Thus a new company is formed, and the Waihi Battery at the Ohinemuri River takes over the name of the useless Martha Battery. Although the new company is called the Martha Extended Gold Mining Company (Limited), the battery is referred to as the Martha.
So ends this early Waihi Company, and the name Waihi Battery, until a new Waihi Company is formed in late 1887, and a new Waihi Battery erected at Union Hill in 1888.
The Martha Extended Company
A scheme was proposed to amalgamate all the claims on the hill and remove the Martha battery down to Jones’ site and make one battery of it, as there was sufficient room in Jones’ building to add the Martha’s 15 head to his battery. We all agreed, and a tramway was built to bring the quartz from the Martha mine to the battery. Mr J. H. Moore was appointed manager of the new company .
Philip Rainer has the new company launched on 31 March 1883. Perhaps this was when the application (shown above) was approved. No launch date has been traced in the newspaper accounts searched, though a December 25 1882 report already uses the name Martha Extended. The manager, John Hoey Moore , was recently from the Smile of Fortune, Owharoa. Renewed energy was being applied, with changes being made to the battery (still the original 20 stamps). A tramway was constructed to connect the Young Colonial drive with the main tramway.
Presumably the new turbine was installed at this time. An August 1883 press report mentions a Leffel's improved double turbine water wheel. Had they changed their turbine again? Or was this simply a reporters’ error; both the Yankee and Leffel wheels were made in America.
The new name for the new company took some time to bed in (and still sometimes referred to as the "amalgamating claims"), with the Dulcibel remaining independent, but using 10 stamps in the battery for their ore.
By April 12, 1883, the Waihi Extended's new manager (Moore) had enlarged and re-timbered the Young Colonial drive, and was driving onward with payable prospects. A new level was put in the Martha winze to open up a large block of ground for cheaper working. Dulcibel shareholders had arranged to crush 200 tons. "As soon as the mill starts they will occupy 10 head [stampers ]." They were putting in a crosscut to intersect the Waihi main level, "from whence they will forward the quartz to the mill."
It was reported on April 26 that the battery of the Martha Extended at Waihi had commenced crushing on the 25th, "the turbine and all the machinery connected with it working in a highly satisfactory manner," doing 85 to the minute with a 9 inch drop "and used about half the water that was in the race". J.H. Moore, "manager of the amalgamating claims at Waihi", confirmed the satisfactory operation at 85, and said the battery would [soon] make a permanent start.
By May 23 the Waihi battery was working 24 hours a day at 70 strokes per minute, "and as the stuff being treated is soft, a large quantity of dirt [ore] is being got through. The new turbine works well, and at the present speed does not use more than a third of the water available ... credit to the contractor Mr Corbett, as before he altered it the speed was only 35 blows per minute. Ten head of stamps are employed by the Dulcibel claim, and 10 by the amalgamated companies." Expenses were very light, and with no charge for motive power, "it will easily be seen that very low grade still will pay."
"During October-November 1883, the company added 10 stamps to its battery, making 30." These from the old Martha Battery, not used since the amalgamation. In the new year, Dulcibel capitulates, and joins the Martha Extended Company. "By mid January, 1884, with the buying in of the Dulcibel, the Martha at Waihi became ‘the only surviving claim in the district.’"
All Martha ore was now being treated by the one battery by the river.
The Inspecting Engineer (to 31 March, 1884) had this to report:
Crushing battery of 30 head of stamps and 4 berdans are erected, driven by a turbine water- wheel, and the battery is connected with the mines by a horse-tramway. The manager informed me that quartz containing gold to the value of 10s. per ton pays all expenses for getting out and crushing.
And then this in 1885:
The works in this Company's mine are carried out under the management of Mr. John Moore. The reef is an exceedingly large one, and though not all taken, crushing stuff is taken from it for a width of from 14 to 20ft.
The average return per ton does not exceed 3 or 4dwts., and yet by judicious management, and crushing continuously, the large debt incurred for machinery, battery, tramways, water races, dams, &c., &c., has been cleared off, and now there is a large surplus on hand from which it is expected dividend will soon be paid.
