The Origins of Perth Mint
The mint was founded by the British Royal Mint in the 1890s. The Western Australia goldrush was in full flow at the time, so the mint's main purpose was to buy gold from diggers, refine it and then use it to make coins.
The mint's foundation stone was laid in 1896 and the building officially opened in 1899, one of three such Royal Mint establishments in the country, the other two being the now defunct Sydney and Melbourne mints.
The Early Years of Perth Mint
Despite the formation of the Australian Federation in 1901, the mint remained British for its first 71 years. During this time its purpose shifted on more than one occasion.
In 1931 Britain abandoned the gold standard, a monetary system where the value of a country's currency is linked directly to its gold reserves. As a result it was no longer necessary for the mint to create gold coins.
It had by this point made over 106 million gold sovereigns but now pivoted to producing gold bullion bars.
During WW2 however it was once again needed for coin-making, this time for low-denomination currency made using base metals. It continued in this purpose until 1983 and, during this period, produced much of the country's small coin.
This was never its sole purpose however, the refinement of gold always remaining a focus. In 1957 it achieved possibly the purest of all gold, a 13 troy-ounce plate with 999.999 parts gold per thousand.
Perth Mint Becomes Australian
In 1970 the government of Western Australia bought the mint off of the UK. 17 years later it began producing special gold, silver and platinum coins for investors worldwide. These are recognised as legal tender in Australia.
By 2000 it had refined about 3.25% of all the gold produced by mankind, roughly the same amount as is currently stored in Fort Knox, US.
Perth Mint Breaks Records
In 2011 the mint made the largest, heaviest and most valuable gold coin the world has ever known. This measures approximately 80 cm in diameter, is 12 cm thick and weighs 1,012 kg of 99.99% solid gold. Legally it is worth $1 million, but it was valued at the time as actually being worth $53.5 million. On one side is the profile of Elizabeth II and on the other is a picture of a red kangaroo.
Perth Mint Today
The mint continues to manufacture gold and silver coins and bars for investors and collectors, and in 2018 alone it sold about $18.9 billion's worth.
It produces 79% of Australia's gold coins, which amounts to approximately 10% of the gold coins produced worldwide.
In this however it has involved itself in sinister practices. The buying and selling of gold has historical links with child and slave labour and it seems likely that some of the mining companies the mint has had associations with recently are guilty of these practices.
On top of this, it was found in 2020 to having been annually purchasing gold from a convicted killer in Papau New Guinea, and since then it has been subject to several money laundering and tax evasion probes.
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