Gold Miner The New Zealand Goldrush Journal

Volume 4 (2020)



MARATOTO SILVER AND GOLD MINING

by Kae Lewis

EARLY HISTORY

The Rush to Maratoto

The Prospector's claim pegged out by Richard McBrinn

From Thames Advertiser 7 October 1887:

Thomas Snell V. Richard McBrinn: Case before H.A. Stratford, Warden's Court, Thames.
The ground had been marked out on the 10 August 1887. However the area marked out by Richard McBrinn contained more than the allowable 30 acres. Thomas Snell had applied for the surplus ground to be granted to him. Snell's party consists of ten men (miner's rights produced).

Peter Christian Hansen deposed: I am a mine manager; I know the license holding applied for by McBrinn; I am camped on the ground; I know the pegs, and showed them to Mr Smith, the surveyor.

From Thames Star 12 Oct 1887:

Hikutaia Goldfield: Mr Jackson, surveyor, found yesterday that the area of the prospectors' claim at Maratoto was 61 acres.

From Thames Star 24 October 1887:

The adjourned application of Mr Richard McBrinn, the well-known prospector of Hikutaia for a licenced holding of 30 acres was dealt with. Granted.

Other miners converge on Maratoto from both the Thames and Ohinermuri Goldfields

A considerable number of people left here (Thames) on Saturday afternoon and during yesterday for Hikutaia, in order to be in the vicinity of Mr McBrinn's licensed holding immediately on the granting of his application by the Warden at noon today. It is said that some of those who proceeded there had people waiting at each corner of McBrinn's ground to put in the necessary pegs at 12 o'clock and mark out the surplus area which was within it. The entire 61 acres had been protected by the crown until the license was granted today.

From New Zealand Herald 5 May 1888:

There are quite a number of prospectors on the creeks between Maratoto and Waitekauri, and some very fair prospects have been obtained. It is not generally known that Waitekauri and Maratoto are on the same line of country, and are only separated by a hill and the Komata Creek. The reefs in Maratoto are believed by many to be identical with those of Waitekauri, and by the finds between the two places, it would appear that before long, the two places will become one.

flooded mine
Map showing the location of Maratoto on the eastern edge of the Hauraki Plains, Waikato, in relation to the Waitekauri and Ohinemuri Goldfields. Miners often walked between Waitekauri and Maratoto, prospecting all the way.
Source: NZ TOPO MAPS
Click to enlarge the photo.

THE PRINCIPAL MINES AT MARATOTO

ON THE McBRINN'S CREEK:

PAY ROCK: Another early mine opened at the same time as McBrinn's. H. H. Adams was one of the very early directors of this company.

LIVERPOOL: A third smaller mine further down the gully but it was never very profitable.


UP THE NEXT GULLY, CALLED MARATOTO OR SILVER STREAM GULLY:

JULIA: Rich in silver, it was discovered by Mr Pennell who was a roadman working on the Waitekauri Track. It was taken over by the Maratoto Company eventually.

SILVER QUEEN: The Silver Queen mine was registered in the Thames Warden's Court on 22 May 1889 by Henry Solomon MEYERS, Alfred ANDERSON and Thomas McDONOUGH. The mine had a reef 6-7 feet wide, of mainly silver.

CAMOOLA: About 100 feet from Silver Queen. It had a wide quartz reef but the silver content was patchy.

These three claims were eventually mined by the Ohinemuri Gold and Silver Mines Company. By then, the price of silver had fallen precipitously to 1/- an oz, and it was no longer profitable to mine. Although they also found some gold, it was not enough to compensate them for the cost of the development of the mine and it was abandoned.

ST HIPPO: It was discovered before 1880 up on the saddle about 3000 feet from the Camoola. Although the company built a long aerial tramway and a 20 head stamping battery, it was never profitable.

PEEL'S CREEK, later known as UNITED: it was situated at the south end of the Maratoto reef, about three miles from Komata. The drive was 1500 feet long and produced a lot of gold.

KOMATA: Worked by the Komata Mining Company and produced about 1 million of gold.

The Silver Queen Mine

The Silver Queen mine was registered in the Thames Warden's Court on 22 May 1889 by Henry Solomon MEYERS, Alfred ANDERSON and Thomas McDONOUGH. The mine had a reef 6-7 feet wide, of mainly silver.

Thames Advertiser 23 August 1888:

A sample of ore from the Silver Queen mine, Maratoto, which is intended for the Melbourne exhibition, was on view yesterday at Mr McGregor's auction room. It is valued at 80 per ton according to the assay. The lumps of quartz or ore were examined by a great many people during the day, and different opinions expressed as to its appearance. It certainly looks like ordinary quartz, with nothing showing on its surface, but being brought in contact with the blow pipe flame, soon demonstrated its value, as numerous little globules of silver were plainly visible. If this sample is treated at the exhibition (if equipment is available), it should give a good impression as to the value of our mineral load.

Thames Advertiser 23 October 1889:

Silver Queen: Two men are at present at work in this mine, and are getting out some very good ore.

Waikato Times: 5 April 1890:

The Silver Queen mine was recently bought by a syndicate from the Fagan's estate. They have recommenced work under the management of Mr Thomas Corbett who has a small staff employed.

