Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 17, June 1973


Waihi Cold Mining Co. Ltd; later known as Martha Gold Mining Co. Ltd.

Prior to 1894 development in the mine was by adit levels, that is horizontal drives driven into the lode from the hill side. The Smithy adit was the lowest, but it was at no great depth below the outcrop, and the ore above it was soon worked out. Shaft-sinking was then resorted to and during the years that followed seven large working-shafts were sunk and lode by lode, this system was pursued to make the mine one of the great producers of the world.

No. 1 Shaft was sunk on the hanging wall of the Martha lode. It passed into the reef and bottomed at about the 850 ft. mark in the body of the reef. It was timbered throughout with 12" x 12" frame setts at 4 ft. spacing, and was a three compartment shaft, two winding ways and a ladder-way. Double deck cages were used for lowering the miners and winding the ore. In consequence there was a top and a bottom brace. To stabilize the shaft and prevent movement a large shaft pillar of ore was left round the shaft in the richest part of the lode.

No. 2 Shaft was sunk at a higher level again on the hanging wall side. This shaft bottomed at approx. 1800 ft below the collar. It wound ore from Martha, Edward, Welcome, Surprise and various other reefs, the four named being the main ore suppliers. At lower levels too, about No. 12 level, ore from the Empire lode was wound through this shaft. In sinkings below No. 10 level a ladderway compartment was added. Above this level shaft dimensions were 14 ft. x 7 ft. in the clear. Below No. 10 it was 18 ft. x 7 ft. inside timbers. Shaft setts were 12" x 12" frame setts at 4 ft. spacing.

Large shaft pillars were left to support the shaft. In the upper part, the levels were close together, of the order of 80 to 90 ft. apart, this distance being increased at lower levels to a standard distance of 150 ft. It may be remarked here that all lower levels from all shafts were more or less cut at the same horizon. The original head frame was a wooden one which was dismantled and replaced by a steel poppet head when the shaft was stripped and enlarged. At the same time ore hoppers were built and a top brace added. A rail track was also laid down the incline for the ore trucks. Formerly all ore was lowered down to the No. 1 shaft ore bins.

No. 3 Shaft was sunk on the West end of the lease close to Moresby Avenue on the footwall of the Martha. It was not a deep shaft and was not worked for any length of time. It was proved that the pitch of values was to the East and that the lode became fragmented on the West end. Consequently other shafts could more economically serve.

No. 4 Shaft was sunk to service Royal, Empire, Rex, Dreadnaught and other lodes. It reached a depth of slightly over 2,000 ft. It was intended to sink further but slidy ground was encountered. Sinking was stopped and No. 16 level the deepest in the mine was opened. The top section of this shaft was in unstable ground down to No. 7 level and this was a source of worry and expense in keeping the shaft open especially in the last twenty or so years of working. From No. 3 level to the surface, the original frame setts were replaced with box setts. The shaft boss, the late Mr. Joe Cooper told me that a forest of timber was driven into the swelling ground here by means of a swinging dolly to squeeze the troublesome ground away. A water ring was cut at about No. 4 level to catch and supply drinking and drilling water to this section of the mine and piped for drilling throughout the mine. In earlier times drinking water for No. 2 shaft was taken down in cans at the beginning of the day shift.

No. 5 Shaft. This was to be a pump shaft. It was sunk in solid country. It bottomed at No. 12 level approx. 1,250 ft. horizon. Two pumps were used here:- "B" pump, a draw lift pump was used in the sinking for dewatering. It delivered water to a cistern cut in the shaft wall where it was picked up by "C" pump.

"C" pump was installed in a concrete building on the surface. It was a beam engine with a high and low pressure cylinder at either end of a massive beam to which were coupled the pump rods. The high pressure cylinder, coupled to the small end of the beam was six feet in diameter and had a six foot stroke. The low pressure cylinder was 110 inches in diameter and had a 12 ft stroke. The pump rods were coupled to this low pressure end of the beam. Steam was admitted through a series of valves to either cylinder to activate the engine and impart motion to the pump rods. It was referred to as a Cornish pump through the design having been originally used on the Cornish tin fields. Motion of the engine and rods was controlled through Davey's differential valve gear and the pump worked at 7 strokes per minute with a twelve foot stroke. There was a slight pause at the end of each stroke.

