|The Perth Mint|
Taken Directly From The Perth Mint
|The Perth Mint is Australia's specialist precious metals
mint, and one of the oldest mints in the world still operating from its original premises.
Situated in a magnificient heritage listed building, the Mint is located right in the heart
of a modern capital city and has played a central role in the development of Western
Australia's gold industry.
During the 19th Century, three branches of the Royal Mint of London were established in the Australian colonies to refine gold from the gold rushes and to mint gold sovereigns and half-sovereigns for the British Empire.
The Sydney branch opened in 1855, the Melbourne branch in 1872 and the Perth branch on 20 June 1899, two years before Australia's Federation in 1901.
Perth Mint under construction, circa 1897
|In the early 1880s, before the gold rushes, the population of
Western Australia was a mere 48,000. By 1900, it was 180,000. This sudden influx of gold
seekers put a great strain on the colony's resources.
At that time, there was very little money available in Perth for which the miners could exchange the gold they found or to pay for the goods and services needed by the fast growing population. Before 1901, Australia still did not exist as a nation, thus the States were operating as separate colonies. The then Premier of Western Australia, Sir John Forrest, asked the British Government to establish a branch of the Royal Mint in Perth to refine the gold being produced in the Eastern goldfields and to mint it into British gold coins to be used as currency in the colonyForrest laid the foundation stone of The Perth Mint in 1896. Today, as testimony to the quality of his work, The Perth Mint complex has the highest classification from the National Trust and was one of the first buildings entered on the State's heritage register.
The legal heritage of the Perth Mint goes back much further than the building itself. Having been established as a branch of London's Royal Mint, the rights, duties, privileges and responsibilities of the Crown as they applied to the Royal Mint were also transmitted to The Perth Mint. Thus, a link exists between The Perth Mint and the venerable institution of the Royal Mint on Tower Hill, London, where the Mint has stood since the Romans first struck coins there in 287AD.
The Perth Mint remained under the jurisdiction of Britain, until 1 July 1970, when the Mint became a statutory authority of the Government of Western Australia. It remains a State institution, though the Sydney and Melbourne mints ceased to operate long ago, largely due to the decline of gold production in the Eastern States.
Today, more than 100 years after its opening, The Perth Mint continues to function, and is one of the oldest Mints in the world still operating from its original premises.
Throughout its long history, the Perth Mint has fulfilled the dual roles of precious metal refining and coining.
In its first 100 years of operation, the Mint's refined fine gold output totalled 4,500 tonnes, representing 3.25% of the total tonnage of gold produced by mankind. This would have formed a solid gold cube measuring some six metres on each side.
The refinery operated at the original Hay Street, East Perth, premises from June 1899 until April 1990, when it was moved to a new state-of-the-art facility at Newburn, adjacent to Perth's International Airport.
The Perth Mint played an advisory role in establishing several other international mints and refineries, including the world's largest, South Africa's Rand Refinery In the early days of gold mining and into the 1920s, the bulk of the gold produced in Western Australia was converted into 22-carat alloy and issued as sovereigns and half-sovereigns for circulation and government reserves. By the time minting of gold coinage ceased in 1931, the Perth Mint had issued over 106 million British sovereigns and nearly 735,000 half-sovereigns. These were not strictly Australian coins, as they were identical to those struck by all branches of the Royal Mint throughout the Empire.
The Perth Mint belongs to a select group of gold refiners around the world whose weights and assays have accreditation on the London Bullion Market, which regulates the world's gold trade. The Mint also has the distinction of having produced the purest gold ever assayed by the Royal Mint. This means gold refined by The Perth Mint finds acceptance anywhere in the world. The affixing of the Mint stamp or seal guarantees both the weight and the purity of the metal as shown on the face of the gold or silver bar.
The Perth Mint has had the benchmark London accreditation since 1928 and is also accredited by the New York Commodity Exchange and the Tokyo Commodity Exchange.
The Perth Mint also produced large volumes of Australia's conventional legal tender coinage over many years until 1984. In 1922, The Perth Mint made pennies for the first time. There was a break in coin production in Perth between 1931 and 1940, but from 1940 until 1964, pennies or half-pennies came off the presses continuously. By 1964, 438 million pennies and 256 million half-pennies had been produced at The Perth Mint, with a small issue of 1.3 million shillings dated 1946 also struck.
In 1964, the Mint turned its energies to stock-piling bronze coins in preparation for Australia's change-over to decimal currency in 1966. A break occurred between 1968 and 1973, but steady production of two-cent coins continued until the end of 1983, by which time 829 million two-cent coins and 26 million one-cent coins had been minted in Perth.
In the mid-1980's following a major redevelopment initiated by the State Government, specifically the former Western Australian Premier, Brian Burke, The Perth Mint became the home of the Australian Precious Metals Coin Program, and now has the international reputation of being a specialist Mint in this field. By agreement with the Commonwealth Government, The Perth Mint is responsible for manufacturing and marketing most of Australia's legal tender precious metal coinage under the nation's Currency Act. These bullion and proof quality coins include the Australian Nugget gold coins, the Australian Koala platinum coins and the Australian Kookaburra silver coins.
Altogether, from November 1986 to the end of June 2001, The Perth Mint in its new era converted more than 135 tonnes of gold, 305 tonnes of silver and 18 tonnes of platinum into value-added coins, 85% of which were sold overseas. This accomplishment has seen The Perth Mint consistently ranked among Australia's top 30 export earners.