New Zealand Herald: 22 August 1890:

Protection was granted as follows: T. McDonough Quayle, Maratoto, two months.

Silver Queen Mine as it is today (2020)

The following photos were taken by Harley Ploughman during his recent (2020) exploration of the Silver Queen Mine at Maratoto.

Silver Queen mine
The Silver Queen Mine at Maratoto, about 60 meters in. The dark line on the side wall of the tunnel shows the level that the water once sat, after the entrance had collapsed and sealed up the mine.

Photo by Harley Ploughman.
Click to enlarge the photo.
tram
A tram used to haul the quartz ore out of the mine and up to the stamping battery outside. The tram had wooden sides and is surprisingly large.
Photo by Harley Ploughman.
Click to enlarge the photo.

There is a tram rail down the centre of the mine tunnels (above). This was used to haul the quartz ore out of the mine and into the stamping battery on the surface. Sometimes these trams were hauled out by the miners themselves dragging them by hand. This large tram would have been heavy when fully loaded with quartz rock and was probably hauled by horse or engine (steam or diesel in later days). The red-colouring in the rocks and on the floor is rust, indicating the iron leaching from the surrounding rocks.

The gold-coloured rocks on the roof are iron pyrites (known to the miners as 'fools gold') and quite worthless. Fool's gold is made up of a cluster of crystals whereas real gold has smooth rounded edges. Gold and silver in these mines was encased in quartz rock and could only be extracted by breaking up the quartz with a stamping battery.

tram wheels
Abandoned tram wheels in one of the mine's galleries. The trams hauled heavy loads of ore along rough rails which placed a huge strain on axles and wheels. Much maintenance and repair was required to keep them running.
Photo by Harley Ploughman.
Click to enlarge the photo.


Flooded tunnel
The abandoned and flooded Silver Queen Mine at Maratoto. The poles along the wall on the left hand side would be for electric lighting and/or telephones orginally. The mine was in use right up to 1974, so these poles would have dated from this modern era.
Photo by Harley Ploughman.
Click to enlarge the photo.
flooded mine
The flooded tunnel of the Silver Queen Mine. A pit prop made from sawn hard-wood timber (seen on the left hand side of the photo) will hold the tunnel roof up until the wood eventually rots away. Then the roof of the abandoned mine becomes very unstable.
Photo by Harley Ploughman.
Click to enlarge the photo.

Flooding of the mines, as seen above, was a continual problem and often led to the decision to abandon a mine. During the 1887 - 1920s era, they did not have efficient water pumps to drain mines. Even in the 1940-70s era, when diesel pumps became available, the water eventually overcame them as they mined down to the lower levels. Fuel to run the pumps became an added expense which eventually doomed the mine.

timbering in a tunnel
A long drive into the Silver Queen mine, most likely built to provide access to a quartz reef and enable extraction of the ore, perhaps by means of a tramway.
Photo by Harley Ploughman.
Click to enlarge the photo.
stoping
A large cavity like this is usually formed in order to extract a very wide and very rich quartz reef. The pillar of rock on the right side of the photo is a stone stope. All the surrounding quartz was removed, leaving a pillar of native rock to support the roof. This technique is called 'stoping' and was widely used on the Thames and Maratoto goldfields.
Photo by Harley Ploughman.
Click to enlarge the photo.

An excessive amount of timbering was required through this section of crumbling rock, to stabilise the roof in the above left hand photo. There is much evidence of rock falls. Because the miners needed many timber props for mining, they often found themselves in the bush, felling trees and dressing the timber, all with hand-saws. There were a number of sawmills operating on the Thames, Coromandel and Ohinemuri goldfields from the earliest times but it was not always affordable for these miners to buy what timber they needed. In a remote location like Maratoto, transport was an added expense.

mine shaft
Abseiling (rappelling) down a mine shaft in the Silver Queen mine.
Photo by Harley Ploughman.
Click to enlarge the photo.

A wide shaft like the one in the above photo was usually built to follow a downward leader of quartz to its origin. The lower they could follow a reef downwards, they richer it was likely to be. Once they found the quartz reef, they removed it all to the surface for extraction ('reduction') in the stamping battery, leaving these wide cavities behind.

If a shaft was being built for access alone, it would have been built only wide enough to allow a man to work and remove the rubble. They often constructed a narrow shaft by following a narrow quartz leader, in the hope of hitting the mother lode further down.

Once a lode was located, they would then build a horizontal drive to meet it, in order to be able to extract the quartz ore using their tramways. It was too much work to try to lift the quartz out of the top of the shaft. A shaft was almost never used for that purpose unless there was no horizontal access to the reef. Horizontal access was only possible if the mine was inside a hill. If it was on a flat, or on a wide plateau, they would have no choice but to haul the ore up the shaft.

Silver Queen entrance
Silver miner, C. Tarry at the portal of No 3 level of the Silver Queen mine when it was being re-worked in 1974.
From Bay of Plenty Times 11 Jan 1974.
Click to enlarge the photo.

