Mercury Mining: A quick history of quicksilver in Australia.

Kenneth McQueen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mercury is one of the few metals not produced in significant quantity in Australia. In the nineteenth century this was an important deficiency as mercury was crucial in the production of gold. Until the development of the chlorination and cyanidation processes, mercury amalgamation was the main method of extracting gold (and silver) from quartz reef and lode deposits. Mercury was also used to catch very fine gold during alluvial mining. Even after more efficient gold extraction processes were developed in the late nineteenth century, amalgamation was still widely applied in the Australian gold industry. For example, in 1938 Australia imported over 76 thousand pounds (34.7 tonnes) of mercury, mostly for gold processing. The high gold price in recent decades has driven a demand for mercury by artisanal gold miners, mainly in third world countries.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)74-93
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Australasian Mining History
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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