There have been many significant gold rushes – although most of them occurred during the 19th Century. The chance of making a fortune out of the earth has led many hopeful people – labeled ‘prospectors’ – to follow the news of gold discoveries around the world. Here are four of the most significant rushes.
Siberia – 1830s and 1840s
Siberia is well known for having huge reserves of natural resources. In the 1830s, news of gold in the area triggered a vast rush. In 1828 gold was found along the Berikul river – prompting prospectors from all over the world to journey into one of the world’s most inhospitable territories in search of the stuff.
Klondike – 1896 to 1899
The Klondike gold rush is one of the most famous in North American history. When local miners sent word of a lode found near the Klondike River in Canada, prospectors in the USA and Canada collectively lost their minds. Around 100,000 of them are estimated to have attempted the immensely hard journey into the wild and dangerous Yukon area in the hopes of striking big. Very few of these people ever made enough money to make the venture worthwhile. People gave up their homes and livelihoods to trek through dangerous mountain territory in search of the shining metal. In 1899, newspapers reported that gold had been found in Nome, Alaska. Many of the ‘Klondikers’ simply packed up and moved further North.
The Klondike gold rush has had a big influence on the American cultural understanding of prospecting. Companies like Irwin’s Paydirt recapture some of the ‘Klondike spirit’ by offering modern panning equipment and gold-laden paydirt samples.
Ghana – Current Day
The African nation of Ghana is home to the biggest gold rush of the present day. A great deal of Chinese mining investment is pouring into the country, and operations can even be seen from space. Small-scale illegal mining operations are damaging water supplies, just as they did during the American and Russian gold rushes of the 19th Century. 35 Percent of the gold mining in Ghana is estimated to come from small-scale illegal operations. Legal and illegal mining operations are often hard to distinguish, and great human suffering and exploitation have followed the gold rush as indeed it did in other rushes.
Nome – 1899 to 1907
When the Klondike gold rush failed to enrich the majority of the people involved, prospectors quickly turned to other areas. When gold was found in the small Alaskan settlement of Nome in 1899, it triggered an almighty rush to the area – with many Klondike prospectors heading north to continue their search for riches.
Nome and the surrounding areas, which had been small and sparse, exploded with popularity. The area around the Anvil Creek grew into a mini metropolis containing 20,000 people. Because the beach could not be ‘staked’ by individual prospectors, thousands of people lined the riverbank every day, hoping to get lucky. A huge quantity of Alaskan gold was unearthed, but the majority of people prospecting never really made a fortune.