The Early Miners of Maratoto

Number Name of Claim Holder Name of Claim Date Location Area Neighbouring Claims
Richard McBRINN Maratoto Prospector's claim October 1887 Maratoto 30 acres McBrinn's Creek (both sides)
54 William Green SCOTT Silver Prince 17 April 1889 Maratoto 22 acres Bounded northerly by Silver King and Whakaumokau, easterly and southerly by unoccupied ground and westerly by Silver Queen.
98 Henry Solomon MEYERS
Alfred ANDERSON
Thomas McDONOUGH
Silver Queen 22 May 1889 Maratoto 29 acres Bounded northerly by the Emperor and William, easterly by the Silver King and Silver Prince, on the south by the Silver Crown and on the other side by supposed unoccupied ground.
105 Hugh BUTLER
William FRASER
Nil Desperandum 22 May 1889 Maratoto 6 acres Bounded northerly by Surplus No 3, easterly by the Exchange and Globe, westerly by the Shamrock and southerly by supposed unoccupied ground.
122 Charles Edward McDONALD Ruapuke 22 May 1889 Maratoto 30 acres Bounded northerly by the Silver Crown, southerly by the Silver Leaf, and on the other sides by supposed unoccupied ground
139 Andrew Lumsden GIBB Silver King 22 May 1889 Maratoto 11 acres Bounded easterly by the Whakamoehau, southerly by the Silver Prince and Silver Queen, and north by unoccupied ground.
140 William WOOD
Daniel Birrell McDONALD
Silver Crown 22 May 1889 Maratoto 26 acres Bounded northerly by the Silver Queen, southerly by the Ruapuke and on the other sides by supposed unoccupied ground.
173 Michael FALLON Hikutaia 22 May 1889 Maratoto 17 acres Bounded northerly by the Sydney and on the other side by supposed unoccupied ground.
Robert BLAIR Kowhai 2 November 1887 Maratoto 10 men's ground Situated at Peel Creek, bounded on the South by the Tawa and on the North by Little and Good Claims.
Roderick Ross McGREGOR Globe 18 May 1888 Maratoto 30 Acres Bounded on the N.E. by Australian Peer and Midas, on the N.W. by the Exchange, on the S.E. by supposed unoccupied ground.
Sources:

The Maratoto Gold and Silver Mining Company

Waikato Times 17 April 1888:

The Maratoto Gold and Silver Mining Company: Sydney, April 16. The prospectus of the Broken Hill Maratoto Silver and Gold Mining Company has been issued with capital of 85,000. The object of the company is to purchase and develop a block of country near Hikutaia in the Thames district.

New Zealand Herald 23 April 1888:

Maratoto: The latest authentic information from Maratoto Prospector's claim is that very rich ore is coming to hand from B drive, the one going south, which is now in a distance of 130 feet. The vein carrying rich ore has opened out to a width of about 2.5 feet, and is really looking well.

Waikato Times: 26 July 1888:

Maratoto is keeping very quiet. The roads are so bad that it is impossible to pack ore down, and as yet no plant (stamping battery -Ed) has been erected. The summer will put a different aspect on affairs. About 40 hands are employed.

New Zealand Herald 11 September 1888:

The Maratoto Road is now partly made, and the balance of the county loan would take it to Whangamata.

Thames Advertiser 29 October 1888:

Maratoto Gold and Silver M. Co: The manager of this mine reports splendid ore coming from the stopes over the B drive, where there is every appearance of a large and very rich block of ground. Mr Rhodes B.N.E., Paeroa assayed a sample last Saturday which gave over 3000 oz of bullion to the ton, and there is a ton of such stuff on hand. The paddock (an above ground storage place for quartz - Ed) contains over 40 tons of very carefully selected general stuff, with assays from the bulk showing it to be worth over 50 per ton. There is only a leading stope taken along about 25 feet over the B drive, and the roof shows from a foot to 18 inches of very rich ore all the way. A rise is being put in the centre of the block, which has reached a height of 15 feet. The lode in this rise is very irregular, and runs from a few inches to a foot. It produces boxes full of the rich blue chloride every shift.

Thames Advertiser 4 September 1889:

Maratoto has been the most disappointing of any of the finds on this peninsula. When discovered, the reef showed where first struck, a very rich vein of rubble; but unfortunately, it was only a patch which pinched out as the reef ran down into hard country. The manager, Mr J. H. Moore has done a great deal of work on the Maratoto Company's holding, but only to prove unfortunately that there is not much ore of any value in the property. They intend to construct a small plant to treat 100 tons of ore they have on hand.

The Maratoto Company's holding is the only claim which has done any work worth speaking of for a considerable time. In other parts of the district, the reefs are too poor to warrant much expenditure of money. Nearly all the holdings taken up on the first rush have since been forfeited (abandoned -Ed). The Australian gentlemen who purchased the Maratoto Prospector's (McBrinn's) property deserve better success. It is to be regretted that the hopes raised on its discovery were not fulfilled, for through their manager, they have shown a care in expenditure not often seen in our goldfields. They first thoroughly prospected their holding so they could definitely know what quantity of ore they had on hand.

It is probable that this district will be abandoned unless something rich is struck which I think may hardly be expected on the Maratoto side of the divide.

