Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 45, September 2001


By Nicholas Twohill


In 1986 and 1997 the writer conducted surveys of Golden Cross in the Upper Waitekauri Valley to identify archaeological sites and to determine the impact of modern mining on them. This paper is a precis of archaeological reports on the Golden Cross sites.


The first phase of goldmining at Golden Cross occurred between 1892 and c1917. The prospectors' workings were superficial when the Golden Cross Gold-mining Company took over their claim in 1893. The company operated a five-stamp battery and berdan which were replaced in 1894 with a ten-stamp battery and cyaniding plant. The Waitekauri Gold-mining Company formed the Golden Cross-Waitekauri tramway in 1895 to take Golden Cross ore to Waitekauri for processing. Summaries of the Golden Cross venture are given in several early sources:

"The Golden Cross Mine, which was discovered by Lowrie brothers in the latter end of 1893 (sic), and afterwards purchased by Mr T.H. Russell and called the Waitekauri Company, has been closed down for the last two years. This mine at first bade fair to be better than even the Waihi Mine, as the first crushing of 600 tons of ore treated yielded 7,600 pounds' worth of bullion. A large quantity of valuable ore was extracted from the mine, but the gold did not go down, and prospecting at the deepest level, as well as boring, failed to give the company any encouragement to do further work". (The New Zealand Mining Handbook 1906:47)

"The Golden Cross reef was discovered by Lowrie Brothers in 1892. The prospectors' claim was purchased by Mr T.H. Russell, who organised a small company to prove it. In 1895 the property, together with a large area of surrounding country, was acquired by the Waitekauri Gold-mining Company (Limited), London. The mine was connected by tram with a forty-stamp mill and cyanide plant situated in Waitekauri Township, some three miles and a quarter down the valley. It proved a profit-making concern for about seven years, but was abandoned in 1904 as the result of the ore-shoot cutting out of depth. The present company acquired the property late in 1906, and has confined its operations to the adit levels, where blocks of low-grade ore, regarded as profitable exist. The Waitekauri Gold-mining Company, London paid from the Golden Cross Mine dividends amounting to £84,035". (Bell and Fraser 1912:108-109)

Other histories have been written by Downey (1935:212-215) and Davies (1998).


In April 1986 a survey of archaeological sites at Golden Cross was carried out for Applied Geology Associates. Cyprus Minerals New Zealand Limited was proposing to establish a gold and silver mine at Golden Cross, and as part of the environmental assessment investigations into its feasibility, an assessment of impact had to be made, including the potential effects on historic sites if the mine were to proceed (Golden Cross Technical Report No. 14 1987:1).

Forty-one industrial sites dating from the 1890s to the mid-1910s were located and recorded at Golden Cross (in an area specified by Applied Geology Associates) as an outcome of a preliminary document search and a systematic walkover. Much of the proposed mine area was in pasture grass or light scrub, and coverage was intensive. Surrounding bush was entered if sites were known from document research to be present.

The following site types were found during the survey:

  • stamper battery 1
  • engine shed 2
  • mullock dump 2
  • pit 1
  • adit portal 17
  • prospecting trench 1
  • road 3
  • shaft-head 3
  • terrace 2
  • town 1
  • tramway 4
  • tunnel 3
  • water race 1

Site Record Forms were completed for each of the sites and lodged with the New Zealand Archaeological Association Coromandel Filekeeper.

The sites collectively formed a picture of early goldmining in the Upper Waitekauri Valley. Terraces, platforms, bricks, midden and roads provided traces of the former settlement of Golden Cross. These components were situated on the slopes surrounding the junction of the Union Stream and the Waitekauri River. They continued from there along a broad ridge, which ascends northeast and overlooks the Waitekauri River, to the vicinity of the former Golden Cross Mine Number 1 shaft. Gold-mining and extraction procedures took place alongside the settlement. Here, the principal shaft-heads, excavated from level areas cut into hillsides, were closely linked with adits, concrete engine block foundations, concrete footings, stone-retaining walls, mullock dumps, paddocked ore, tunnels, a water race, large terraces, tramways, roads, bricks and ironmongery. The battery site, adit portals, waste material and roads were located on the Waitekauri River floodplain. The kiln pit was excavated into a hillside overlooking the battery site. A prospecting trench, other adits, roads, mullock dumps and ironmongery were dispersed on neighbouring hillsides of the Waitekauri and Union valleys, indicating peripheral prospecting. The roads and tramway to Waitekauri, Wharekirauponga and Maratoto served as industrial, economic and social links. A tramway and ironmongery, between a former bush-line in the Union Stream Valley and Golden Cross were reminders of past timber extraction.

