Victoria’s heart of gold

Victoria’s gold prospects are well established with the state’s largest mine at Fosterville producing some of the highest grades recorded globally in recent times and minerals exploration reaching record levels over the last four years.

Victoria’s heart of gold began to beat after the precious metal was first discovered near Clunes, about 40km west of Ballarat in 1850. The gold rush that followed built the state’s wealth, increased its population and shaped the economy until the 1940s.

Total gold production in Victoria since discovery stands at 80 million ounces.

While the success of early explorers can be attributed to a mix of luck, enthusiasm and skill, Victoria’s current gold renaissance is the result of an in-depth understanding of the state’s unique geology and skilled workforce, cutting-edge advances in technology and more efficient mining techniques.

The Geological Survey of Victoria (GSV) has studied and mapped the state’s geology for over 160 years, providing pre-competitive geoscience data and knowledge to explorers.

In recent years GSV has identified northern Victoria as having undiscovered gold resources of approximately 75 million ounces.

Between 2006 and 2009, the state’s lead geoscience agency focussed its attention researching Victoria’s gold potential through the Gold Undercover initiative, which aimed to reduce exploration risk by providing explorers access to new high-quality geological data.

The major findings of Gold Undercover were that the northern parts of western and central Victoria’s Stawell and Bendigo zones hold the greatest potential for gold, and this was likely to be at a depth within reach of modern drilling techniques.

Much of this prospective area is located to the east and north east of Bendigo. The region has gained international attention, given the emergence of Kirkland Lake Gold’s Fosterville mine as a world-class gold deposit and operation demonstrating the resource can be responsibly and economically developed.

During the first nine months of 2020, the mine produced 476,459 ounces of gold at an average grade of 36.6 grams per tonne, making it the highest grade and lowest cost operation in the country. Fosterville Gold Mine is on-track to produce more than 610,000 ounces of gold for the second consecutive year.

Victoria’s heart of gold has spurred on other mineral interests. Since March 2016, the average quarterly mineral exploration expenditure growth in Victoria has been 13 per cent—over three times the average quarterly growth of the nation.

The level of mineral exploration interest shows no sign of slowing down either with expenditure during the June quarter 2020 surpassing the March quarter as the new highest quarterly mineral exploration expenditure figure ever recorded in Victoria.

Following the success of the Stavely Ground Release in 2018 in western Victoria, the State Government announced the North Central Victorian Goldfields Ground Release through a competitive international tender in 2019.

The tender encourages responsible minerals exploration to the east and northeast of Bendigo in an area with similar geology to Fosterville. Successful tenders will be announced from March 2021.

So why does ground in Victoria’s north and west continue to be attractive places for gold miners to invest?

GSV research suggests that the source of Victorian gold is a concentration of very old volcanic rocks that were derived from magma originating in the earth’s mantle and becoming deposited on the seabed.

The volcanic rocks combine with geological faults to form a plumbing system, allowing gold-rich fluids to migrate toward the surface These rocks now reside under the greater Bendigo region and may be very important in explaining why central Victoria is so gold-rich.

These ancient geological events have not only affected the greater Bendigo region, but also influenced the evolution of Victoria’s economic and business landscape.

Victoria is today home to a technically skilled and innovative METS (mining equipment, technology and services) sector that is helping explorers to find gold more efficiently and at a more competitive cost, making the state the perfect place to invest.

Geoscience presentations

The current state of play of gold in Victoria

The 5 key ingredients for a world-class gold

Geophysical datasets in north central Victoria

Scientific reports

The Gold Undercover initiative was a three-year scientific program (2006 to 2009) to provide new data and to improve exploration techniques in gold-bearing Palaeozoic basement rocks that are buried beneath Cainozoic sediments of the Murray Basin in the Stawell, Bendigo and Melbourne structural zones of northern Victoria. Undertaken by the Geological Survey of Victoria, the initiative included a suite of scientific studies and literature reviews, resulting in 24 Gold Undercover reports and two papers published in scientific journals.

Page last updated: 24 Nov 2020