Thames Advertiser 23 October 1889:

The work in connection with the proposed machinery at Maratoto is in progress. Twelve men are presently making a road from the Junction to the machine site, and sawyers are busy cutting timber for the machine house. By the time the road is made, the building will be up and the installation of the machinery will be under way. It is intended to have two of the MacKay's pans and one settler, the motive power will be a 4 foot Pelton wheel. Messrs Price Brothers (Thames) are making the machinery. The water will be taken from McBrinn's Creek, and give a fall of 150 feet. The pipe (about 150 feet) for the wheel has been obtained from the old Martha Battery at Waihi. This mill will be connected with the mine by a tramway for a quarter of a mile in length, to transport the quartz. The mine is well opened up, and about 150 tons of good payable ore are in the paddock awaiting treatment, as soon as the mill is ready. The work is under the direction of Mr J. H. Moore, the Company's manager.

New Zealand Herald: 25 March 1890:

Mr Anderson received a telegram from Mr H. Moore, manager of the Maratoto, as follows: 'Show in mine continues good. Everything progressing satisfactorily.'

Waikato Times: 5 April 1890:

All the machinery for the Maratoto Goldmining Company is now delivered on the ground, the last load arriving last Friday. The pans (2) and settler are in position, and everything is ready for a start. Work on the reduction (crushing) will begin about next Monday. Mr Moore says that he has about 6 months' crushing already broken out (of the mine), and that breaking out is still proceeding. The ore being found at present is of very fair quality, and the economy of the plant is such that it will most certainly prove a dividend payer.

New Zealand Herald: 1 July 1890:

Maratoto: Mr J.H. Moore arrived from Maratoto this evening with 1730 oz of retorted bullion (mixed silver and gold), obtained from 50 tons of second-class ore and about half a ton of first-class ore. The bullion banked last month fetched 8s per ounce (oz); but Mr Moore is of the opinion that the present parcel will fetch a higher price. Operations at the mine during the past month have been somewhat slack, owing to miners having been employed in corduroying the sledge track (with logs) leading from the mine to the battery, the wet weather having made it very soft.

Waikato Times: 1 July 1890:

At Matatoto, Mr Moore will clean up on Saturday or Monday, and expects over a thousand ounces. The bullion, however, is of very poor quality.

ingot
An ingot of Maratoto bullion from the collection of Harold Sparke. It was assayed at about 75% silver to 25% gold. The quality, and therefore the price realised for bullion depends on the ratio of silver:gold in the ore. The higher the silver content, the lower the quality and therefore the price. Most Maratoto bullion had a very high silver content.
Click to enlarge the photo.

New Zealand Herald: 30 July 1890:

Maratoto mine had a good yield of 1650 oz silver bullion from 50 tons of ore.

New Zealand Herald: 2 November 1898:

MARATOTO GOLD MINING COMPANY: A CRUSHING PLANT TO BE ERECTED: Preliminary arrangements are at present being conducted to purchase a battery. It is proposed to construct a 10-stamper battery, with cyanide vats etc., and at present some of the directors are inspecting eligible plants that are for sale.

Thames Advertiser: 4 November 1898:

MARATOTO: The manager reports: Operations in this mine for the past week have been confined to the Payrock section, and on Thursday last, we holed through to the surface. The total distance from the back of the level from which we started, is 50ft. This rise has opened up a valuable block of ground, as the reef would average about 3ft in width right through and I consider the ore to be worth between 2 and 3 per ton. We have now commenced cutting out a chamber preparatory to sinking a winze (shaft -Ed) below this level to test the reef on its downward continuation.

Thames Advertiser: 4 November 1898:

MARATOTO: At a meeting of the Maratoto shareholders, specifications for a 15 stamper battery with cyanide accessories were approved. This battery is to be constructed by a syndicate who are to receive 40,000 shares in exchange for their outlay.

New Zealand Herald: 23 Feb 1899:

Satisfactory progress is being made with the works in connection with the Maratoto Gold Mining Company's property. The battery, boiler and a portion of the engine have been dispatched from Auckland in the scow 'Talisman'. The arrangements are that Captain Smith will land the machinery at Hikukaia, on the bank of the main river, and that Mr Ricketts of Thames who had contracted the work, will convey them to within 60 yards of the machine site. As soon as the road is completed for the remainder of the distance to the mill site, the machinery will be moved in and construction commenced. The excavation of the battery site is well under way, and the sawyers are at present cutting timber for the battery buildings and water race. The mine is looking well, the development work proceeding to plan. It is anticipated that before the half year is out, a 15-stamper battery will have started permanent crushing operations. The vats and cyanide accessories are being constructed by Messrs Price Brothers at the Thames.

Steam boiler
A large boiler lies abandoned in the bush at Maratoto today (2020). Since we know this Union Works boiler from San Francisco, USA was manufactured before 1901 (see the note below*), this may be the boiler installed at the Maratoto mill in Feb 1899.
Photo by Harley Ploughman.
Click to enlarge the photo.
Furnace Union Iron Works S.F.
An old furnace for a steam boiler is being slowing taken back by the bush.
Photo by Harley Ploughman.
Click to enlarge the photo.

*The Union Iron Works in San Francisco, California, USA has been in operation since 1849 and is still operating today. Since the Union Iron Works changed its name in 1902, this boiler must have been built before that date. It would therefore have been in use to power the stamping battery in the earliest era of the mine (1887 - 1902)

An expensive imported boiler such as this indicates that there were some wealthy investors financing the mine at the time, considering that there were two foundries in Thames producing boilers at the time.

