After the discovery of gold in the area in 1893, the townsite was gazetted in 1894. and the population grew from 2,500 in 1897 to over 12,500 by 1899. However, the alluvial gold supply was rapidly exhausted and underground mines following the outcropping vein produced decreasing amounts of gold, resulting in a slow but steady decrease in the population. The railway station was closed during the Great Depression, and by 1953 the town had been abandoned. The railway station platform, two cemeteries and mine workings are all that is left of the original town of Kanowna. Signs erected by the Kalgoorlie Historical society mark the sites of significant buildings.
Increasing gold prices in the late 1970s sparked renewed interest in exploring the geology of the area for new sources of gold. The discovery of a large amount of gold, previously undiscovered because the vein did not reach the surface, made gold mining in the region economically viable again. Mining recommenced in 1986, initially as open-cut mining, before moving to underground mines. As of 2002, the Kanowna Belle mine employed over 300 people.