Queensland Places – Wild Irish Girl Reef, Mine and Crushing Works, Palmer River

The Palmer River Gold Field followed a similar pattern to many other gold mining fields.  Beginning as rich sources of alluvial gold, the fields then evolved into surface or deep reef mining areas, with heavy machinery needed to extract payable levels of gold.  In the case of the Palmer River area, this was taking place by the 1890s, with the Wild Irish Girl Mine and Battery established to access quartz reefs under the main escarpment of the Conglomerate Range.  Other similar mining ventures nearby included the Best Friend and the Bal Gammon mines.

In 1894, the mine’s operators, John Trainor and James Burchall, had struck a rich reef, encouraging greater investment in the venture.  By 1897, more than four hundred ounces of gold had been retrieved but yields were to subsequently decline.  During World War One there was a brief revival and limited mining and crushing were undertaken and nearby mines used the Wild Irish Girl Mill to crush their ore.  In 1930, Sam Eliott purchased the mill and associated infrastructure and continued working the mine and mill for the next thirty years.  It is said that Sam Elliott was to be the last hard rock miner to operate on the Palmer River field.  He died in 1986 and is buried in the Maytown cemetery.

Lone Star Gap, Conglomerate Range, near Wild Irish Girl, c. 1930, State Library of Queensland Neg. No. 69263

Lone Star Gap, Conglomerate Range, near Wild Irish Girl, c. 1930

Remnants of the mining that took place in the area can still be seen today, mainly comprising what is left of the Native Girl, Friendly Girl and Wild Irish Girl mines and associated mining infrastructure.  This includes both open cut as well as underground workings.  As well, there are remnants of the early alluvial work which took place along the creek, together with various water channels and a stone lined waterchase.  The remains of various mine buildings and huts can also be seen.

In acknowledgement of the importance of the site in terms of Queensland’s history and development, the remnants of the Wild Irish Girl Mine and Battery are listed on the Queensland Heritage Register.

This image, dating from around 1930, shows the Lone Star Gap, Conglomerate Range, not far from the Wild Irish Girl Mine.

Brian Randall – Queensland Places Coordinator, State Library of Queensland