Page:The Irish in Australia.djvu/30

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the moment, chartering all the private carriages available, treating the floating population to unlimited champagne, and generally conducting themselves as if suddenly-acquired wealth had bereft them of their sober senses. But this high-pressure era in the colony's history was only of a temporary character. In a few years the rich alluvial deposits became exhausted, and a new and more scientific mode of mining had to be adopted. Companies were organised to crush the auriferous quartz that lay many hundred feet below the surface, and necessarily a considerable amount of capital had to be expended before the quartz rock was reached, before the crushing commenced, and before the shareholders received a dividend. But once the gold-bearing quartz was struck, the reef was worked systematically, and usually the promoters of the company received an immense profit on the capital they had originally invested. It is in this manner that mining as an industry is now carried on, and though the days of rich "nuggets" (solid masses of gold generally found near the surface) have apparently passed away, yet the auriferous resources of the colony are being successfully developed at enormous depths in the manner just described. The total amount of gold produced in Victoria from the time of the first discovery in 1851 to the year 1886 is no less than fifty-five millions of ounces, equal in value to more than two hundred million pounds sterling. From 1851 to 1861 was the most exciting time on the goldfields, and during that remarkable decade, the precious metal was raised to the surface at an average rate of £10,000,000 per year.

The unparalleled productiveness of her gold mines, principally, and the extent of her pastoral and agricultural resources, secondarily, have combined to place Victoria at the head of the Australian colonies, and have given her a lead