Group VRG 30
About this Group Related Agencies Related Functions
Date Range: 1860 - 1977
Description of this GroupDescription of this Group
Formation, Scope and Major Functions

In 1860 a Commissioner of Mines was appointed and inherited responsibility in 1861 for the administration of the goldfields and regulation of mining activities from the Chief Secretary (VRG 26).

For a brief period from 14 November 1861 to 27 June 1863, there was neither a Commissioner nor a Minister of Mines. During this period the Postmaster General was responsible for mining. In 1863 a Minister for Mines was again appointed, inheriting responsibility for miners leases and surveys from Lands (VRG 18) in 1865 and 1864 respectively. From 1865 to 1880 the Minister was also responsible for rural water supply and from the early 1870's to 1880 for Schools of Mines which became associated with the Water Supply (VRG 36) and Education (VRG 35) portfolios. For a brief period, 1891 to 1893, the Mines portfolio acquired responsibility for State Forests. This responsibility was inherited from and passed back to Lands (VRG 18).

During the 1870's and 1880's increased responsibility for safety standards in mines, mining accident relief funds and the credentialing of mining officials such as surveyors, mine managers and engine drivers was assumed. From 1909 to 1911 the Minister was also responsible for the operation of the State Coal Mine (VA 720), a responsibility inherited by the Ministry of Railways (VRG 32). In the 1950's and 1960's the Minister became responsible for the regulation of petroleum exploration and production, investigation of groundwater resources and for the transport and storage of hazardous materials.

Between 1860 and 1977 the prime functions associated with this portfolio were:

investigation of the State's geological structure, mineral wealth and groundwater resources
provision of technical services, financial assistance and information to the mining industry
licensing of mining activity
supervision of the safe working of mines, quarries, pipelines and on and offshore petroleum installations
regulation of the manufacture, transport and storage of hazardous materials such as explosives and inflammable liquids

In 1977 the Minister for Minerals and Energy (VRG 47) assumed responsibility for all mining functions.

Historical Background of Mines Function

Administration of the goldfields was based on a series of Goldfields Acts dating from 1853 when an "Act for the better management of the Goldfields", 17 Vic., No.4, was passed. This Act provided for a system of mining leases and licences to be administered by the Commissioners of Crown Lands, who were also known as Goldfield Commissioners. Earlier legislation (e.g. the 1851 and 1852 Acts 15 Vic., No.15 and 17 Vic., No.1) had made provision for the Commissioners to regulate mining on "waste lands of the Crown". In 1855 the licensing system introduced in 1853 was replaced by a system of miners' rights administered by Local Courts which operated in designated districts, and had similar powers to a Court of Petty Sessions (18 Vic., No.37). Members of the Courts were elected by holders of miners' rights in the district. These arrangements were further refined by the 1857 Act 20 Vic., No.32 which set up a more complex administrative and judicial structure within specified Mining Districts comprising Mining Boards, Mining Wardens and Courts of Mines.

The Mining Statute 1865 (No.291) and later Mines Acts extended this system to the regulation of all mining activities, providing also for the appointment of various District mining officials, including Mining Officers, Registrars and Surveyors. The 1865 Statute also introduced provisions relating to mine safety. These provisions were subsequently extended to include inspection and control of mines, their managers and engineers, mining equipment and equipment operators, mine ventilation, drainage and sludge abatement. (For more detail see in particular the Mines Acts 1890 (No.1120), 1897 (No.1514), 1907 (No.2127) and 1958 (No.6320).) Specific provision was made for coal mines in the 1909 Coal Mines Regulation Act (No.2240), which also provided for the establishment of a State Coal Mine.

During the Gold Rush period local administration was paramount. However from the 1860's increasingly the regulation of mining and associated functions became centralised in the Department of Mines (VA 2719) and its successor agencies the Department of Mines and Water Supply (VA 2720) and the Mines Department (VA 612). Regulation of mining activity through the system of miners' rights continued to operate through locally constituted Mining Districts and their officials until 1975. Following the passage of the Mines (Amendment) Act (No.8805) claim registration was centralised and became the responsibility of a single Mining Registrar located at the Mines Department (VA 612). By 1975 local Mining Registrars were frequently post office or police officials who were only concerned with claims registration, not the wider range of functions they had historically administered. The Mining Boards had been abolished in 1914, while the judicial system based on Wardens and Courts of Mines was finally dismantled in 1969 and incorporated in the Magistrates and County Courts jurisdictions. For information about local Mining Districts and Courts of Mines, see VRG 25 and VRG 4 respectively.