Thames Star 22 March 1899:

Maratoto: Mr R. McDonald Scott, legal manager of the Maratoto, this afternoon received the following wire from Mr H. Sheehan, mine manager:- 'Good gold at No 1 level in the Pay Rock reef, which is 4 feet wide.

New Zealand Herald 18 April 1899:

Maratoto G.M. Co.: An important find. Messrs J. McCombie and H.H. Adams returned yesterday from visiting the Maratoto mine. Prior to their visit, the mine sub-manager (Mr H. Sheehan) had been driving the hanging wall at No 1 level, and the work resulted in rich stone being found, samples of which were shown at the company's local office yesterday. There are about 100 ft of backs overhead, and the run of rich ore has already proved to be 30 feet in length, with gold showing in the face going southwards. The lode varies from 1ft to 4ft in thickness, and what are said to be general samples taken from the paddocks giving exceptionally high assays, with some of the assay returns being as high as 95 16s 9d per ton. The quartz was taken from what was formerly known as the Payrock mine, which was worked by Goldsworthy and party. Two English companies had options over the property, and they drove a level over McBrinn's Creek, 300ft on the footwall portion of the lode but found no payable ore. They threw their options up. When the present company started operations, they drove on the hanging wall for about 5 feet when they struck the chute of payable ore.

quartz
Typical quartz rock taken from mines all over the Thames goldfields, in this case from Kuranui. The miners could seldom actually see gold or silver veins in the quartz. They usually had to crush the quartz and extract the gold with mercury before they could ascertain the gold content. They tested small samples of the quartz by hand crushing it with a hammer, and separating the gold with a gold pan.
Click to enlarge the photo.

Electricity comes to Maratoto

Thames Star: 26 September 1898:

The Golden Cross Lode, between Waitekauri and Maratoto: The motive power employed for carrying on sinking operations will be electricity, generated at Maratoto and transmitted by suitable overhead cables for a distance of some two miles to the mine, where a winding engine capable of lifting from a depth of 1000 ft is being used. The original source of power for these works is, we understand, from extensive water-rights at the junction of the Maratoto and Whakamoehau streams. At this point, a generating station, 30ft x 18ft for the dynamos and Pelton wheel have been constructed and the dynamos placed in position. Good progress has also been made with the erection of the connecting cable, with about half a mile already stretched. It should be only a matter of a few weeks before sinking operations will be resumed. This is, we believe the first machinery of its kind applied to mining on these goldfields, and the progress and ultimate result is causing great interest throughout the mining community. It opens up a method by which water power at a distance from a mining property may be utilised for generating electrical power that can be transmitted to and used at a works several miles distant. The Waitekauri Cross Co certainly shows great enterprise in embarking on a project which, although little known here, cannot fail to be greatly utilised when its capabilities for our own particular forms of mining are better known.

Maratoto 1900
View of the Maratoto Bluffs, on the road to the property of the Maratoto Company and Hikutare Syndicate. The photo was taken in 1900.
Source: Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections NZG-19000804-211-1
Click to enlarge the photo.

New Zealand Herald 1 May 1899:

The Maratoto Gold Mining Company reopens:

Attention was first publicly drawn to the district years ago by the discovery of gold by the late Richard McBrinn, and the propects were so bright that the property was purchased by an Australian syndicate, and formed into a company. Mining operations were then carried on on a large scale, with some very rich ore having been discovered. A pan plant, with two pans and a settler was constructed, and that process was used for about 18 months, during which time it is estimated that fully 12,000 worth of bullion was obtained, though owing to the old style of working, the percentage of extraction was comparatively low. The costs were also high, because the system of handling and treating the ore was very crude. As the ore was broken in the mine, it was passed through a screen, so that all the small pieces that went through the grating were forwarded to the mill for treatment. The coarser pieces were deposited on the tips, and are there awaiting treatment at the hands of the Maratoto Gold Mining Company. These tips contain large quantities of favourable-looking stone; in fact there must be fully 2000 tons lying in the paddocks. Average samples were taken from the tip, and Mr McCombie informed me that they yielded assay results of over 2 per ton, so that the company have a valuable asset in these tips. The reason for screening the ore was that the old company had no stone-breaker, stamps or any means of reducing the coarse stone prior to pan treatment.

However, after a time, the company ceased mining operations, and the mine was sold. (The mine was bought and sold several times until) it was purchased by Messrs Walker and McLean who formed the company now working the mine. The area of the property is 87 acres. There are two known distinct gold and silver-bearing lodes running through the full length of the property, namely the Maratoto and the Payrock, which run parallel to each other and are located about 500 feet apart, the Maratoto dipping to the westward and the Payrock eastward. It is reasonable to assume that deep mining will prove a convergence of the two lodes until they form one large and strong body of stone. Although the best gold in the early days of the mine was got from the Maratoto lode, the new owners of the Maratoto decided to prove the capabilities of the Payroll lode. Originally the Payrock lode was opened up by Mr W. Goldworthy (the present manager of the Talisman mine at Karangahake) and party, who proved it to be a payable ore body for a length of about 250 feet on the south side of McBrinn's Creek. However, there were no means of treating the ore locally, and the stone was not rich enough for wholesale shipment. Consequently the ore broken out was, and is now being stacked outside the mine.