The sites were considered to be of archaeological interest on several counts (Golden Cross Technical Report No. 14 1987:16 and 31):

  • The area had remained intact, apart from farming activities, since mining operations were abandoned c1917;
  • Golden Cross presented a complete gold-mining configuration with different production stages evident;
  • Written sources were available on the Golden Cross ventures which complemented the field evidence; and
  • Golden Cross represented a further stage in the diffusion of goldmining on the Coromandel Peninsula during the nineteenth century and gave insights into historical processes.

However, any case for protecting the sites from the proposed re-opening of the mine was tenuous. The site types in the Golden Cross gold-mining landscape were neither unique to nineteenth-century New Zealand goldmining nor especially significant. They were assessed against the statutory requirements of the Historic Places Act 1980 which stated that an archaeological site was a place in New Zealand associated with human activity 100 years before or more which could, through investigation by archaeological techniques, provide evidence as to the exploration, occupation, settlement or development of New Zealand. In 1986 the Golden Cross historical sites were less than 100 years. Cyprus Minerals argued that the sites if subject to classification by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust were likely to warrant at most a (c) under Section 35 of the Act: "Those buildings which merit preservation because of their historical significance or architectural quality." (Golden Cross Mining Project Environmental Impact Report 1987:48-49).

Twenty-four sites were located in the area which was to be directly affected by construction of the project (ibid:297 et seq.), but not all the sites would necessarily be modified or destroyed. In the event, careful planning had enabled some components of the project to be sited to avoid sites of archaeological interest. Sites earmarked for destruction during the planning stages were the Golden Cross-Wharekirauponga track, the town and a number of adit portals. The loss of these sites was reported to have been accepted by representatives of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust who visited Golden Cross and inspected the sites.

"The sites are not regarded as highly important and the Trust has indicated that it will accept their modification or destruction as a necessary outcome of redevelopment of the old mine site. The Company is, however, willing to preserve the sites where possible and the Trust has asked that particular attention be paid to protection of... the old No. 2 shaft head and engine shed".

(The No. 2 shaft-head referred to in the Environmental Impact Report was the Number 1 shaft-head.)


With the impending cessation of operations at the Golden Cross Mine in December 1997 and mine rehabilitation, attention was again focused on the archaeological sites (Twohill 1997). The Historic Places Act 1980 had been superceded by the Historic Places Act 1993. The definition of an archaeological site had been altered under the 1993 Act to be any place in New Zealand which was associated with human activity which occurred before 1900 and which could or might be able through investigation by archaeological methods to provide evidence relating to the history of New Zealand. A provision of the Act was the requirement of an authority from the New Zealand Places Trust if any archaeological site was to be destroyed, damaged or modified in whole or part. It was necessary for Coeur Gold New Zealand Limited to establish :

  • the current condition of the sites and their archaeological significance
  • the long-term safety liabilities presented by open hazards left by historical mining
  • the significance of certain historical sites in the rehabilitation process of the modern mine

To this end, the writer was engaged by Coeur to reassess sites in the Mining Licence Area which came within an area which extended from the security gate on the Golden Cross Road to below the open pit and from the internal site access road to the riparian boundary above the Waitekauri River. Other aspects of the brief included the cross-referencing of New Zealand Archaeological Site Numbers with site numbers in the Hauraki District Council's district plan; the placing of site locations on the mine map; and to make an assessment of the significance of the Golden Cross sites.

