The Anakie Gemfields

The little Central Queensland Town of Anakie lies about 350km west of Rockhampton on the Capricorn Highway. Although it lends its name to the in close proximity lying Anakie Gemfields, no gemstones are found in the immediate surroundings of the town. The approximately 9000ha of Gemstone bearing ground is mostly situated to the north of Anakie, comprising the towns of Sapphire and Rubyvale and two smaller localities called “The Willows” and “Glenalva” to the west-southwest. The early history of this mineral rich area was not very accurately recorded and hence the date of discovery is somewhat vague. But it is generally accepted that the first Sapphires and Zircons were found sometime between 1870 and 1875. Drought, Floods, War and Recessions combined with decreasing demand on the world market due to the overproduction in the latter part of the 20th Century in Australia and oversees resulting in decreasing prices while production costs kept steadily rising gave the place a bit of a Boom and Bust character. The existence of a Sapphire miner was by no stretch of the imagination an easy one. Hard work under often extremely difficult conditions, with great deprivations in a wild and untamed Country was what could be expected from a normal working day. Many a hopeful Prospector with dreams of great riches to be picket up of the ground, arrived on this field after sometimes marching for days or weeks with his meagre possessions carried in an old Wheelbarrow or on his back, just to be disappointed and find himself leave again within a couple of months or years.
Some hardy Men and Woman however managed to eke out an existence in this dry, unforgiving countryside, and in so doing kept the place alive and giving it a future.

Some of the very lucky ones even managed with hard work and single-minded determination to become rich. But only few were able to hang on to this new found wealth. Too easy was it to spend it all while living the life of a high roller in one of the bigger towns along the coast, just to come back to the Gemfields broke and try once more. Stories abound of people who managed to do this several times. In some parts the Gem bearing ground was so rich that the precious Sapphires stuck out of the walls in the underground tunnels like raisins in a pudding. In areas like this it was sometimes possible to live for weeks on the money earned from just a few hours of digging.

Once the first big earthmoving machinery was put to work on these treasure chests of nature, in the early sixty’s of the twentieth century, Millions of Dollars were made by the owners of these Claims and Leases. This combined with good finds oversees resulted in the world market for Sapphires being flooded and the prices decreasing drastically.

More and more Sapphires had to be produced to make up for the rising costs and reduced prices. This meant that the richest Gem bearing localities were worked out at a prodigious rate. With more and more Government regulations placed on to the Gem Miner but less and less interest being shown in the product of their labour from the oversees buyers, the Gemfields of Central Queensland started to quieten down in the late 80’s once again.

The population which was a patchwork of just about every nationality on earth including an Eskimo (Inuit) decreased with its waning prosperity. The preceding years however were most interesting, eventful, turbulent and at times even a bit reminiscent of the “Wild West”. A Place like this can be very demanding on the people it breeds and attracts. This Gemfield has, despite the fact that it supplied for a number of years more than 50% of the World Market demand for Sapphires, become basically meaningless as a producer of commercial quantities of Gemstones. It is however still producing small amounts of top quality fancy coloured Gems, (yellow, orange, green, pink and combinations of these colours in the same stone) and it is also a very popular Tourist destination with many attractions in and around the area.

It is still possible to hire all the necessary equipment and spend a day, a month or more digging for the elusive Gemstones which are hiding in the dusty earth surrounding the quaint little towns of Sapphire, Rubyvale and Willows, whilst camping out in the Bush. For the less adventurous person there are several Caravan Parks with Vans for rent. If more comfort is a must then renting one of a number of Cabins or Flats may be the way to go.


The Clermont Goldfield

The Clermont Goldfield (First called Peak Downs Goldfield) was registered in 1863 and comprises an area of about 4374 square kilometre of dry Bushland and State Forrest surrounding the Quaint little Central Queensland town of Clermont which is situated about 300km inland of the Queensland coast.

