In December 2004, the Amalgamated Prospectors and Leaseholders Association of W.A. (APLA), celebrated 100 years of representing the interests and concerns of prospectors both nationally and more particularly in W.A.
In October 1889 the prospectors and miners on the Yilgarn goldfield formed what is believed to be the first union of prospectors and miners in W.A. It was named the Yilgarn Miners Association. This was in response to the W.A. government making it easier for incorporated entities such as companies to gain exemptions from various labour conditions, exemptions that were not available to individual or non-incorporated prospecting groups. This together with increasing pressure from companies to introduce changes in the mining regulations, many of which were seen to threaten or disadvantage prospectors, prompted a movement towards creating a representative body to better lobby on behalf of prospectors to Governments, mining forums of the day, and in the wider community.
Other groups arose in the following years pushing the special interest of participants eg the Gold Diggers Association formed in Coolgardie, by the members of the Alluvial Diggers Defence League and the Anti - Asiatic League, in January 1895.
On the 29 July 1897, the first known state-wide association was formed, the Westralian Prospectors and Explorers Association. This group was instigated in order to have prospectors represented on the Royal Commission into the mining laws of the time. Some 300 men attended the gathering on Hampton Location block 50, ("New Celebration" area - South of Kalgoorlie), and joined the association. Mr J.M. Grant, the organiser of the meeting, was elected president. Mr John Marshall was elected President of the Kalgoorlie branch and was the delegate of the Association at the Royal Commission. This group were active for the period of the Commission and then seems to have largely dropped from view.
The Alluvial Rights Committee, Alluvial Miners Association, Alluvial Rights Defence Association and the Alluvial Rights Protection Association are all recorded as being active around the turn of the century, however it is generally now believed they may have been one and the same group. These groups largely arose to confront specific problems and issues, in this case it was in response to the ‘Ivanhoe’ deep alluvial troubles in Kalgoorlie.
Most prospectors and small mine owners were represented by their local or regional associations, groups such as the Prospectors and Claimholders Association of Norseman, The Mt Morgans Prospectors Association and the Mulline Leaseholders Association to name a few.
Then in 1904 a meeting of the various Prospector Associations was called to establish an association that would represent all of the states prospectors. The meeting of The Prospectors and Leaseholders Association of WA took place in Kalgoorlie on the 7th and 8th of December 1904. Its members being representatives and executive officers of the various associations who affiliated with this group. Mr S.A, Grace and Mr B. Colreavy of the Mt. Morgans Prospectors Association were the instigators of this group and became the General President and the General Secretary respectively. Grace was to die in 1907 as the result of a spear wound. This group was active for many years representing prospectors and their interests in the hectic days following the early consolidation of mining on the Eastern Goldfields. The association was very active right up until WWI. Even during the massive decline in prospecting that accompanied the Great War, the organisation continued, even managing to hold a conference in 1916.
During the Great War period things were fairly quiet on the goldfields throughout Australia as a result of many young, fit and adventurous prospectors joining the war effort.
In the 1920s The Westralian Prospectors and Sandlewooders Association was formed in Ora Banda by Mr Arthur McParlin to fight for the right of prospectors to share in the allocation of sandlewood orders.
In the "Depression Years" of the 1930s, gold prospecting activities boomed again when large numbers of unemployed men took up prospecting as a means of economic survival. This was accompanied by an almost doubling of the gold price. The Amalgamated Prospectors Association of WA Inc. was formed in Coolgardie during February 1932, Mr J.J. Larcombe being elected President and Mr Sam Scotson of Ora Banda, (secretary) drafting the Association's constitution, (the Constitution and Rules of that association are very similar to the constitution of APLA today. A copy of this constitution has been donated by Mr L. Nazzari to the Australian Prospectors and Miners Hall of Fame.). It is unclear but it appears that this association took over the remnants of the 1904 Prospectors and Leaseholders Association of WA Inc.
World War 2 saw a further decline in prospecting activities as prospectors again volunteered for war service. The association continued and the APA of WA was quite strong during the late 1930s, having delegates and representatives from most major mining centres and also producing it’s own publication, the WA Prospector, the "official organ of the APA of WA".
The name Amalgamated Prospectors and Leaseholders Association of Western Australia (Incorp.) appears on the inside of a 1948 membership ticket, yet on the front of the ticket the name Amalgamated Prospectors of WA Inc appears. This ticket has a logo on the front which matches the current APLA logo.
In 1950 the association had its name incorporated as the Amalgamated Prospectors and Leaseholders Association of WA Inc, a name it carries to this day. Mr J.P. Baker - President, and Mr R.W. Reed - Secretary, saw APLA through the 1950s and 60s.
During the massive reactivation of interest in mining during the nickel boom of the late sixties and seventies, Mr J.L.C. Jones (Pres.) and Mr G. McGarry (Sec.) from the 1970s to 1987 led the association into the modern era.
Renewed interest in gold kicked off again with the price hike in the early nineteen seventies and interest in gold prospecting took a change in direction with the advent of more sophisticated metal detector technology developed in the 1980s. Prospecting was now seen as a profitable, recreational past time for the average suburbanite, who no longer needed to acquire and hold tenements, have any particular mining knowledge, or access to expensive technology in order to win gold.
Mr Bill Powell, was president to 1991 and Mr Mike Charlton, Secretary to 1992. Mr Max King, President to 1995. Other presidents in recent times have been Mr Scott Wilson and Mr Bob Sheppard who served until 2005, Mr Sean Ashcroft and Mr Mike Lucas and recently elected president in February 2016 Mr Les Lowe. James Allison was elected as the President in 2021. Mrs Marise Palmer has been Secretary from 2016 to September 2021.