At its peak, Central Deborah Gold Mine reached a depth of 412 metres. It has 17 separate levels and 15 kilometres of drives and cross cuts (tunnels). The Central Deborah was very much a hands-on mine and the conditions that the miners worked in would be considered shocking by today's standards – being lowered underground in a cage with only two sides, often working ankle to knee deep in water, filling up to 32 ore trucks a shift by hand which were then pushed a mile or more along rails in the drives, working by carbide lamp, breathing in the fumes and rock dust and communication by bells. Geez, they were ironmen. However, at the time working conditions were considered to be among the best on the goldfields at Central Deborah, after all it was one of the only mines that had hot showers.
Following Central Deborah Gold Mine's closure, the Bendigo skyline began to noticeably change. Obvious remnants of mining such as poppet heads, engine rooms, service quarters, battery houses and chimneys were steadily disappearing. After intense lobbying by the local community, the Bendigo City Council purchased the still very much intact Central Deborah Gold Mine in 1970 for a mere $6,000 to ensure that a vital link to Bendigo's historic golden past was maintained.
The Bendigo Trust was then formed to oversee the operations of the Central Deborah Gold Mine, which led to the surface of the mine being opened to the public in 1971. Initially the surface was open for just 12 hours a week and as the demand for viewing a part of Bendigo's history increased, so did the opening hours. In 1974 the mine was gazetted as a Public Historical Purposes Reserve and attracted such visitors as H.R.H Prince Charles.
By far the greatest shortcoming at this stage was that no one could view the underground workings, as these had become flooded. After what could only be described as a monumental effort by everyone involved, Level 2 of the mine was officially opened to the public by the Premier of Victoria, the Honourable John Cain, on 20 June 1986, which brought to fruition a long standing dream.
The Underground Adventure Tour on Level 3 was later launched in 1998 and in 2011 Central Deborah Gold Mine became the home of Australia's deepest underground mine tour with the launch of Nine Levels of Darkness, allowing visitors access to Level 9 of the mine, 228 metres underground.
The key to Central Deborah Gold Mine's success as a tourist destination has always been the passion of our staff and tour guides, which include some of the grandchildren and relatives of the original Central Deborah miners. They literally bring Bendigo and Central Deborah's golden heritage to life as they passionately regale our visitors with stories of what life was really like during the harsh gold rush era of 1851-1954.
For more detailed information about the history of Central Deborah Gold Mine purchase 'Bendigo's Central Deborah Gold Mine and its Era' from the Central Deborah Gold Mine Gift Shop.