Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 3, April 1965
By H. Sparke and A. Cameron
McBRINNS : The first claim opened, up in this area was McBrinns Mine in approximately 1873. Actually Mr. McBrinn was a bushman in the Kauri forest who did some prospecting in his spare time before he staked out the claim known as McBrinns claim. He later sold out to a Company, (the Mt. Cecil Co.) for a large sum of money. The Company built a 10 head battery and they took a small fortune out of the Mine. Later a dispute arose over boundaries between this Company and the Pay Rock Company whose Mine was adjourning this one, and a little lower down the gully. The case was first of all heard in the New Zealand Courts, with the burning down of the Battery about this time, forced both Companies to go into liquidation, so the Mine was closed down. Mr. W. Nicholls later took over this Mine and is said to have taken out between £16,000 and £18,000 worth of bullion. An assay taken by Mr. Colin Fraser a New Zealand Geologist, was 86 ozs. of gold and 1,500 ozs. of silver per ton. This Mine was considered to be the biggest find in Ohinemuri. The ore was packed out and shipped to Cockels Creek (smelting works in Australia) and as this was done no records were kept, only returns. (This claim is now held by Mr. H. Sparke) Ed.
PAY ROCK : The second Mine to open up about the same timeas McBrinns, was the Pay Rock Mine which showed very good prospects and some very high assays were obtained, but the reef proved patchy. Mr. H.H. Adams was one of the very early Directors of the Company. This Mine closed down after the dispute over boundaries with the Mt. Cecil Company which took over McBrinns Mine.
LIVERPOOL : A third Mine lower down the same gully, even though it was not much more than a name, is the Liverpool Mine. It was small and proved to be a disappointment.
Up the next Gully called the Maratoto or Silver Stream Gully there werethree well known reefs, the Julia, Silver Oueen and the Camoola.
JULIA. : The first is the Julia which was from 1 to 2 feet wide and was very rich in silver. It was discovered by a Mr. Pennell who was a roadman working on the Waitekauri Track, but he didn't realise its value and it was quickly peggedor claimed by two well known characters by the name of "Gentleman Dickson" and "Whisky Burgess". These men sent several very rich "parcels" of ore to Australia for smelting. They later sold out to the Maratoto Company for quite a large sum.
SILVER QUEEN : The Silver Queen was next to the Julia about 150 feet up and was opened up in about 1887. The reef was from 6 to 7 feet wide and carried very high values chiefly in silver. The first parcels of ore from this reef were also shipped to Australia for smelting.
CAMOOLA : About 100 feet from the Silver Queen reef was the Camoola reef. This was a big powerful reef from 10 to 20 feet wide but the values were very patchy. Even though the ore was a sulphide ore it was of very low grade and not of "milling" quality therefore the cost of treatment was too high for the returns available.
These three reefs were later mined by the Ohinemuri Gold and Silver Mines Company for which Mr. C. McCombie did the assaying.
Some of the richest ore from this Mine was sent to a French Exhibition. The ore was noted as being some of the richest silver ore in the world, and was also exhibited in a big Exhibition in Glasgow in about (?) 1935. This Company, the Ohinemuri Gold and Silver Mines Company, recovered a lot of silver, two tons from two crushings. The bottom fell out of the silver market, the price falling to as low as 1/- per oz. and so stopped operations. The Company waited to see if the price would rise but it didn't for 20 years. There was also a fair amount of gold taken from this Mine, but it did not compensate for the capital expended.
ST. HIPPO : The Silver Stream is the left hand branch of the Maratoto Stream, and from then on is the St. Hippo reef which was discovered about 80 years ago, that is before 1880, it is right up in the saddle about 2,000 to 3,000 feet from the Camoola; it is also a big powerful load of about 25 feet wide of blue flint known as iron sulphide. This Company built a long aerial tramway and a 20 head Stamp Battery close to the junction of the Maratoto and the Whakamoia streams where they are said to have crushed about 6,000 tons of ore for a return of about £l per ton which was disappointing and the Company transferred its interests to a tin mining venture in Siberia. The Mine Manager, Mr. Cummins, a Mr. Farmer and several others also went to Siberia where they stayed until about the timeof the Russian Revolution.
The St. Hippo Battery was eventually taken over, along with the Julia, Silver Queen and the Camoola Beefs by a new Company called the Ohinemuri Gold and Silver Mines and was renovated.
GOLDEN SPUR : The Golden Spur claim is on the right side of the Maratoto stream on a bald knob at the top of the hill. This claim showed good prospects, but there was not much work done on it. The drive was put in 300 feet and showed very classy stone, and the prospects good, but it was patchy and broken but not worked out. This Mine is considered worth further prospecting. One assay showed 100 ozs. of silver and 10 ozs. of gold per ton.
PEELS CREEK : which was later known as the United was opened up a few years after McBrinns but before the Waihi Company. The Mine is situated at the south end of the Maratoto load or reef and about three miles from the Komata workings.
The first man in New Zealand who died a millionaire was E. G. (?) Briggs, who bached over in the United claim which was at the top end of Peels Creek. This Mine was a big load of free milling ore 10 feet to 12 feet wide and was driven on for 1,500 feet. One level was worked in the very early days by the Waihi Company and produced a lot of gold. Some say that £28,000 was recovered by the experimental battery. This Company moved to Waihi and the Mine has never been worked since.
KOMATA : This was a separate Mine and was worked by the Komata Mining Company and about £1,000,000 worth of gold was recovered, and then it was considered worked out. A Mr. Adams tried later but he recovered very little.
MRS. CECILE READ and her husband chose to build their home in the Maratoto Valley because of the picturesque seclusion it afforded as a contrast to their city life in England. Mrs. Read is the successful author of many published short stories and her delightful home and garden reflect her artistic talent, while her keen historic sense has caused her to delve into and appreciate the background of her present environment.
MR. HAROLD SPARKE is one of the very few practising Miners left in the field. He was born at Kopu, and his father owned the Norfolk Battery at Thames. He has spent over 40 years in the Ohinemuri area and is still living alone up the Maratoto Valley where he holds the claim originally opened up by Mr. McBrinn. (He tells us that the first drilling machine used in mining was a rock drill called a slogger, and that he intends to give one to the Museum.) Mr. Sparke has the indomitable courage of the true Prospector who, having both knowledge and experience also has hope.
MR. ALLAN CAMERON, Tauranga, once drove a truck for Mr. Jack Forrest, Paeroa and became acquainted with mining men Buntings, Gwilliam, Leach, Grace and Dare. Later employed at the Talisman Dubbo, Mine, Karangahake. (timbering, tool sharpening and aerial tram work). He was transferred to Maratoto as caretaker of the Ohinemuri Gold and Silver Mines, and on prospecting and development work with Mr. Harold Sparke, for the Golden Spur Coy. Responsible salvaging rails, piping, etc. from the working and was the last man employed by the Coy. Some of the work done included hand winching a 30 h.p. engine and compressor from the bed of the stream to the Golden Spur Mine, a height of about 900 ft. and its installation at the mine; the building of an aerial tramway to transport the quartz down to the old Maratoto Battery, the cleaning out of the old Water-races from the Waitekauri Saddle, and the installation of a reinforced concrete pipe line to supply two pelton wheels to drive 10 head of stamps and a banner [vanner - E] table. Later with Ministry of Works.