Goldworthy and party did most of their work on the south side of McBrinn's Creek. When Mr Goldsworthy took over as managing director, he took the bearings of the lode from the southern adit and concluded the payable ore body on the south side of the creek was still intact on the hanging wall side of the main body, north of the stream. A contract was let for the extension of the level another 100 feet, and then driving was resumed. Not more than 5 feet was negotiated when a rich chute of ore was struck, and this has every appearance of permanency. When the good stone was intersected, the manager decided to drive back on the hanging wall side to ascertain its value southwards. At the time of my visit yesterday, a length of 30 ft had been driven in this direction, and a good run of ore was found. To determine the extent and value of the discovery both overhead and underfoot, rising and sinking were started. The winze has reached a depth of about 10 feet, and one feature of note is that the rich ore is being carried down, while the lode appears to be getting stronger at the point of contact. The ore body was standing vertical but it now seems to be changing and is dipping about two feet in six feet northward. The chute of rich ore has already been proved for a length of 30 ft, while there is no doubt it extends about 270 ft further southwards. In the winze and the rise, the reef is about 4 feet wide, composed of crystalline and honeycombed quartz, the richest portions being heavily impregnated with manganese oxide and silver chloride. The assay tests have shown the ore to be highly payable.

Maratoto Map
A map of Maratoto goldfield from Maratoto Stream to McBrinn's Stream. The Maratoto Peak is at the top, marked at 386m. Sparkey lived in a hut beside the Maratoto stream, just south of the Maratoto Peak. This was where the main stamping battery was located.
Source: Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections NZG-19000804-211-1
Click to enlarge the photo.

New Zealand Herald 10 August 1899:

MINING AT MARATOTO: A PROMISING DISTRICT: There is every probability that mining in the Maratoto district will be very brisk by the time the summer arrives. The Maratoto Company are proceeding with development work, and the results so far have been quite up to expectations. The Hikutaia Gold Syndicate are hopeful of obtaining further capital to enable the important and extensive development initiated to be continued, while the Khartoum and Moana properties which have recently been floated, will also be worked with a fairly large number of men as the summer approaches. Several other properties have been pegged out in this district (on each side of the Maratoto Mine on McBrinn's Creek) and an endeavour will be made to obtain capital to open up the properties that are expected to carry the Maratoto reef system.

New Zealand Herald 16 March 1900:

The Maratoto Goldmining Company: The development of the lode at No 2 level is in progress, while stoping north and south of No 1 winze is also under way, the lode averaging about 2 feet in thickness here. A contract has been let to rise 90 feet, at 12s per foot, over the back of this level, so as to connect to the tramline now being constructed between the Maratoto and Payrock sections of the mine. About 15 feet of the work has been completed. The stonebreaker, stampers, berdans and tables are now in position at the new mills, and the battery portion of the plant is complete. The melting and oxidising furnaces are about finished and the final touches are being given to the cyanide plant.

remains of the battery
The Consolidated Silver Company's ore treatment plant on the banks of the Maratoto Stream, with the Maratoto peak loomimg over it. The remains of the old stamping battery are on the left hand side. Photo taken about 1965.
Photo by Allan Beck.
Click to enlarge the photo.
ConSilver Mine.
ConSilver's Crushing Mill, Maratoto. Left: Crushing Plant. Center: The small building is the smoko room. Right: Store shed for mining equipment.
Photo taken about 1965.
Photo by Allan Beck.
Click to enlarge the photo.

Thames Star 19 June 1900:

Maratoto: Since starting to break ore for treatment, this company has dealt with 342 tons for a return of 759 7s 8d.

brick

New Zealand Herald 13 April 1904:

Maratoto Gold Mining Company: The Maratoto mine, together with the battery, cyanide vats, buildings and plant has been sold to Mr J. J. CRAIG.

Joseph James Craig owned the Avondale Brick and Pottery Company Ltd in Auckland from 1896 to 1920. His bricks, often labelled J.J. Craig were used to build stamping batteries all over the goldfields.

Harold Sparke,
Prospector, Claim holder and Mine Manager at Maratoto 1940s - 1971.

In the 1940s, Harold Sparke was mine manager for the Golden Spur Mine which is on the right hand side of the Maratoto Stream, on a bald knob at the top of a hill. They operated a five stamps battery using water power from the Maratoto Stream. The drive went in 300 feet and showed good prospects. One assay showed 100 oz of silver and 10 oz of gold per ton but it was patchy and broken down, so was difficult to work profitably.

Sparkey
Harold Sparke alias Sparkes or Sparkey lived in his miner's hut at Maratoto for more than 40 years.
Click to enlarge the photo.
Sparkey
Harold Sparke, Mine Manager at Maratoto in the 1940s- 1960s. He died 25th September 1973 in Waihi. 'He was untouched by the march of progress'
Click to enlarge the photo.

The Consolidated Silver Mining Company of New Zealand at Maratoto

From OLD WORKINGS YIELD WEALTH AGAIN by Ross Annabell.
Daily Post (Wellington), Wednesday May 20 1970.

