Boom to Bust

In 1900 work on the Sons of Gwalia mine was completed with a 50-head mill, and production soared to more than 90,000oz of gold. Over the next few years a new shaft was sunk, but ore grades were decreasing and by 1910 most other mines in the Leonora district had closed.

During World War 1 the workforce dropped to about 400. By 1919 the Sons of Gwalia had raised three million tons of ore, was the deepest mine in Western Australia and one of the most economical.

In 1921, disaster struck. A serious fire in January destroyed half of the mine and almost the entire workforce (about 400 men) were laid off. The combined population of Gwalia and Leonora dropped to just over 1,000.

When the mine reopened in 1923, new migrants from Italy, Greece and Yugoslavia swelled the population and businesses re-opened. The Gwalia Co-Operative Store expanded, a butcher's shop with its own piggery, abattoir and refrigeration plant was opened, a picture theatre was established in the AWU Hall and several boarding houses for single men flourished.

Sons of Gwalia undertook major redevelopment work but the mine failed to make a profit. No new exploration was undertaken and all gold production came from already developed stopes. The mine did not become profitable again until the gold price rose to £4/oz in the early 1930s.

The fortunes of the mine and town were again on the wane by the late 1950s. In 1957 the Co-Op Store closed and Mazza's Store relocated from the Gwalia Block to Tower Street. The picture theatre and the once-full boarding houses were closed by the following year.

The final whistle blew on 28 December 1963, signalling the end of the final shift at the Sons of Gwalia Mine and the final days of an entire community.

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