GOLDEN GLOW: Gary ’Spanner’ Smith has lived at Drake for 40 years and hopes the latest mining company exploration will benefit the town.
GOLDEN GLOW: Gary ’Spanner’ Smith has lived at Drake for 40 years and hopes the latest mining company exploration will benefit the town. Rodney Stevens

Old miner keen for return of gold mining to Drake

GARY 'Spanner' Smith remembers when the Drake gold rush ended in 1990 and has plenty of stories to tell about the town's golden era.

Mr Smith has lived at Drake for 40 years and worked in the gold mines before they were decommissioned.

"I was a trouble shooter in the mines working for Dennis Rineheart," he said.

"I was sent in to find out why the mines weren't working to their potential."

Drake burst onto the gold-mining map in 1858 when the precious mineral was discovered near Newmans Pinch, a hill to the west of town.

Since then more than two tonne of gold has been mined from the area.

Between 1872 and 1890 Drake was a thriving mining and timber town, home to 12 pubs and a host of other businesses including a blacksmith and post office.

Mr Smith said the Second World War however had a major impact on the town.

"When the Light Horse came along the boys walked off Mt Carrington and left everything, shovels, picks," he said.

"They threw their tools on the ground and walked out and walked up the highway and went to war.

"The gold mining industry just collapsed, everything folded."

Drake is now home to tourist, timber and agricultural industries with the area providing fishing, hiking and fossicking opportunities with some of the old mines still accessible.

There is however some hope the mining industry will be revived with White Rock Minerals carrying out exploration near Drake.

"There is a lot of gold here and White Rock Minerals are drilling at the moment," Mr Smith said.

"But it's alluvial gold, not chunky gold like you'd find around Cloncurry in Queensland, and there is a lot of rock between the gold."

Mr Smith said the mining company was a welcome addition to the town.

"I reckon it will be the bees' knees," he said.

"I can see houses being built and families moving to town.

"Hopefully they will turn around and employ local people and local kids."

Isabel Wilkinson's book The Forgotten Country details the fascinating history of the Drake goldfields.



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