The pump rods were 24 in. square section Kauri beams connected together by long steel strapping plates. The rising main was 23 in. in diameter. It was designed to lift water in a single lift from 1,250 ft. to the surface, but as there had been an accident with a similar engine in Cornwall, the Inspector of Mines requested that the height of lift be reduced. A cistern was therefore cut at the 750 ft. level and a set off bolted to the rods through an apron piece to serve this cistern. Balance beams were built into the rods at intervals to steady the motion of the pump. These were the same size as the main beam. Weights (boxes of scrap) were added as balance bobs.

In Cornwall it had been the custom to use one of these engines as a man engine. Platforms had been fastened at 12 ft intervals to the pump rods. When the rods were at the bottom of the stroke, the miners would step on to these platforms and so be raised some 12 ft. on the up stroke. A pause at the top of the stroke would enable them to get off. They would then step on to the next platform at the bottom of the next stroke and so be raised a further 12 ft. on the up stroke. Unfortunately the rods broke, precipitating them to the bottom of the shaft with fatal results. In view of the failure of these rods in Cornwall, the practice was forbidden and the height of the lift was halved.

Work on the installation was started about 1901 and the building was erected under the supervision of Mr. (Snuffy) Lynch. It worked continually until about 1921 by which time electric pumps had been installed in No. 4 shaft at No. 12 level. These were 7 stage Mather and Platt turbine pumps delivering water through a 20 in. main placed in the ladderway compartment of No. 4 shaft. Further sinking pumps were hung in the shaft below No. 14 level from where they were operated. A sinking winch was erected on No. 12 level to which the suspended pumps were attached; they could thus be raised or lowered as required according to the height of water in the shaft. The water from these pumps was discharged into sumps cut in the No. 12 pump chamber, from which the turbine pumps delivered it to the surface.

In the early 1940's a movement of the country around the shaft, fractured the rising main about No. 7 level. It was decided to widen the crosscut to No. 5 shaft at No. 8 level and connect into the rising main of the old "C" pump which was still in No. 5 shaft. No. 4. shaft had no ladderway from the surface, it having been stripped out to accommodate the pump columns. The shaft was lengthened to about 23 ft below No. 11 level to take the winding gear for the suspended pumps. A capstan winch was also installed at the surface to be used when it became necessary to pull any columns.

No. 6 Shaft was sunk on the footwall of the Martha lode near the Eastern end of the lease. It serviced the Martha mainly in what was probably the richest part and the widest too. I recall Dean's party crosscutting through the reef a distance of 212 ft. all in pay ore. The shaft was 1,000 ft. deep, equipped with two self-dumping skips of 3 ton capacity. The winding engine was a massive thing. The drums were 13 ft. diameter and the piston had a 6 ft stroke. It was fitted with Corliss valves instead of the usual valves. It was installed by Mr. Chas. Aitken, the then engineer who not only erected the engine but had the onerous job of shrinking on a crank arm; no mean feat.

This was a two compartment shaft; no ladderway was provided as it was purely a winding shaft. Two ore pockets were cut in the rock adjacent to the shaft. The one at No. 8 level was equipped with hydraulically operated gates which would allow a skip load to be discharged into the loading chute.

The other chute was sunk from No. 9 to No. 10 level behind the shaft. Two tumbler chutes could be dropped into position through which the ore could be discharged when the skip was in a loading position. On the other levels the skips were filled direct from the trucks of ore. Mining timber for the Martha arches was sent down on top of the skips.

