A History of the Waihi/Martha/Silverton/Union Battery, Waihi
1882 – 1915

The complete document, fully referenced, with images, maps and appendices, is available as a PDF (20mb) here.

The site on the Ohinemuri River generally known as the Silverton Battery hosted several gold saving batteries, belonging to separate companies, over a period of 32, or so, years (1882-1914). Several prominent companies and mining men were involved with this battery over these many years. One such with a strong connection with it was H.H. Adams. He built the battery in 1882, reconstructed and managed it in 1896-97, purchased it in 1911, and dismantled and removed it in 1914-15.

The battery machinery was modified and replaced repeatedly, crushing first wet, then dry, then finally wet again. The battery was frequently praised after an upgrade, and in 1896 was enthusiastically described as “unquestionably one of the finest batteries in the southern hemisphere”.  Some of the remains at the site will be the oldest building remains in Waihi.

Although expectations were always high, results were often disappointing. Gold recovery was really only successful after 1901.

First built in 1882 as the Waihi Gold Mining Company’s battery, it was opened only weeks after the Martha Company’s battery on Martha Hill (the first battery built in Waihi). It crushed ore brought on wooden tramway from Martha Hill, using water power from a water race from Cabbage Tree Creek (Waimata Stream).

After the amalgamation of most of the claims on Martha Hill in early 1883, it replaced the Martha Company’s battery, becoming the Martha Extended Company’s Martha Battery. Until 1888 it was the only battery operating at Waihi. During this period, considerably less bullion was saved than was consigned to the Ohinemuri River. Wet crushing and plate amalgamation proved ineffective with the refractory Waihi ore.

The Martha Extended Company barely covered costs, and readily sold mine and battery to Thomas Henry Russell in 1890. Russell on-sold the mine to the new Waihi Goldmining Company who had their Waihi Battery at the base of Union Hill. The Martha battery he sold to Edward Mann Corbett who transferred it to the Silverton Company in June 1891.

As the Silverton Battery, pan amalgamation was adopted with little success. The Mangakiri and Mangatoetoe water races date from this time. By April 1893 the Silverton Company adopted the Cassel cyanide process, the first to do so in Waihi. Still wet crushing.

In 1895 the Silverton mine was sold; it became the Waihi-Silverton Gold-mining Company (Limited), Glasgow. The battery was refurbished; 40 stamps dry crushing; cyanide process; H.H. Adams in charge. The power supply was upgraded. A dam was built on the Ohinemuri River, a little upstream from the battery at what we now think of as Coffey’s creek. A tramway was constructed, connecting mine with battery, complete with locomotive. Three in-ground ore roasting kilns were excavated at the mine. Dust was produced, but little gold.

In 1895 the Union-Waihi Gold-mining Company was split off from the Waihi Gold Mining Company for tax or other business reasons, and/or to retain possession of ground that they were not working. The Union-Waihi were mining Union Hill, but had no battery (perversely, they were unable to use the Waihi Battery at Union Hill).

In mid 1899 the Silverton mine was incorporated into the Union-Waihi Gold-mining Company and the Silverton Battery became the Union Battery. It was once again refurbished, converted to wet crushing and was under way by September 25 1900. Despite the improvements to the battery, and the cyanide process, these mines and battery were still troubled. By the end of 1901 the Waihi Gold Mining Company had reacquired the Waihi-Union Company's properties, including the battery.

During 1902 the battery (still called the Union) was “thoroughly overhauled and modified” and tramway links were created. Martha ore would again be crushed by this battery. A steam engine was installed during the year, for use when water power was insufficient, as it increasingly was.

During the years under the management of the Waihi Gold Mining Company, ore was crushed more and more finely, and bullion recovery rates were at last satisfactory. A tube mill was installed in 1909 for even finer grinding.

1910 saw the first reduction in ore output from the Martha Mine, and the Waihi Gold Mining Company closed the Union Battery February 1911. It is purchased by Henry Hopper Adams.

After treating a quantity of tailings from the Gladstone mine and its small battery, Adams oversaw the last days and finally the demolition of the Union Battery in 1915. Adams built the original battery, and was involved with its destruction 33 years later.