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KARANGAHAKE the years of the gold 1875 -1935

The rise in the price of gold in the 1930s, and the availability of cheaper labour, as a result of widespread unemployment, gave encouragement to further mining activities. This led to the formation of the Talisman Dubbo Goldmining Company.

During the peak years, the great Maria Reef had been extensively worked by the Talisman Company, from near the summit of the mountain to over 500 feet below sea level. Part of this reef, however, had not been worked because it lay within the area held by the N.Z. Crown Mines Company, which had not exploited it because of the distance from their main workings on the Welcome and Crown Reef, although they attempted to reach it by means of the Rose Crosscut, driven in 1923-25. This attempt was their last, and their ground was forfeited by the Mining Warden in 1928, leaving the way open for other prospectors. (The Talisman Company had ceased to exist by 1920.)

The unworked portion of the Maria Reef lay in the area earlier known as the Earl of Glasgow Claim, by J.B. Morris. Prospecting resulted in favourable reports in 1928 and the Talisman Dubbo Company was formed with a capital of $40,000, and registered in 1929. On 7 February 1930, driving was commenced in the Maria Reef from the Southern face of the mountain and by 11 November 1930 the Talisman Dubbo level had been extended 450 feet. Two tons of ore had been treated at the Thames School of Mines and returned a value $18.50 per ton. Over 100 tons had been stacked at the mine entrance, which, being on the southern side of the mountain, was not very accessible.

Reporting in November 1930, Mr John Smith, Supervisor of the Company, stated that he considered the old collapsed Talisman No. 1 level should be re-opened. It entered from the North West face of the mountain, 115 feet below the Talisman Dubbo drive. If this was done, and the No. 1 level connected to the Talisman Dubbo drive by a rise, then the ore could be passed down, and sent from the entrance of No. 1, down to the County Road, by means of an aerial tramway. But the old Talisman No. 1 crosscut was found to be so badly fallen in that a new level was driven alongside.

By November 1932 the level was in 517 feet, and the reef above was being stoped. The first ore was treated by the Golden Dawn Battery at Owharoa early in September 1932. (The Cartage Contractors were Forrest Bros, and the late Harold Moore was a driver for some years.), Amounting to 65.4 tons, it had been obtained whilst driving the No. 1 level and yielded gold and silver worth $1092. Work on the erection of an aerial tramway was commenced to bring the ore down to the County Road near the Talisman No. 8 level. Costing $740 it was 2160 feet in length and the first ore was sent down on 1 October 1933. Meanwhile the No. 1 level had been driven in under the Talisman Dubbo level, and towards the end of December 1933 work started on rising up towards it, reaching the Talisman Dubbo level in March 1934.

Soon after crushing commenced, a profit was made, and in December 1933 the Company declared its first dividend at 5%. Stoping at this time was being carried out in two shifts enabling about 30 to 40 tons of ore per week to be produced from the stopes above No. 1 level. Thirty-four men were employed under the management of Mr W.M. McConachie. (Shift bosses were Fred Dare and Jack Bunting.) During 1934-35 further dividends of up to 10% were paid. After completion of the rise, stoping re—commenced above the Talisman Dubbo level. The next stage was to open No. 2 level during 1935, and soon after a commencement was made on No. 3 level. This development work was necessary as the ore reserves above No. 1 and the Dubbo level were rapidly becoming exhausted. Up to March 1936, 6037 tons of ore had been treated and the production was at its peak, with 60 tons per week being produced. By September 1936 the No. 2 level was in 900 feet on a reef five feet wide. No. 3 level was in 800 feet, directly under a winze being sunk from No. 2 level.

Early in 1936 the Company Directors met to consider building their own Battery instead of having the ore treated at the Golden Dawn Battery. At this time the ore cost $6.15 per ton to treat. In May 1937 the building of the Battery commenced at the junction of the Ohinemuri and Waitawheta Rivers on the site of the former Talisman Power House. It was completed at a cost of $24,000, and commenced to operate at the beginning of June 1938.

During 1937, at which time 37 men were employed, a new change shed was built to replace the old one which had been destroyed by fire. After the death of the Manager, Mr W.M. McConachie, Mr J.A. Bunting, and later Mr B. Dunlop were Acting Managers until Mr W.J. McConachie, son of the former Manager, was appointed to the position. By 1938 the ore in the upper levels was becoming depleted and ore from the levels, such as No. 7 (Hauraki), contained a high percentage of manganese, and was difficult to treat. The Battery, under the management of Mr Clifton, was also treating ore from other miners, mainly for Mr J.B. Morris & Co., whose own Battery could not cope with all his ore, and also for the men working the "New Talisman" Claim. At the beginning of 1939 only 16 men were employed underground, mainly stoping on Dubbo No. 1 and Talisman Nos. 2 and 7 levels. Mr R.A. Rutherford, a mining engineer from Australia, was requested to inspect the mine and to give a report on its future prospects. He arrived at Karangahake on 29 March 1939, and commenced investigations next day. It was found that the ore was not payable, and a loss of $300 per week was occurring. He made various proposals as to the development work which should be carried out in the hope of finding good ore. These included cleaning out No. 4 level, and rising to No. 2 Dubbo level. This work did not proceed for long before funds became exhausted.

The Battery, which had been closed, re-commenced on outside ore on 19 July 1939. For the year ended 31 December 1939, a loss of $8320 was shown in the accounts, and by December 1939 all mining work by the Company had ceased. Work continued, however, by tributers during 1939. These included: J. Bunting, H. White, W. Arden, M.E. Fitzgerlad [Fitzgerald? - E], R.W. Brown, R. Fitzgerald and J. O'Brien. Most of these men were eligible for Government subsidy. All attempts to keep the mill operating on a payable basis failed, and it was dismantled, following the liquidation of the Company on 15 March 1940. The total production had amounted to 57,291 ounces valued at $167,741.34. Dividends paid were $5228.55 in 1934, and $7670.60 in 1935. Gold duty paid to the Government was $16,286. The machinery went to Fiji and the tanks to the Miranda Manganese Mines and to Puhipuhi in Northland. The Company's business was finalised by 1941, and all mining privileges had been struck off the register.

Gary Staples.