Karangahake School and District 70th Jubilee 1889-1959
Most of the men who knew local mining in the heyday of "Woodstock," "Talisman" and "Crown" are gone, and only a few will remember such names as Matt Paul, mining inspector, or the details of the various "claims" and the work involved in wresting gold from the Karangahake Hills.
It was not quite such a matter of chance as some people imagine. Skilled men were needed in many departments, and the knowledge required was often highly technical. Geologists made surveys, Metallurgists acted in an advisory capacity, and Assayers played an important part in estimating the value of the bullion. Many of these men came from other fields, but the School of Mines, under Mr Duff and Mr Gibson, catered for the advancement of local men who were willing to study and qualify. Managers had to make momentous decisions, and in their turn, foremen and men had to be ever on the alert.
The first claim was situated on a great mass of slipped rock, but later it was found that the gold-bearing lodes (or reefs) were hidden far beneath the surface of the hills. The general rugged topography of the area permitted of some development by means of adits (drives or tunnels) but more often shafts had to be sunk to a great depth in order to follow a reef. Then far underground, the men had the difficult task of using machine drills and explosives in order to break up the rock, which was raised to the surface in great cages by means of winches. Sometimes the workings penetrated below the level of the ground-water and huge pumping plants were installed to prevent the mines from flooding, which of course happened in the end and the pumps are now submerged down there.
THE TALISMAN MINE
General Managers: Mr Mitchell, Mr Stansfield.
Mine Managers: Mr Goldsworthy, Mr McCombie, Mr Rickard, Mr Dutton.
Battery Managers: Mr Taylor, Mr Phillips, Mr Dean.
Smelting Foremen: Mr Gwilliam, Mr Dette, Mr Carpenter.
Assayers: Mr Chappel, Mr Metcalf. Office: Mr Kitching.
The "Talisman" bought the "Woodstock" —
Mine Manager: Mr Rich. Battery Man: Mr J. Noble.
To give some idea of the general scope of a mine, it is interesting to note that the Talisman Consolidated held in all an area of 507 acres and at the end of 1911 had produced nearly 2½ million ounces of gold, valued at £1,573,645. It had been worked for a vertical depth of 1,500 feet. Levels were numbered from the top of the Mountain and at one time from No. 8 level downward each level showed an increase in the length of the payable ore until at No. 14 level it was over 1,100 feet with width of from 4 to 10 feet. But the "Dubbo" mine yielded milling ore in its upper portion, above No. 2 level.
The ore from the passes was trucked to the Talisman shaft and tipped into hoppers of about 7 tons capacity, beneath the levels. Thence it was hoisted in skips by air winch placed in No. 11 level to the top of the Talisman shaft at No. 8 level. From there it was trucked by horse-tram to bins at the upper terminal of an aerial tram which worked as a self-acting jig, delivering the ore directly to the battery storage-bins below. A separate small hopper was provided at each level for waste rock, which was hoisted to the river adit only and trucked out to the mullock-tip. The Talisman shaft had four compartments below No. 11 level — two ore-skipways, one waste-skipway and one ladder-way and pipe-compartment. Work went on ceaselessly, the men alternating three shifts, morning 8 a.m. - 4 p.m., afternoon 4 p.m. - midnight, and night, midnight - 8 a.m.
THE CROWN MINE
General Managers: Mr Door, Mr McCombie.
Mine Manager: Mr McGruer.
Battery Managers: Mr Hutchinson, Mr Barrett.
Assayer: Mr Napier. Office: Mr Waddel, Mr R. Lloyd.
The main entrance to the Crown Mine was by the Waitawheta River level, and the naming of the various levels proceeded from this, the first above being known as No. 1A, and the first below as No. 1B. Surface waters were not allowed to percolate and lower workings were kept dry by a two-throw electrically driven pump fixed in the chamber of No. 5B level. The ore was delivered in horse-drawn trucks to the Battery which was about a mile from the mine.
The cyanide process was introduced by the Crown Mine in 1889 and made possible the exploitation of the lower [grade - E] ores. Dry crushing, with roasting the raw ore, was formerly practised but the introduction of fine wet-crushing machinery obviated this costly and unhealthy method of treatment.
At the Batteries, the treatment of ore consisted chiefly of:
(a) Pulverisation, by rock-breakers, stampers and tube mills.
(b) Concentration, by some form of shaking.
(c) Amalgamation, the pulp going from copper plates to the tailing and the remaining slime being treated with travelling-belt vanners which separated about 2 tons of concentrate per day.
(d) Cyanidation, the cyanide vats leaching the sand from the tailing and the remaining slime being treated with cyanide solution.
(e) Precipitation by means of gold extractors of gold mixed with other metals — mostly silver and copper. The resulting bars of bullion were shipped overseas.
The First World War proved a desperate challenge to the mines. In the first place men enlisted in great numbers and secondly costs mounted prohibitively. Cyanide had been imported mostly from Germany, and from costing 9 per lb. it went up to 1/6d and then 2/6d. The Crown Mine closed first, the Talisman struggling on till 1920 when the Company went into liquidation, having produced over £3 million worth of bullion. But small private enterprises continued and nearly 20 years later the Dubbo Mine, with Government assistance, was still giving results. It was managed by Mr McConachie (Senr.) and then by his son. The shift bosses were Mr Fred Dare and Mr Jack Bunting with later Mr B. Dunlop, and the Battery Manager, Mr Clifton. But the advent of World War 2 brought about the general abandonment of mining at Karangahake. The last prospectors were Dolph Schultz, Bill Greaves and Cyril Waynes.
It is a strange co-incidence that in the year of our Jubilee an important announcement should be made with reference to our Goldfields. We are informed that a Canadian Company plans to reopen them and to process the vast deposits of tailings which still remain on the banks of the river. This company, "South Pacific Mines Ltd.," feels that if nothing is found after a thorough exploration by modern methods, the Ohinemuri Goldfield can well be finally abandoned, but it is confident from the records and geological evidence that it has a good chance of establishing an industry which should last for a considerable number of years.