The first recorded find of Gold was made by a group of four men who were employed by the owner of a small holding to bring a flock of sheep to the area, and then build holding pens for the animals and a hut for their employer. While felling trees, they came upon payable gold in one of the Gully’s (To this day called Nelsons Gully named after one of the four men) running in to Sandy Creek. Once the work they were paid to do was completed, they returned to Rockhampton with about 50 ounces of Gold. There they acquired all that was necessary for a lengthy prospecting expedition in the bush, and returned to the place of their find at once. The lack of established Tracks and Watering points for man and beast in the area made this a hazardous journey. Within just a few months and fuelled by the Gold finds of an ever increasing population of prospectors, fortune seekers and their followers, the town of Clermont was founded.

A collection of rough bark huts, tents, lean-to’s and some tin shacks were the humble beginnings of a town which was destined to acquire a sad and tragic history, due to its unfortunate placement on a flood plain which today is called “The Lagoon”. The fact that Creeks and Gully’s very seldom carried water for more than a few days a year, and the constant lack of good precipitation in the surrounding area was not conducive to thoughts about the dangers of possible flooding. This relaxed attitude towards the powers of mother nature, sealed the faith of a number of people as in early February 1870 after several days of constant heavy rainfall the Creeks burst their banks and inundated the sprawling township. But despite of this tragedy and ignoring the warnings of the more sensible people amongst the population, it was not until a second much more destructive flood nearly destroyed the town altogether, that the decision was taken to shift Clermont on to a nearby ridge, where it is situated still today. The “Lagoon” and a monument showing the height of the floodwaters lies just to the base of said ridge and stands as a reminder of these sad events to us all.
With the populace consisting of about 1000 white Men, Women and Children and approximately 4000 Chinese in the area by 1863, there were some good Gold finds being reported. However, some richer and more promising Gold deposits had been discovered in other parts of the State and this connected with a continuous lack of water in many of the localities around Clermont meant that the population never reached the numbers of other Gold Rush centres.

The Gold occurrences around Clermont consist of both, primary and secondary deposits at varying depths. However the Reef Gold, despite being often very rich close to the surface tended to disappoint with increasing depth, and more often than not became uneconomical to follow down further or the Gold would pinch out all together.

The often very shallow secondary deposits on the other hand were strongly enriched in a lot of places, and being spread over wide areas made the Clermont region a good prospect and that remains so to this day. Especially for Metal Detector operators and small miners alike. But also the deeper deposits, lying under 100 meters and more of overburden were rich enough to warrant the tremendous effort needed to reach them. Localities like “Black Ridge, The 7 Mile, Apsley, The Springs, Mc Masters, Miclere and many more on this Gold field were host to some rich finds. Like for instance “Copperfield”, which lies a short distance to the south of Clermont and was not just host to very good Gold finds but also the scene of a incredibly rich Copper ore discovery in 1862.

This ore was so rich, that in places more than 75% of it was pure Copper and it contained a lot of Gold to boot. This fortunate find resulted in Copperfield outgrowing Clermont in size for some time. Today however only an old Chimneystack, some old bits of machinery rotting away in the Bush and a rough wooden shack which was the “Copperfield Store” until the 1970’s, remind the passing traveller of these turbulent and exciting times.
With declining Gold productions around Clermont due to the most productive areas having been thoroughly worked over by a myriad of Prospectors and fortune seekers, combined with the rush to Gold strikes elsewhere around the country resulted in Coal mining and Farming taking over as the main source of employment. But the search for Gold never ceased altogether throughout the district, and the activities rose and fell with the ups and downs of economic conditions in the country and the soaring or declining Gold price. Even today there are a few “Diehard’s” still digging through tons of the dusty outback soils or rock hard underground deposits with heavy machinery, in the search of the elusive Gold Nuggets. Not to speak of the hundreds of hopeful Metal Detector operators who frequent the area during the cooler winter months, in search of their fortune. Considering that big Nuggets weighing several kilos have been found in the area and good finds are still being made, it is no surprise to find people wandering through the bush with a happy smile on their faces and a strange glint in the eyes.