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Since gold was discovered in Victoria in 1851, the government has sought to manage the number of prospectors through a licensing system. The high rates of the first Gold Licenses led to protests from the miners, which eventually resulted in the events at the Eureka Stockade in December 1854. Following a Royal Commission in 1855, the Gold License was changed to the Miner’s Right, which reduced the fee and required annual payment, rather than monthly or quarterly.

Gold License (1854)
Image: Ballarat Historical Society Collection (78.971D)

The Gold Museum holds over 300 Miner’s Rights, which is the largest collection in the state, and this has been recognised as significant by the Victorian Heritage Register. These date from the 1850s to the 1970s, and include examples from Ararat, Bendigo, Castlemaine, Daylesford, Maryborough and Sandhurst as well as Ballarat. We are always looking to acquire more, as they are useful sources of information about mining history.

Miner’s Right for John Cail, Ballarat (1865)
Image: Gold Museum Collection (70.5512.5)

Family history researchers are particularly keen to discover if we have a Right belonging to their ancestor, but with only 300 out of the tens of thousands of prospectors who have sought gold in Victoria, the chances of finding the exact one are unfortunately small.

Miner’s Right for Eliza Coulter, Ballarat (1901)
Image: Gold Museum Collection (05.1199.33)

At present, we are working on a project to digitise and index our entire Miner’s Rights collection in a format that will be accessible to the public online. This will enable people to search for specific records relating to each individual Right. There will be further posts on this blog as the project progresses.

Miner’s Right for Margaret Cant, Ballarat (1921)
Image: Gold Museum Collection (70.5513.19)

You can find other examples of Miner’s Rights from:

Victorian Collections; Museum Victoria; State Library of Victoria

If you are thinking about prospecting for gold today, you will need to purchase a Miner’s Right from the Department of Primary Industries.