Silver worth about $30 a lb is beginning to trickle from the Coromandel Hills as the area's first silver mine resumes production after being idle for 40 years.

The Silver Queen Mine looks like being the first substantially New Zealand-owned mining enterprise to 'get off the ground' in the North Island's current mining revival.

It is owned by the Consolidated Silver Mining Company of New Zealand Ltd, formed by two N.Z.-trained mining engineers who for years have made an intensive study of the potential of old abandoned gold and silver mines in the Maratoto area.

Their company, with only 18% of overseas (Australian) capital is a good indication of the 'winds of change' sweeping through the local mining industry. Five years ago, it would have been impossible to float any sort of public mining company in New Zealand, at least without substantial overseas backing. Consolidated has initially raised 426,000 in cash, enough to get a treatment plant up and going only 18 months after incorporation, and has made a further issue of three shares for every five held to provide finance for further exploration.

MINING SCHOOL: The Company was formed by two mining engineers, Douglas Alexander and W.R. (Bill) Sparrow who went to Otago School of Mines after World War II, entered business in Auckland, and in recent years devoted a lot of their spare time to 'poking around' some of the old mining areas at Maratoto. From their spare-time efforts has sprung one of New Zealand's most energetic prospecting companies, with at least six separate investigations underway at present, and more than a million acres under prospecting or mining applications or warrants.

The bush-clad hills in the Maratoto area are riddled with shafts and drives left by old-time miners of the gold era. In those days, they were interested primarily in gold, and many of them virtually kicked aside other metallic ores which are very valuable at today's prices. Mines were even operating high up on nearby ridges, and the ores 'flying-foxed' down into the valleys for gold and silver recovery. The hills all round are pocked with holes tunnelled in quartz reefs carrying such romantic-sounding names as the Golden Spur, the Golden Dawn, the Saint Hippo, the Silver Stream, the Golden Cross.

BUSH-CLAD: They lie in dense, bush-clad andesite hills just below the tall cone-shaped rhyolitic tower of Maratoto, so named because the Maori of old hurled their enemies to bloody death on the rocks at its foot.

All, in their time, produced many thousands of dollars worth of gold and silver. The last operator, Ohinemuri Gold Mines, built a large mill and treatment plant at the old Silver Queen Mine in the 1920s. The company's investigations had revealed rich silver deposits as well as gold in the mine. The plant had just started production when the silver price dropped to about 12c an ounce. There was insufficient gold to make the operations economic, and the mine 'folded up', like many before and since.

Most of the plant was sold, and for 30 years the mine lay abandoned, with the equipment rusting, the shafts overgrown, the drives falling in. With silver prices depressed because of large U.S. stockpiles, there was little chance of a silver revival until 1967 when the Americans freed the silver price, and it began to rise dramatically. Today it fluctuates between $1.90 and $2 an ounce...more than 15 times the price it was when the Silver Queen went broke.

Messrs Alexander and Sparrow decided 18 months ago that the time was ripe to re-open the Silver Queen - and a lot more of the abandoned mines round the Coromandel Range. With an Auckland lawyer, Mr W.N. White, an accountant, Mr F.C. Mills and a Brisbane consultant geologist, Dr W. Layton, they formed Consolidated Silver, a $2 million public company with prospecting and mining warrants over 8900 acres of the Maratoto.

The company moved quickly to re-open the old Silver Queen Mine, construct roads, and erect a treatment plant, under the direction of mining engineer Bill Sparrow, as general manager, and an Australian mining engineer, Mr Don Elliott. Mr Elliott, now State Mining Engineer for Victoria, has been replaced by a New Zealander with 19 years experience in underground tin mining in Malaysia, Mr Alec Cowie. Mr Cowie is another Otago School of Mines graduate who, like most of his fellows, had to go abroad or enter State coal mines to get work during N.Z.'s mining doldrums. He is pleased to be back, and confident of N.Z.'s mining future - 'or I wouldn't be here,' he says.

HAROLD SPARKE: Another very interested spectator of the Maratoto revival is veteran prospector Mr Harold Sparke who confesses to be 'nearly 80' and has lived alone in a Maratoto hut for the last 40 years. For most of that time, he was the Maratoto's only full-time resident.

Mr Sparke was a contract miner during the Ohinemuri Gold Mines era, and operated mines in his own right. When the company went broke, he stayed on, operating his own small treatment plant, and winning enough gold and silver to pay his way.

When Consolidated Silver moved into the area, he sold some of his leases and became a shareholder.

Mr Sparke has worked on nearly every reef in the Maratoto area, and in his time, has shipped out nearly 100 parcels of ore, all of which made a profit after treatment. His last crushing was about three years ago.

Mr Sparke believes that, given good management, the Maratoto can't help but produce wealth. 'The ore is still there' he says. 'The Maratoto has never been mined deep, like Waihi. They've only scratched the fern-roots so far. At Waihi, they went to 3000 ft and were still getting gold. Some day this will be a big field,' he says.

