Nullagine is an old goldrush town in Western Australia’s Pilbara region. It is located on the Nullagine River 296 km south-east of Port Hedland and 1,364 km north-north-east of Perth on the old Great Northern Highway.
Nullagine is a former goldming town.
Nullagine is the local Aboriginal name for the river that runs through the centre of the town.
The town originated from gold being discovered in the area in 1886 by a prospector, N.W. Cooke. The population increased sharply as a result and by the mid 1890s the community wanted to have a town declared. Lots were surveyed and released in 1897 and the state government gazetted the town in 1899.
Besides gold other minerals were mined in the area including diamonds and other gemstones.
Nullagine was caught up in the Pilbara Goldrush in the 1880s and 1890s. In 1902 Nullagine was the site of Australia’s first discovery of diamonds. Although it once had a population of 3000 it is today a small, isolated community servicing a few locals, and the passing tourists.
There are some interesting relics left over from the goldrush and many people believe there are still great riches to be found in the area so fossicking is the major tourism drawcard today.
In fact, there is no denying that the area around Nullagine is rich in all kinds of minerals.
The area around Nullagine is rich in all kinds of minerals. In 1902 Nullagine was the site of Australia’s first discovery of diamonds. Since then prospectors and fossickers have come to the area and found agate, asbestos, antimony, beryl, chalcedony, copper, jade, jasper, manganese, tiger eye and wolfram.
The town is currently going through another mining boom with the setup of new drilling and mine activities including gold, copper, iron ore and diamonds.
The area shows spectacular ancient mountain ranges and endless spinifex, and there are plenty of waterholes for the adventurous to discover, including Beatons Creek Gorge, Garden and Daylight Pools.
Nullagine comes from the Aboriginal name of a nearby river, the Ngullagine river; the meaning of the word is unknown.
Nullagine townsite lies alongside the Cajuput Creek, which is an arm of the Nullagine River. The main trade in Nullagine is fossickers and passing tourists and town consists of little more than the Conglomerate Hotel, Roadhouse, Police Station, local school, and Caravan Park. Legend has it that in Nullagine a local stubbed his toe on a 20 ounce nugget of gold when walking down the main street!
William Lambden Owen, who was the warden of the Pilbara goldfields in the 1880s and 1890s, wrote his autobiography Cossack Gold in 1933. In the autobiography he gives an unforgettable picture of the hardships which existed on the goldfields at this time. His account of a funeral at Nullagine recalls how the coffins were made from old packing cases ‘with the specifications of their original contents still upon them. One of them read: ‘Fresh condensed milk. Please keep away from boilers.’ The other read: ‘Prime Columbia salmon. Please keep away from boilers.’ At the foot of one was a crowing rooster. Beneath his toes was painted the legend, ‘Wake up!”
Between 1895 and 1914 the town boomed and contained a number of general stores, three hotels, eight stamp mills and a population of over 3,000.
Its population was 1,500 prior to World War II. Now, with the decline of gold mining, only about 200 remain. However the town still attracts fossickers and prospectors who visit the surrounding area.
The town is also the place of the Yirrangadji Aboriginal Community. The Martu people make up the bulk of this population.
Newly-discovered iron ore deposits to the south-west may lead to a revival of the town.
A company called BC Iron, which takes its name from the Bonnie Creek “paleochannel” system of ancient river beds in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, believes it has a chance of proving up between 200 million and 600 million tonnes of pisolitic (pea-shaped) iron in what was once a diamond exploration location. With iron ore prices continuing to rise, that translates into a potential bonanza with an in-ground value of up to A$30 billion.
The three-stage challenge for BC will be first in proving that it has the ore in the ground, that it is of a quality that Asian steel mills want to buy, and that it can secure a transport route to the coast, and find room at a port for handling exports.
Because the size of the ore deposit at Bonnie Creek is too small to justify its own railway to the port, the company has negotiated a “mine gate” joint venture with Fortescue to use the Fortescue Railway in exchange for half the mine’s output.
Things to see
Attractions in the Area
Visitors eager to fossick for gold can visit the beautiful Beaton’s Rockhole and Gorge 4 km to the west of the town where both gold and precious stones can be found.
Another interesting journey can be taken to the town’s lookout on the Conglomerate hills 4 km to the north of the town. Nearby (in the gully to the north of the lookout) are the unusual Chinese walls which were built by the Chinese gold miners as sluices. Such structures are found nowhere else in the Pilbara.