relevant correspondence include "Mining", "Gold", "Minerals" and "Lands", as well as checking for correspondence from Resident Magistrates of mining districts.

See also further information on the Colonial Secretary's Office records.

Courthouses
In some instances records relating to mining, particularly those pertaining to mining licences, can be located through the records of local courthouses for mining districts. This is most notably the case for areas that did not have a Mining Registrar or Mining Warden, in which the courthouse assumed those responsibilities.

Courthouse records can be located either at the hardcopy AN 17 finding aid available at the State Records Office Search Room or through the online catalogue under the name of the relevant district.

Selected examples of the types of records available include:

  • Collie Courthouse, Collie Coal Miners Accident Relief Fund Register of Accidents, 1918-1940, Acc 1366, Item 62, AN 17
  • Leonora Courthouse, Register of Mine Managers, 1907-1920, Acc 1456, Item 56, AN 17
    Provides details on the appointment of mine managers for the Leonora area along with information on the owners of the mines concerned, the locality and name of the mines, and particulars of termination.
  • Clerk of Courts - York, Register - Prospecting Areas, 1924-1940, Series 479, Consignment 3826

Geological Survey of Western Australia
In 1886 the Legislative Council passed a resolution to establish a Geological Survey. However it was not until the appointment of Andrew Gibb Maitland in 1896 as Government Geologist that the structure of the Geological Survey was established.

Geological Survey records can be located through the catalogue. Of particular interest are the General Files which include reports and surveys relating to various goldfields, petroleum and other fossil fuels, country town water supplies, and other geological matters.

Records relating to Government Geologists between the period 1847 and 1896 can be located through the records of the Colonial Secretary's Office and the records of the various Lands Departments.

Government Chemical Laboratories
Formally established on 1 March 1922 with the appointment of Dr Edward S. Simpson as Government Mineralogist and Analyst, the Government Chemical Laboratories combined the existing laboratories of the Health, Agriculture and Mines Departments. The Government Chemical Laboratories later became the Chemical Centre (WA).

To locate records held by the State Records Office created by the Government Chemical Laboratories check the finding aids at AN 539 or online under the General Files series.

  • General Files, 1922-1984, WAS 2191
    Contains technical papers, research papers and results of analytical and research work into asbestos, minerals and water among other things.
  • Notebooks, 1896-1939, Acc 2776, AN 539
    This collection of notebooks contain the original notes and data gathered by Dr Simpson, Mineralogist and Assayer to the Geological Survey, the results of which were ultimately published in his three volume set the "Minerals of Western Australia" - long regarded as the definitive reference. The note books contain catalogues of minerals, details of analytical methods used, public assays, and daily logs of Dr Simpson's work as Government Mineralogist.

Department of Industrial Development
The Department of Industrial Development was created in 1937 to coordinate major resource development projects within the State and improve utilisation of the State's natural resources (including mineral resources). The records of the Department of Industrial Development and its successor agencies contain subject files and correspondence files relating to mineral exploration and the encouragement and development of mining operations. These files often deal with mining matters, in particular agreements between the State and individual mining companies concerning the development of mineral resource projects.

Records relating to the Department of Industrial Development and its successor agencies may be located in the Search Room finding aids at AN 183 or through the catalogue under the name of the required agency.

Please Note: Some records of the Department of Industrial Development and its successor agencies are restricted access records. See also further information on accessing restricted records.

Prior to the establishment of the Department of Mines control over mining leases came within the jurisdiction of the Department of Lands and Surveys. Records relating to mining and particularly mining leases can be located through the records of the Department of Lands and Surveys and its predecessor agencies.

Royal Commissions

The State Records Office holds records relating to a number of Royal Commissions that investigated aspects of the mining industry in Western Australia, including several investigations into the coal mining industry between 1905 and 1946 and a Royal Commission into Miner's Lung Disease in 1911.

The following are selected examples of some of the mining related Royal Commission and Committee of Inquiry records available:

Royal Commission and Committee of Inquiry records can be located through the State Records Office hardcopy finding aids at AN 537 and AN 545 respectively. Relevant records may also be listed in the catalogue under the title of the required Commission or Committee.

Please Note: There is a 30 year access restriction on Royal Commission records. See also further information on accessing restricted records.

Further Information

State Records Office staff at the Enquiry Desk can provide additional information on the range of mining related records available from within the State Records Office collection. For more information contact us by telephone on (08) 9427 3600, by facsimile on (08) 9427 3368, via email at sro@sro.wa.gov.au or in person.