Author: Imogen Telfer

Senior Analyst, Records and Archives

Historic records of the Geological Survey of Victoria (GSV) (VA 4118) and its various parent departments, including the Mines Department (VA 612), Department of Minerals and Energy (VA 611) and Department of Natural Resources and the Environment (VA 3972), have recently been added to PROV’s collection. The records include geological and mining maps and plans, records of mining and extractive industry licences, and data from drilling activity and geophysical surveys. They date from the GSV’s inception in 1852 through to more recent exploration. The records have been, and still are, important resources for those working in the fields of geoscience, geological investigations, minerals and energy surveys and understanding the State’s geological systems, as well as for people with an historical interest in those areas.


The records transfer project

GSV commissioned PROV to undertake the transfer, re-housing and documentation of the large collection of geological records that were stored at the GSV Drill Core Library in Werribee. A team of PROV archivists was assembled to undertake the work which occurred over a 14-month period. You can read more about the overall project process here.

As well as physically re-housing and describing the records, a significant part of this project was in establishing the original contexts, uses and record-keeping systems of the records. Many of the records had been originally held in regional offices of the GSV before being relocated to the GSV Drill Core Library in Werribee once no longer in active use. While the PROV team were able to benefit from the invaluable expertise of some current GSV staff, there was quite a bit of work needed to be undertaken by the archivists to decipher the recordkeeping systems of these technical geological records.   


Recreating laboratory recordkeeping systems

One example of the archival detective work we undertook was in trying to establish the management of assay testing records. An assay is a chemical analysis used to determine the proportion and quality of metallic (e.g. gold, silver, copper) or non-metallic (e.g. sulphur, phosphorus) elements in a sample (e.g. coal, quartz, bore water) and we brought in records of assay testing undertaken by the laboratories of the GSV and the Mines Department from 1930 to 1983, serialised in VPRS 19143 Assay Reports. We subsequently found a number of different volumes of assay registers which had become separated from the reports at Werribee, and for which we had very little context. They started earlier than the assay reports we had already processed and continued to the 1940s before stopping.

By looking through the various entries and comparing dates, identifying numbers, indexes and other details, we identified four different series of these registers, serving four different functions. We’ve been able to identify the flow of information from the Mines Department to the laboratory and back again, as well as the internal indexing and recording-keeping maintained within the laboratory. We’ve also been able to identify when this rather convoluted system broke down around the 1940s, when bound volumes of assay reports appeared to become the single source of truth. All of this enabled us to piece together the overall picture and ensure our archival descriptive work was as useful as possible.


old geological register
Entry for assay no. 1 1909 – coal (VPRS 19302/C1/2, Assay Register 9 - Assay No. 392, 08/08/1906 to Assay No. 603, 28/09/1909)


old geological register
Entry for assay no. 1 1909 – coal (VPRS 19303/C1/1, Assay Sample Book 1 - Assay No. 1, 08/01/1908 to Assay No. 1320, 12/12/1919)


old geological registers
Left: Entry for assay no. 1 1909 – coal (VPRS 19304/C1/4, Laboratory Register of Assays Volume 4 - Assay No. 501 21/09/1907 to Assay No. 110, 11/02/1910) Right: Index entries for coal (VPRS 19305/C1, Classification of Assays)


Map and plan collection mapping the land and its use

A significant portion of the project involved the re-housing and describing of historical maps and plans, almost 13,000 in total! They came in a range of sizes and physical conditions and had been stored in a mixture of flat plan drawers, vertical plan cabinets and rolls in long archival map boxes. This transfer project involved the re-housing of these maps and plans into archival quality enclosures. They were then stored in our repository's customised map and plan storage. All maps and plans were either created by GSV or acquired by GSV from external workers in the geological, minerals, extractive, petroleum and other associated sectors. The collection contains plans and sections prepared from survey of mine workings, geology of mines and regions, layout of mining titles, locations of features such as shallow and deep leads, areas of alluvial workings, tailings dumps, quartz reefs, mine shafts and more. Here are just a few examples of maps from VPRS 16163 Historic Mine and Infrastructure Plans:


old map of Castlemaine
VPRS 16163/C1, 13716;1289/M/4 Map of gold workings, Golden Gully, Fryerstown, showing alluvial gold working areas, quartz reefs, mining title areas and mining plant. Parish of Fryers


old map of Gippsland
VPRS 16163/C1, QS75NW Gippsland Carbonaceous Area


old plan of Creswick
VPRS 16163/C1, 39955;1663/M/1 Allan's New Plan of Creswick, Kingston and Smeaton Mines


old map of Middle Creek
VPRS 16163/C1, 36264;2611/F/2 Middle Creek Deep Lead, Avoca. Map showing the probable course of Middle Creek and tributary leads, with drillhole locations. Parishes of Yehrip, Warrenmang


Records documenting the management of mining activity

Something the team didn’t expect when undertaking this project was how familiar we would get with mining legislation! The collection includes a large number of records relating to the legislative management of mining tenements and extractive industries in Victoria. 