Due to caving of the ore and consequent subsidence of the surface a lot of trouble was experienced with this shaft. It got out of plumb and had a decided twist in it. About 1938, a new level was cut between Nos. 9 and 10. Bill Thomson and Wally Tanner started off the raise from No. 10, and Albert Martyn and Walter Armitt broke through to the shaft from the new level. Arthur Lindsay, with Bert Wagstaff, on one occasion renewed one of the main legs of the poppet head and also one of the back stays.

To ensure that output would not be diminished should the shaft collapse, an internal hopper was sunk from No. 10 level by Alec. Nesbit and Harry Morallee to connect with an enlarged footwall drive on No. 11 level that connected with No. 2, No. 4, and Junction shafts. The raise portion of this hopper was driven to connect. It was never used as such, but was kept in good order. Smiler Wells and party, Shorty Heath, Mal Brown and Bun Burke were members of this party. The section from No. 4. shaft crosscut to the Junction shaft was used for haulage when Hedge's stope on the footwall of the Martha was trucked out.

No. 7 Shaft. This was the last ore shaft to be sunk. It was sunk in the Martha open cut. From this shaft it was intended to extract the remnants of ore remaining in the stope and shaft pillars. For this purpose, all levels were cut at approx. 30 ft. below the levels in the other shafts. It was box timbered throughout with wall and end plates of 9" x 3" timbers and centres of 9"x 4" red gums. It was sunk to No. 9 level. Techniques of raising and sinking were used with later stripping to size and timbering. It was positioned in line with No. 2 shaft winding engine which was to be used when the shaft was commissioned. For this purpose extra sheave wheels were placed in line on the top of the Welcome open cut. When all was ready, No. 2 shaft headframe and ore bins were dismantled and the changeover made. Previous to this, a temporary winding engine had been used for sinking and development.

Some of the contractors who were engaged in sinking from the surface were:

Dave Hilderbrand, Bill Hales, Bill Walters, Ray McEnteer, Jack Whittaker, Jack Walters. Among others who worked in the raising of the shaft were Arthur Wotherspoon, Jerry Ormsby, Wally Robinson, Bill Holland, Neville Short, to name but a few. Shaft alignment was checked by the surveyor Roy Carnachan who also did the traversing and associated surveying through No. 2 shaft. Walter Johnson was the chief surveyor. The shaft had a wooden headframe; the back stays were wire ropes anchored into the walls of Martha open out. Wooden ore bins were built in what was formerly known as the Horse drive, and from which mullock was once trucked.

A succession of contractors were engaged in working the open cuts for STOPE FILLING. Some best remembered were Duncan Smeeton [Smeaton ? – E], Jim Delaney, Jackie Walters. These men worked mainly in Martha cut. There were various other MULLOCK cuts as may still be seen round the old surface workings. Filling shafts were strategically placed that they would serve the lodes where cut and fill stoping was carried on. Below ground it was hand trucked to the various stopes to be filled, and distributed by the miners in the stopes. Filling was also at one time wound down No. 4 shaft to be distributed mainly on the night shift. The best known of the filling shafts were:-

Pile's Pass the first shaft east of No. 6 shaft. At lower levels it was known as Jamieson's pass.

Rickards Shaft - the first filling shaft west of No. 6 shaft. When it was abandoned a large diameter pipe was placed over the collar at the surface.

Milson's or No.1 Filling Pass. This was perhaps with the Wheal pass the one most used. It went down to No. 9 level. Later it was used as a quartz pass by Barker, Hutton and party.

Wheal Pass. This was sunk towards the west end of Martha open cut. It supplied filling for stopes down to No. 8 level.

Wheal No. 2 or No. 2 Filling Pass, adjacent to Wheal No. 1 pass.

Edward Filling Pass. As its name denotes it was for filling for the stopes on the Edward lode.

Royal Filling Pass, situated near No. 5 shaft and the power house, supplied filling for Royal reef stopes.

Sole Pass. This was not much used. It was sunk near the Band Hall.

Gardiner's Pass. This was sunk mainly to provide ventilation for the upper levels on Edward lode on the South side of No. 2 shaft.