1964 – 1997
This period is characterised by the effects of the closure of the Sons of Gwalia mine on both Gwalia and Leonora. After a period of stagnation there was a mining resurgence in the area in the 1980s leading to a renewed interest in the district.
Demographic Settlement & Mobility
Closure Of Sons Of Gwalia Mine
Closure of the Sons of Gwalia mine in 1963, substantially modified the pattern of population change. The total population of the two towns declined markedly, the 1966 population (338 persons) being only one-third of that in 1961 (970 persons). Gwalia's population fell to only 47 persons in 1966. Cessation of the mine caused the departure of the mining population which in turn removed the need for commercial and business enterprises in Gwalia. Leonora remained much less affected by the closure of the mine. Leonora's population continued to decline at a similar rate as previously and in 1966 stood at 291.
Since 1966, population statistics for Leonora and Gwalia have not been recorded separately due to the almost negligible population that has remained in Gwalia. Leonora and Gwalia are, today, only a fraction of their size at the turn-of-thecentury. Although mining operations continued at Gwalia for much longer than in most mining centres established at the same time by gold mining, available exploration and extractive techniques of the time brought Gwalia to the same inevitable level of most other gold mining towns. Leonora has survived as a result of the alternative economic based district administration, rail head, and supply centre.
Over 90% of the Leonora-Gwalia population is Australian born. The influence of the relatively large number of Italians and Slavs who worked as wood-cutters and miners during the early mining days and the Afghans who were an important part of the pre-railway transport scene, is no longer readily apparent.
The increasing prices for gold in 1980 saw a resurgence of interest in gold mining in the Leonora area. In particular, re-assessments of gold bearing occurrences associated with the old Harbour Lights mine to the north of the town, the reopening of the Sons of Gwalia mine and re-development of the Tower Hill mine to the west of the town.
The main nickel deposit in the vicinity of Leonora is 133km north-west at Agnew. Commercial production began in July 1979. The ore is processed on site into nickel concentrate. Mine and milling operations employ a workforce who are housed in the new town of Leinster. Leinster is located 13kms from the mine.
Leonora benefits from its function as a transport node but has no significant service function for this mining operation.
Another major mineral discovery in the Leonora area is at Teutonic Bore. This lead, silver and zinc deposit is located 6Okms north-west of Leonora. A concentrator plant was completed in June 1981 and commercial production commenced later that year.
Social & Civic Activities
Sons Of Gwalia Mine
On 17 January 1964, the State Hotel in Gwalia closed its doors on a town that was nearly deserted. Sons of Gwalia mine went into receivership within days of the closure. The major plant items on the mine site were bought by the State, and smaller plant and stores were sold at auction in October 1965. The site was progressively stripped of useful machinery and the remaining buildings fell into disrepair. There has since been a renewal of this mine utilising open-cut mining methods.
World Mineral Market
Leonora has been subject to the fortunes and misfortunes of the gold mining industry which" is influenced by dramatic fluctuations in the World Mineral Market. The rise and fall of world mineral prices was reflected in the local population and economy. The tremendous rise in gold prices in 1980 led, in the eastern goldfields to a resurgence in gold exploration, expansion of operating mines and the re-opening of mines that had been closed. Although gold prices have fallen dramatically since their record high of January 1980, the boom did provide new impetus to settlements associated with the gold mining industry.
In recent years the number of visitors to the Goldfields Region has increased. Leonora's history as a gold mining town is well presented in its main tourist attraction - Gwalia Ghost Town. A large amount of restoration has already' been carried out on buildings in order to retain the character of the mining town.