EXPANSION OF THE CONSOLIDATED SILVER COMPANY: Consolidated Silver has expanded rapidly since it was floated in 1968. It now has mining interests spread over a considerable area of both islands of New Zealand, and therefore, all its eggs are not in one basket at Maratoto. The company's chairman of directors, Mr Warwick White says the company's aim is to spread its operations over a fairly wide field, with a large scale mill in the Coromandel area as the centre of an integrated mining operation.
'When we are satisfied we have enough ore reserves proved, and have the men and technical knowledge required, we will set up a big mill to integrate the various mining operations round the peninsula.'

The newly set-up Maratoto mill is regarded only as a minor facet of the whole operation but it is hoped it will be an economic project in itself and bring in a healthy 'cash flow' within a few months.

The mill is initially treating ore from the Silver Queen Mine, which extends over three major reefs, the Camoola, the Silver Queen and the Julia, in more than 3000 feet of underground workings. Already several thousand tons of ore are waiting to be treated, and they are expected to yield economic quantities of silver, along with some lead, zinc and gold. The Maratoto plant is extracting the silver and gold from the crude ore, and producing a concentrate containing lead and zinc. The silver and gold will be sold in New Zealand, and the directors believe the mine should produce nearly enough silver to meet New Zealand's needs. Long term prospects for silver are believed to be good, with world consumption at present about twice the level of production, involving a large waste-silver salvage industry to meet demand.

EXPANDED: The Company has expanded its original leases at Maratoto to cover 18,000 acres, taking in many old gold mines and reef systems with silver and gold-bearing potential. Further work is being done on another old mine at Waitekauri, on the other side of the Coromandel Range, where a team of five men is opening up the old Jubilee gold mine. The Company also has an option over a big silver-bearing reef, the Iona Reef, on Great Barrier Island, where it intends to start mining operations shortly. It is also investigating the island's copper deposit, last mined 110 years ago. The copper survey is being carried out by the company's consulting geologists. Further north, the company is applying for an area near Russell, of interest for antimony, and another near Kaikohe for sulpher. An area of about 40,000 acres is under application on the East Coast for copper. In the South Island, the company has a considerable acreage in Fiordland, Stewart Island and elsewhere. In Fiordland, it has recently discovered an area of considerable interest containing magnetite (iron ore), ilmenite (titanium ore), copper and nickel and is planning a three year programme of further exploration to evaluate the presence of these minerals.

PAEROA MINE TO CUT PRODUCTION
From: The New Zealand Herald 14 Jan 1974:

Silver and gold mining at the Maratoto mine of Consolidated Silver Mining Co. Ltd of New Zealand at Paeroa are to be reduced, and about 20 employees laid off.

Announcing a reduction in production last night, the chairman of Consolidated Silver, Mr W. N. White, said:

Maratoto is a rich mine by world standards but, at the size of our operation, it does not warrant further exploitation at the moment. We would rather leave the silver and gold in the ground and expoit it another day. There is no point in carrying on picking out the eyes.
'Mining the ore deposits had proved feasible, but had to be on a bigger scale to be profitable,'
he said.

The mine was closed two years ago, but reopened early last year when the price of gold went up.

The other industry at Maratoto, also run by Consolidated Silver - Coromandel Rock Products, which employed 15 - would not, Mr White added, be affected.

The Unique Geology of Maratoto

The Maratoto bluff is an ancient volcano, one of many that existed on the Coromandel between 10 and 20 million years ago. Since the volcano became extinct, erosion has removed the softer rock and soil, leaving only the hard volcanic plug that we see today.

Silver Queen mine
An old 1960s photo of Maratoto, an old eroded volcano plug.
Source: Bronwyn Spurr.
Click to enlarge the photo.


tram

Maratoto 60 years later (2020) and covered in a lot more vegetation.
Source: Evan Lewis
Click to enlarge the photo.
Silver Queen entrance
The Maratoto is a known source of obsidian which can be found as small pebbles in the creeks. It is black, extremely hard with a glass-like appearance and is often translucent when held up to the light. It was extruded from the volcano during its eruption.
Source: Geology Page
Click to enlarge the photo.

The author would like to thank Bronwyn Spurr who kindly provided family information and photos for this article.

References

  1. Union Iron Works San Francisco, California, USA. Wikipedia article.
  2. Hauraki-Coromandel Region by Paul Monin. TeAra. The encyclopedia of New Zealand.
  3. Obsidian Sources of the Coromandel Volcanic Zone, Northern New Zealand. by Phillip Robert Moore. ResearchGate The Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand January 2011.
  4. Obsidian: What is obsidian? Why obsidian is black. Geology Page
  5. Old Workings Yield Wealth Again by Ross Annabell. Daily Post (Wellington), Wednesday May 20 1970.
  6. Bay of Plenty Times, 11 Jan 1974.
  7. Gold Mining in the Maratoto Area by H. Sparke and A. Cameron. Ohinermuri History Journal 3, April 1965.
  8. Heritage Images Auckland Libraries.
  9. The Marototo Valley by Cecile Read. Ohinermuri History Journal 3, April 1965.
  10. Notes: Sparky is Dead.Ohinemuri Regional History Journals Journal 18, June 1974.
  11. 'Maratoto Gold' by Ann Bale. Published by Hodder and Stoughton 1971.
  12. Goldminer's Database on Goldrush Online.
  13. Goldrush to the Thames, 1867-69 by Kae Lewis. Published by Parawai Press 2017
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