Among other things, the records in VPRS 19163 Mining Tenement Files contain technical and progress reports written by geologists for government departments while working on tenements, with sometimes quite detailed information about the geographical and geological settings, the land use, the history of exploration or mining works in the area, planned rehabilitation of land areas, and the quantity and quality of mineral resources.

VPRS 19144 Extractive Industry Working Plans and Proposal Files contains similar records related to licences, leases and permits for the extraction of stone from land for commercial or construction purposes.


Workspace at the Victorian Archives Centre
A portion of the mining tenement records brought from Werribee ready to be re-housed and described by PROV staff


Other technical geological records series

Another significant portion of this collection is comprised of data collected from various geological activities and surveys, including the drilling of bores and wells, and aerial, land and marine geophysical surveys. While much of the technical detail went over our heads, it was clear there is a wealth of knowledge captured in these records – some of which couldn’t be recreated today! There are records created in the course of a particular activity (such as VPRS 19325 Drilling Rig Activity Reports, VPRS 19344 Well Log Files or VPRS 19416 Geophysical Survey Data) as well as some records relating to specific projects, such as the Princes Gate Development (VPRS 19411), City of Melbourne Underground Railway (VPRS 19412) and King Street Bridge (VPRS 19347).


Project complete!

Almost 27,000 records from the collection are now described and preserved and available on open access for researchers to order and view in our North Melbourne reading room. To explore the collection, you can browse through the series links below: 




Date range

VPRS 16163

Historic Mine and Infrastructure Plans

1819 - 2011

VPRS 16164

Index to Maps and Plans in Alphabetical Order by Mine, Company and Areas

1912? - 1980

VPRS 16165

Index to Maps and Plans in Alphabetical Order by Parish

1912? - 1980

VPRS 19143

Assay Reports

1930 - 1983

VPRS 19144

Extractive Industry Working Plans and Proposal Files

1962 - 1997

VPRS 19145

Ballarat Mine Cards


VPRS 19146

Rock and Mineral Analysis Cards

c.1868 - c.1968

VPRS 19147

Index to Government Drill Log Files by Parish

1980 - 1989

VPRS 19163

Mining Tenement Files

1966 - 2019

VPRS 19302

Assay Registers

1898 - 1944

VPRS 19303

Assay Sample Books

1908 - 1979

VPRS 19304

Laboratory Registers of Assays

1899 - 1944

VPRS 19305

Classification of Assays

1882 - 1909

VPRS 19309

Laboratory Registers of Analysis

1900 - 1976

VPRS 19318

Register of Special Works

1902 - 1916

VPRS 19325

Drilling Rig Activity Records

1957 - 1995

VPRS 19326

Drilling Unit Weekly Reports

1969 - 1993

VPRS 19327

Registration of Bore Numbers by Parish

c.1980 - 1989

VPRS 19343

Bore Log and Report Files


VPRS 19344

Well Log Files

1950s - 1970s

VPRS 19345

Basin Studies Reference Files

c.1996 - 2002

VPRS 19346

Parish of Wonthaggi, State Coal Mines - Drillers' Logs

1910 - 1957

VPRS 19347

King Street Bridge Construction and Boring Records

1958 - 1959

VPRS 19348

Brown Coal Investigation, Records of Boring Operations

1940 - 1950

VPRS 19349

Water Boring Logs

1913 - 1929

VPRS 19350

Lower Yarra Bridge Investigation Geological Bore and Drilling Logs

1962 - 1968

VPRS 19372

Groundwater Observation Bore Catalogues


VPRS 19381

Register of Boreholes

1988 - 1989

VPRS 19411

Princes Gate Development Borehole Plans, Bore Logs, and Soil Sections


VPRS 19412

City of Melbourne Underground Railway Test Bore Logs

1962 - 1963

VPRS 19416

Geophysical Survey Data

1957 – 2001

VPRS 19428

Mineral and Mining Activity Reference and Working Files

1859 - 2004

VPRS 19436

Geophysical Logs

1953 - 1998

VPRS 19471


1883 - 2006



Material in the Public Record Office Victoria archival collection contains words and descriptions that reflect attitudes and government policies at different times which may be insensitive and upsetting

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples should be aware the collection and website may contain images, voices and names of deceased persons.

PROV provides advice to researchers wishing to access, publish or re-use records about Aboriginal Peoples