The area adjacent to the modern mine was walked over in August 1997 to relocate sites and update their Site Record Forms. As a result two new gold-mining sites were recorded and changes as indicated below were made to the status of several sites. The following descriptions taken from the updated Site Record Forms summarise the condition of sites:

  • Town, Site Number T13/36. Some parts of this dispersed site were either modified or destroyed by recent mining activities, while other parts remained intact. Visible surface evidence revealed by disturbance included a round brick-lined well 0.9 metres in diameter, broken bottles and bricks.
  • Tailings dump, T13/39 (formerly described as a Mullock dump). Intact, distinctly elongated ground south of the battery site. It was 45m long and reached 0.9m in height above surrounding ground. The dump was covered by dense noxious weeks.
  • Battery T13/40. Evidence such as ironmongery and concrete foundations on a broad area of ground beside the Waitekauri River marked the battery site. The area was intact, covered in grass, ferns and noxious weeds.
  • Adit portal, known as the "Kiln Adit", T13/42. While not modified by recent mining, the portal had collapsed and the site was evidenced by a 12.4m long channel running from the slope. The site area was under a tree canopy and covered by fern, scrub and noxious weeds.
  • Tramway, T13/47 (Fig 1). An intact side-cutting on both sides of the Waitekauri River which lay between Number 1 and Number 2 shafts. The terminal area below the Number 1 shaft had a stone retaining-wall and paddocked ore alongside the route. The tramway was in grass and under a tree canopy along its length.
  • Pit (kiln), T13/48. The site comprised an intact rounded, open pit excavated into a hillside above the battery site. The ground above and north of the pit had sagged for 14.7m, and had two round pit-like features present. The kiln pit was under a tree canopy with grass underfoot.
  • Hoisting works (previously described as Engine shed), T13/53. Intact concrete block foundations in long grass.
  • Number 1 Shaft-head, T13/54 (Fig. 2). The site had been modified under Authority Number 1994/110. Visible remaining evidence was a concrete shaft-head slot and nearby footing on the edge of a pond.
  • Adit portal, T13/55. The site west of and below T13/54 was reconsidered as non-existent and its removal from the New Zealand Archaeological Association file was recommended.
  • Road, T13/56. The road or tramway was indicated by a 3m wide block-cutting excavated into the first spur north of Number 1 shaft. It was under a tree canopy.
  • Mullock dump, T13/57 (Fig. 3). This open site was situated beside the Golden Cross exploration track and had been largely modified. Distinctive mullock tips were intact at the north end of the site.
  • Tunnel, T13/58. An intact tunnel 8m long by 1.4m wide by 1.9m high was excavated into a spur north of the Number 1 shaft. The site was under a tree canopy.
  • Water race, T13/59. This site had been modified by mining and what remained was represented by a block-cutting 5.3m long by 1.3m wide by approximately 1.5m deep and an adjoining ditch approximately 0.8metres deep excavated into a spur top.
  • Adit portal, T13/60 had been destroyed by recent mining activities.
  • Tunnels T13/61 and 62 destroyed by mining.
  • Shaft-head/Tunnel (described in 1986 as Shaft-head), T13/63 (Fig. 4). The site was located on a spur north of Number 1 shaft covered by a tree canopy and dense vegetation. The site was intact and comprised a 5m long by 1.1m wide by approximately 1.7m high tunnel adjoining an open shaft-head 1.7m long by 1.6m wide.
  • Mullock dump (2), T13/801. This newly- recorded site was located 26m northwest of Number 1 shaft. It had been slightly modified by recent activities in one part, but otherwise remained in very good condition. Grass covered the top, with dense gorse, fern and scrub growing on the flanks of the larger tip. Two distinctive, elongated truck tips in an inverted V shape, jutting out from of the Waitekauri River bank, made up the site. The larger dump was 14.3m in length by approximately 1.2m in width along its top.
  • Adit portal, T13/802. Another newly-recorded site situated in an area between Golden Cross exploration track and the processing plant/open pit intersection. The portal was partially collapsed, although unaffected by recent mining. It was under a tree canopy, with a tree growing out of the front channel's west wall.