Geological Survey

By 1855 the Geological Survey had been associated with the administration of public lands. It remained within the Lands portfolio (VRG 18) until 1858 when responsibility was transferred to the Chief Secretary (VRG 26). In 1861 responsibility was transferred to the Commissioner of Mines but in 1862 when the Postmaster General (VRG 21) became briefly responsible for the Department of Mines (VA 2719), the Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey (VRG 18) assumed responsibility for both mining and geological surveyors until 1864 and 1867 respectively, when responsibility was resumed by the Minister of Mines.

Rural Water Supply 1865-1880

Early attempts to provide water supplies for rural Victoria were made as a result of a mixture of local initiatives through the establishment of Water Trusts from the 1850's and government action on the Goldfields. The Gold Fields Royal Commission of Enquiry reported in 1862 that the development of mining in certain areas had been considerably hindered by the failure of the Government to provide the water required to make mining viable. During the early 1860's two sub-departments of the Board of Land and Works (VA 744) were responsible for aspects of the provision of water supply to the goldfields. In 1860, the Department of Crown Lands and Survey (VA 538) was provided with funds for expenses relating to the preparation of reports as to sites and plans for reservoirs but by 1861 responsibility for the survey of water supply areas had passed to the Public Works Department (VA 669) and in 1864 to the Department of Mines (VA 2719) which from 1863 was also responsible for the Keepers of Public Reservoirs on the goldfields.

From 1860, the Public Works Department (VA 669) was responsible for the construction of dams and reservoirs and for the construction and maintenance of storm water and sludge channels on the goldfields.

In 1865 the Minister for Mines became responsible for regulating water supply to the goldfields and from 1867 for water supply works on the goldfields, inheriting these responsibilities from Lands (VRG 18) and Public Works (VRG 28) respectively. Gradually from the mid 1860's, the Minister also acquired other responsibilities for rural water supply, including administration of loans to local water trusts. Statutory responsibility for rural water works rested with the Board of Land and Works (VA 744) under the Waterworks Act 1865 which gave the Board the power to construct rural waterworks, purchase land, levy charges and lease or sell works. The Public Loans Act 1865 empowered the Board to provide loans to local water trusts for waterworks. The actual administration of these statutory provisions was undertaken by the Victorian Water Supply Department (VA 2787) which operated from 1865 to 1889 as a sub-department of the Department of Mines (VA 2719). In 1880 the responsibilities of the Minister for Mines relating to rural water supply were inherited by the Commissioner of Water Supply (see VRG 36). The Board of Land and Works (VA 744) has been included in VRG 30, the Mines Group for the period 1867 to 1880 because of its statutory responsibilities relating to rural water supply and the role of the Victorian Water Supply Department (VA 2787) as the Board's operational arm for the rural water supply function.

State Forests and Nurseries

Responsibility for this function was shared by a number of portfolios until 1909 when the Minister of Forests assumed responsibility for the Department of State Forests (VA 534). Until that time, responsibility had been exercised by:

Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey prior to 1875
Minister for Agriculture (VRG 34) 1875-1890
Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey 1890-1891
Minister of Mines (VRG 30) 1891-1893
Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey 1893-1899
Minister for Forests 1899-1900
Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey 1900-1903
Minister of Agriculture 1903-1904
Minister of Mines and Forests 1904-1909.

For convenience each of the Ministers responsible for forests from 1900 to 1909 has been placed in the Forests Group (VRG 41) for the period of their responsibility for this function.

Until 1908 the Departments of Agriculture (VA 618), Crown Lands and Survey (VA 538), Mines (VA 2719), and Mines and Water Supply (VA 2720) were at various times responsible for State Forests. In 1908 the Department of State Forests (VA 534) was established. Until it became a department of state in its own right in 1938, it functioned as a sub-department of the Mines and Water Supply Department (VA 2720) until 1909 and thereafter of the Mines Department (VA 612). The Department of State Forests (VA 534) has therefore been included in both Mines (VRG 30) and Forests (VRG 41) for the period 1908-1918. The Department of Mines and Water Supply (VA 2720) and the Mines Department (VA 612) have also been included in the Forests Group (VRG 41).

