A Right to Mine

Earning a Living in the Great Depression

This certificate, issued to Albert Arthur Robert Wallbank (1909–1975) gave him the right to mine under the 1906 NSW Mining Act. Albert lived in Dudley in the heart of the coal mining district of the Hunter Valley of NSW but it is unlikely that he was intending to mine for coal. Gold was his target. 

Although the certificate is not dated the Act provided for a half-yearly right to be issued at a rate of 2 shillings and six pence so it can be presumed that the certificate was issued in April 1931. The certificate was issued at a time of high unemployment within Dudley and surrounding districts as what would become known as the Great Depression closed mines and associated industries. As a moulder, that is he fabricated moulds for casting metal products in foundries, Albert’s employment was dependent upon the coal and steel industries both of which experienced very high levels of unemployment. The union covering moulders estimated that in 1931 two-thirds of its membership were unemployed and the remainder were underemployed. As a single man Albert would not have been eligible for most relief work so he turned to gold mining as a way to survive in such harsh economic times.

A further six-monthly certificate was issued to Albert in 1932 who was then living near Gloucester. Albert was to return to Dudley in 1934 and resume his trade as a moulder as economic conditions started to improve. His mine which was offered for sale in 1933 yielded just over 2 ounces of gold which, at a price of £7/18/2 per ounce provided him with a living, although somewhat meagre, in a time of economic distress.