The relocated sites, possible surface workings and likely collapsed underground workings were added to the mine map by Mr Gary Samson, a surveyor at the Golden Cross Mine, by using the global positioning system (GPS), with manual offsets in tree canopy-covered areas using tape and compass. A copy of the map has been deposited with the New Zealand Archaeological Association Filekeeper in Hamilton.


Ritchie (1990:14) put forward a framework with which to measure a site's historical significance:

"'Historical significance' has been assessed principally on an evaluation of the site, industry or company's local, regional or national impact during its heyday and aftermath. Factors such as representativeness, rarity, scale, productivity, longevity, technical and/or engineering innovations, socio-economic impact and influential personalities are also important elements in the evaluation. Information on these assessment criteria is derived from documentary accounts, field observations and archaeological information, and the memories of living informants."

The historical significance of the Golden Cross mine was its reputation as a good producer of gold during its life.

If considered as part of an overall Waitekauri-Golden Cross-Komata grouping, and as a precursor to Waihi and Karangahake, Golden Cross rates as regionally significant:

"The discoveries at the Golden Cross, Waitekauri, have also given an impetus to mining in this locality. The large auriferous and argentiferous lodes containing rich ore mark this as a place where considerable sums of money will be expended in prospecting for other lodes, and also where a large mining population will find profitable employment". (A J Cadman, Minister of Mines, 1895 Appendices, Mines Statement, C.-2, p.6)

"The best-known veins in this district (Waitekauri District) are the Waitekauri and Golden Cross, both of which have yielded large quantities of gold. There are many other well-defined veins in this district, but, so far as developed, they have proved very low grade". (Park 1897:95)

"It was not, however, until 1892 that the Golden Cross reef in the upper part of the valley was discovered after both of the adjoining districts - Maratoto and Komata - had been opened up by prospectors, who pushed their way through the thick bush into these mountainous valleys". (Bell 1912:17)

Golden Cross was seen as an appendage of Waitekauri:

"Golden Cross is a mining camp on the site of the Golden Cross section of the Waitekauri Company's mine. It sprang into existence as a township about 1896, and is connected by road with Waitekauri and also by a tramway constructed about 1895. . ." (The Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1902:916)


The survey of Golden Cross historical industrial sites in 1997 showed that they and their landform setting had been generally unaffected by modern mining between 1990 and 1997. The sites still constitute a viable historic area. The original configuration has remained and is a key value of the Golden Cross sites. Images such as tramway site T13/47 between Number 1 and 2 shafts, bordered by a stone-retaining wall, adits, mullock dumps and paddocked ore along its route, depicts past mining in a compact area.

The role of individual sites is also important. The surface and subsurface information contained in each of the sites has the potential to contribute to an understanding of what was happening in the past. For example, Moore and Ritchie (1998:45-59) have included kiln pit site T13/48 in a study of Hauraki in-ground gold ore-roasting kilns.

The visual interest of the nineteenth-century Golden Cross sites will be enhanced by their close proximity to the extensive modern Golden Cross operation. An added value of the early remains is the contrast they present to the large-scale mining operation which had just occurred. Modern mining has bequeathed new sites at Golden Cross (Randy MacGillivray, pers. comm. et seq.). Joint project partners, Coeur Gold New Zealand Limited and Viking Mining Limited, have recognised the heritage value of the primary crusher foundations, the SAG (semi-autogenous grinder) mill foundations and the ball mill foundations and have decided to leave them in place. Significant changes to the Golden Cross landscape have been brought about by modern mining operations. These changes are also considered as artefacts of the mine and how it was managed. They include the open pit, which is now for the most part backfilled and vegetated; waste rock stockpiles and the tailings dam embankment which now covers low-lying areas such as the Union Stream Valley; and diversion drains and the rock-lined channel which extends from the tailings lake down to the Waitekauri River.

The project area is presently an open space. However, several areas have been planted in indigenous plants, and planting will continue along the riparian corridors which are being established. This will link the existing indigenous forest along the Waitekauri River to the recent planting Coeur and Viking have carried out. The margin of the tailings lake is to be planted with wetland species.