Brown Coal Mining

In 1917 the Victorian Government appointed a Brown Coal Advisory Committee to investigate and report on the commercial utilization of brown coal with particular reference to the generation of electricity. The Committee consisted of the Managing Director and Chief Engineer of the Melbourne Electric Supply Co. (F.W. Clements) the Chief Electrical Engineer of the Melbourne City Council (H.R. Harper) the Chief Electrical Engineer of the Victorian Railways (W. Stone) and the Director of the Geological Survey of Victoria (H. Herman) who was chairperson. The Committee was convened by the Minister of Mines on 13 June 1917 and presented its report on 25 September 1917.

The Committee recommended that a brown coal mining and electricity generating complex be established near Morwell and that power be transmitted to the City. The Committee further recommended that a body of Electricity Commissioners be appointed to control the scheme. This recommendation was adopted and the Electricity Commissioners Act 1918 was given Royal Assent on 1 January 1919. The Commissioners were responsible to the Attorney-General (VRG 19) and on 26 November 1919 they submitted to the Minister and Parliament a report entitled The Utilization of Brown Coal and Water Power for the Production of Electrical Energy. The report recommended that the scheme to develop brown coal mining and electricity generation near Morwell be immediately proceeded with and in consequence the Electricity Supply Loan Act 1919 (No.3029) was passed.

Land was acquired and the first Annual Report to 30 June 1920 outlined progress on the provision of coal mining equipment, the design and tendering for electrical plant and equipment, the provision of railway facilities in consultation with the Chief Engineer for Railway Construction and the development of a township to accommodate the workers, in conjunction with the architectural staff of the Public Works Department (VA 669).

Under the State Electricity Commission Act 1920 (No.3104), the Electricity Commissioners became the State Electricity Commission of Victoria from the date of that body's first meeting which was 10 January 1921 (Government Gazette 7 January 1921, p.55). For more information, see VRG 19 Law and VRG 47 Minerals and Energy.

Location of Records

There have only been patchy transfers from the central departmental administration but they include long runs of mining title records. There have been few transfers from associated agencies and statutory authorities. See also VRG 25 Mining Districts and VRG 4 Courts.

See also List of Holdings 2nd edition 1985, sections 3.6.9 (Forests), 3.13.2 (Mines), 3.21.12 (State Coal Mine) and 3.23.2 (Rural Water Supply).


Commissioner of Mines 1860-1861
Postmaster-General 1861-1863
Minister of Mines 1863-1899
Minister of Mines and Water Supply 1899-1904
Minister of Mines 1904
Minister of Mines and Forests 1904-1909
Minister of Mines 1909-1977

Other InformationOther Information
Agencies within this GroupAgencies within this Group
Display entries per page
Date within Group Agency Title Agency Number Agency Hierarchy
1860 - 1895 Department of Mines (also known as the Mining Department) VA 2719 Dept. of State
1865 - 1880 Victorian Water Supply Department VA 2787 Sub Department
1865 - 1880 Board of Land and Works VA 744 Sub Department
1867 - 1977 Geological Survey of Victoria VA 4118
1895 - 1909 Department of Mines and Water Supply VA 2720 Dept. of State
1899 - 1900 Mines Ventilation Bonus Board VA 2599 Statutory Authority
1905 - 1977 Board of Examiners for Mine Managers VA 1399 Statutory Authority
1905 - 1977 Sludge Abatement Board VA 1403
1908 - 1918 Department of State Forests (Forests Commission) VA 534 Sub Department
1909 - 1911 State Coal Mine VA 720 Major Statutory Authority
1909 - 1977 Victorian Coal Miners' Accidents Relief Board VA 2623 Statutory Authority
1909 - 1977 Mines Department (also known as Department of Mines and Mining Department) VA 612 Dept. of State
Functions related to this GroupFunctions related to this Group
Display entries per page
Date within Group Function Title Function Number
1860 - 1862 Geological survey VF 24
1861 - cont Goldfields administration and mining VF 20
1865 - cont Mineral leases VF 103
1867 - 1977 Geological survey VF 24
- 1880 Education (schools of mines) VF 117
- 1880 Rural water supply VF 122
1891 - 1893 Forests VF 30
- 1911 State coal mine VF 108
1938 - cont Goldbuyers' licences VF 106
- 1962 Boilers, inspection of VF 299
- 1962 Welders of boilers and pressure vessels, certification of VF 361
1965 - 1977 Dangerous goods VF 150
- 1977 Coal miners accident relief board VF 73
- 1977 Coal miners' superannuation VF 74
- 1977 Groundwater resources VF 149
- 1977 Mining and extractive industries VF 151
- 1977 Petroleum industry VF 152
By 1863 - 1977 Mining VF 62
By 1864 - 1977 Mining surveyors VF 25