Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 1, June 1964
(With Notes from Cyclopedia 1900 and various Mining Reports) [editor not given - E]
At Waikino, on the Paeroa – Waihi Highway, a winding, hilly road branches off for some five miles to the north, where once flourished the mining town of Waitekauri. Little remains to-day to tell the story of golden activities, for one is greeted only by comfortable homesteads on smiling farms, but no town at all. Yet there it once nestled among the bush-clad hills by which it was almost entirely surrounded.
It is a matter for wonder that such fastnesses were penetrated so early in the search for gold, but Prospectors were persistent men, and Surveyors were often accompanied by Geologists. Because the dire need at the time was so great, every small clue was followed with almost fanatic zeal. Ohinemuri had been explored long before the official opening of the field. Men had approached Waitekauri from Paeroa via Treanor’s Road, from Mackaytown and from Maratoto and Komata, before the route from Waikino was visualized.
The late Mr. John McCombie reported that while the pegging mania was raging at Karangahake in 1875, a small party of men led by a Prospector named Leahy, wended its way in the direction of Waitekauri, where several claims were marked off. These were subsequently amalgamated and formed what was known as the old Waitekauri mine. McCombie remarks that the place was so completely surrounded by an almost impenetrable forest that but few men cared to encounter the hardships which attended a visit inspection of a prospecting tour.
Shortly after Leahy and party started operations, a bridle track was cut by the Government, from Paeroa via what is now the Cemetery road [Old Reservoir Rd ? - E], to the Waitekauri mine. A good deal of public attention was attracted when it became known that Leahy’s Reef contained gold in payable quantities. It ranged from 5 ft. to 25 ft. in thickness and the prospectors very soon demonstrated its value by intersecting it at different points with cross-cuts put in at depths ranging from 15 ft. to 200 ft. beneath the surface. This as a preliminary work, was all very well in its way, but the "sinews of war" were required to get the needed machinery to the site. After its arrival at Paeroa by boat this was all conveyed by Mr. Nat Dickey and his eight-horse teams before the roads were finished. Arrangements had been made with Messrs. Brown and Bleazard for the erection of a 40-stamp Battery. This work was placed in the hands of Mr. E.M. Corbett who, notwithstanding many difficulties, turned out a plant which for general efficiency, was one of the best in the country. The consequence was that huts and shanties dotted here and there in the bush gave way to the nucleus of a little township.
For some time after the opening of the mill in 1876, the average yield was a good one, but the returns gradually fell off until it was deemed advisable to suspend operations and the mine was then cut up into blocks, these being readily taken up and worked on the tribute system. From the very outset parties of tributers did remarkably well, notably Butler and party and Hollis and party who took bullion to the value of £20,000 out of their respective tributes within a period of 18 months. The lode from which the rich results were obtained measured about 4 ft. in thickness. It was running almost parallel with the west of the main lode and in some places the ore was peppered with precious metals.
One parcel of several hundred tons yielded bullion to the value of £30 a ton and at that time the percentage of extraction by the old system of wet crushing and amalgamation was a low one. Eventually the blocks of ore opened up above the old levels were worked out. For some unexplained reason success did not attend efforts made to open up new blocks and after many ups and downs the mine gradually drifted out of the ranks of gold producers. Yet this was not the end for the operations of a company formed later, proved that gold was still there.
The "Welcome" mine, managed by F. Rooney for 14 years, and the "Young N.Z." mine, ranked next in importance to the "Waitekauri". At an early stage the show was so good that Mr. H.C. Wick built a nine stamp mill on the Mungakara Creek [Mangakara - E] about 1½ miles from the workings. Both properties furnished the Battery with considerable tonnage of ore yielding high returns, but money was not available for further exploitation and operations were suspended. The property remained unoccupied until taken up the Maoriland Company who opened up by means of comparatively low levels with a fair measure of success.
Waitekauri experienced a rebirth after the formation of new Gold Mining Companies in the nineties. The "Grace Darling Company" (44 acres) was formed in 1894 with a nominal capital of £30,000 in shares of 10/-. The Legal Manager was Mr. J.B. Sheath and the Mine Manager, Mr. Sam Draffin. The mine was worked by adit levels and drives and there was an abundance of backs and a good supply of water. A mill with 10 head of stampers was erected and excellent stone obtained.
The Waitekauri Gold Mining Company Ltd. was registered in London in 1895. Its capital was £150,000 in £1 shares, 143,000 of which were privately subscribed, the majority of the shares being held in England and 10 to 15 thousand in N.Z. The property consisted of 1,710 acres which included 1,400 acres of the Golden Cross section, 10 acres of the old Waitekauri Mine which still contained large reefs of gold and silver and 300 acres of the Komata Section. There were Batteries, Water-races, a Cyanide department, Assay Offices, etc. all under the management of the newly formed Company. Two shafts were sunk in the Golden Cross Section both of which were equipped with winding and pumping engines. The Battery with 10 heads of stampers had been started several years previously, but now a tramway 5 miles in length connected the mine with Waitekauri Battery which was started in 1896. A low level adit 6,200 ft. in length connected with the 400 ft. level at the Gold Cross Mine. Another low level tunnel driven from the Grace Darling Creek connected with the Te-O-Maramara [Te Ao Marama - E] Mine of the Komata Section (4,300 ft.). There were from 350 to 400 men employed in connection with the Waitekauri Mine and Batteries and in 1900 over a quarter of a millions pounds worth of gold had been obtained.
The Te-O-Maramara [Te Ao Marama - E] Reef at Komata was located by Mr. Robert Worth of Waihi and after some development was sold to a syndicate for a fairly good sum. This afterwards became the Komata Reefs Gold Mining Company and a lot of gold was won on the Komata field.
WAITEKAURI MINING OFFICIALS in 1900
|E.M. Corbett||one of the best known mining engineers|
|F.Rooney||Mine Manager, Waitekauri Gold Mining Company|
|W. McLennan||Battery Superintendent, Waitekauri G.M. Company|
|A.S. Thorburn||Former Manager of the "British Empire Gold Mine"|
|W.H. Christie||Mine Manager (Waitekauri Ltd)|
|B.J. McLean||Mine Manger (Te-O-Maramara)|
|John Murray||Accountant, Cashier, Storekeeper|
|Robert Clarke||Battery Superintendent|
|Henry Dance||Battery Foreman|
|T. Hunter, A.B. Watson, E. Brown||Shift Boss|
|R.B. Kidd||Battery Foreman, Golden Cross|
|R. Hedge||Shift Boss|
|L.B. Touch||Foreman Carpenter|
|Ralph Heron||Charge of Pumps|
|W.S. Morrin||Superintendent, Golden Cross Battery, and Foreman, Waitekauri Battery|
|J.S. Hope||Battery Manager|
|Kersey Cooper and Wm. and Fred Hollis were earlier managers.|