The public will be able to view the project area, probably after October 2001. The Golden Cross Road will end in the area presently known as the Contractors' Platform, where cars will park and where rest-area facilities will be provided. A walking track, with interpretation signage along the route, will pass the mill area, go around the circumference of the tailings lake and up to the reinstated Maratoto walking track along the open pit high wall.


Many thanks to Dr Neville Ritchie (Department of Conservation, Hamilton) for comments on the draft, and to Randy MacGillivray (Coeur Gold New Zealand) for additional information on Golden Cross.


Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives. 1895. C.-2.

Bell, J.M. 1912. "The Hauraki Goldfields, N.Z." in Transactions of the Australasian Institute of Mining Engineers, Volume XV1. Published by the Institute, Melbourne. Pages 1 - 24

Bell, J.M. and C.Fraser. 1912. The Geology of the Waihi-Tairua Subdivision, Hauraki Division. Bulletin Number 15. Government Printer, Wellington.

Cyprus Minerals New Zealand Ltd. 1987. Golden Cross Mining Project: Environmental Impact Report.

Davies, K. 1998. Treasure Mountain: The Story Of Golden Cross. A "Corporate Book" by Pelican Pictures. Printed by Panprint, Auckland.

Downey, J.F. 1935. Gold-Mines of the Hauraki District, New Zealand. Government Printer, Wellington.

Golden Cross Technical Report No. 14. 1987. "Archaeological Site Survey and Pre-European Settlement". Prepared by Nicholas Twohill on contract to Applied Geology Associates Limited for Cyprus Minerals New Zealand Limited.

Moore, P.R. and N.A. Ritchie. 1998. "In-Ground Ore-Roasting Kilns on the Hauraki Goldfield, Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand". Australasian Historical Archaeology: pp 45-59.

Park, J. 1897. The Geology and Veins of the Hauraki Goldfields, N.Z. Published by the New Zealand Institute of Mining Engineers, Auckland.

Ritchie, N.A. 1990. A Survey of Historic Mining Sites in the Thames and Ohinemuri Areas of the Hauraki Goldfield. Prepared for the Department of Conservation, Hamilton.

The Cyclopedia of New Zealand. 1902. Volume 2 - Auckland Provincial District. Published by the Cyclopaedia Company Limited, Christchurch.

The New Zealand Mining Handbook 1906. Government Printer, Wellington.

Twohill, N.F. 1997. Archaeological Values in the Golden Cross Mining Licence Area - To the West of the Main Site Access Road. A report prepared for Coeur Gold New Zealand Limited, Waihi.

Fig. 1. A north and partial view in 1997 of the tramway (Site T13/47)

Fig. 1. A north and partial view in 1997 of the tramway (Site T13/47) which ran between hoppers which once stood near the Number 1 and 2 shafts. The floor of the side-cutting is approximately 3.4 metres wide.

Golden Cross Mine Sites
Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 45, September 2001
Fig. 1. A north and partial view in 1997 of the tramway (Site T13/47)
Fig. 2. Looking northwest to Number 1 shaft-head (T13/54)

Fig. 2. Looking northwest. A view in 1997 of the Number 1 shaft-head (T13/54) and the adjoining hoisting works site (right).

Golden Cross Mine Sites
Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 45, September 2001
Fig. 2. Looking northwest to Number 1 shaft-head (T13/54)
Fig. 3. Looking north. Two intact tipheads at the north end of mullock dump T13/57

Fig. 3. Looking north. Two intact tipheads at the north end of mullock dump T13/57 in 1997.

Golden Cross Mine Sites
Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 45, September 2001
Fig. 3. Looking north. Two intact tipheads at the north end of mullock...
Fig. 4. Looking northeast

Fig. 4. Looking northeast. A safety fence surrounded the shaft on Site T13/63 in 1997.

Golden Cross Mine Sites
Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 45, September 2001
Fig. 4. Looking northeast
The Golden Cross Hotel (later moved to Waihi) was built in 1899

The Golden Cross Hotel (later moved to Waihi) was built in 1899 - a two storey wooden building of 17 rooms, the dining room catering for 50 guests.(Photograph from Staples' Collection)

Golden Cross Mine Sites
Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 45, September 2001
The Golden Cross Hotel (later moved to Waihi) was built in 1899