With regard the amalgamation of the companies, Nicholl wrote: "I took the contract to build the tramway to connect the Martha mine with the new battery. The tramway came along the side of the hill under where the number five shaft is and connected with the other tramways where the courthouse is now". It seems most likely that this route was the same as the one used for many many years to transport ore off Martha Hill, despite Nicholl’s (faulty?) recollection of the junction location (actually Silverton Road - Johnston Street). These early tramways were horse powered; it was not until 1896 that the Silverton Company brought in a small locomotive for their tramway, the first for Waihi.
The Ordinary Battery Process and Refractory ore
The problems faced by these two early Waihi batteries were much greater than the water power woes they suffered. Ohinemuri ore was not like the Thames ore that many of the miners would have been familiar with.
Ohinemuri ore was refractory. That is the gold was very finely divided throughout the quartz, and combined with sulphides. Silver was prominent in the ore. Gold recovery from this ore by the "Ordinary Battery Process" was low. Very low.
Let’s look at the Ordinary Battery Process.
The traditional process for recovering gold from ore was by wet crushing by stamper battery, and then mercury amalgamation.
The ore was mined, and fed through a stonebreaker to reduce it to a size that was suitable for feeding to the stampers. Stampers crushed the ore by alternately lifting and dropping a series of heavy iron stamps onto the rock within a heavy cast iron mortar box (usually 5 stamps to a mortar box). The stamps were raised and dropped by means of cams attached to a horizontal shaft, driven by a convenient power source. There was some considerable noise and vibration generated here .
The ore was crushed to the consistency of fine sand, washing through a mesh screen that controlled the particle size. A screen might be quoted as "60 mesh", which is 3,600 holes per inch—ie. 60 x 60. The crushed ore now passed over an amalgamated plate, which was a sheet of copper or muntz metal that had a film of bright mercury amalgamated to it. The small particles of gold would amalgamate with the mercury, and hence be removed from the stream of the pulp (crushed ore) that was washing over the plate from the stamper.
Variations included amalgamated plates positioned within the stamper mortar box, free mercury within the mortar box, and/or further grinding/amalgamation in a berdan. A berdan is a circular pan or bowl, set at an angle and rotated by a central shaft. Iron balls or blocks inside the pan crushed the ore by grinding it against the sides of the pan as it revolved.
The amalgam (mercury and gold; very little silver was captured) was periodically scraped from the plates and retorted. The mercury was boiled off and condensed for reuse. The remaining spongy brown bullion thus recovered was smelted and sold.
This process, the ordinary battery process, worked adequately for so called "free milling ores", ie ores in which the gold was in discreet particles, which could easily amalgamate with the mercury. But for the Waihi batteries with their difficult refractory ore, bullion recovery was as low as 25%.
The Waihi batteries used this process. Martha’s low grade ore (though plentiful) meant very lean returns. Improvements in yield were not achieved until c.1890 at the new Waihi Battery (on Union Hill) of the Waihi Gold and Silver Mining Company.
Assaying to determine the value of the ore was not commonly practised at first, and the losses by the ordinary battery process were not understood or even acknowledged (would you wish to advertise that your mill was discharging 60 to 75% of the bullion into the river with the tailings?).
Some years later (1897-1910), the Waihi Dredging Plant would suck up and reprocess amounts of these bullion-rich tailings discharged to the Ohinemuri River (at least 33,000 tons to 1910).
John Hoey Moore
Moore became Nicholl’s brother-in-law in 7 May 1888 when he married Mary Ann Nicks, widowed when her first husband died two years previously. She was again widowed when Moore died in an accident in 1893; three years later she was married, for the third and last time, to Henry Christian Wick (17 March 1896).
In May, 1885, the Hon. W.J.M. Larnach, Minister of Mines, made a general tour of the whole Hauraki goldfield. He found an impressive stope or "cavern" already at the Martha, the hollow space being 70 feet long, 18 feet wide, and up to 20 feet high. Mr J.H. Moore, with rains, had resumed crushing six weeks before. Water was inadequate to continue crushing through the summer, meaning shortening of hands and loss to the district. An extra water race was needed, and already they had spent £8,000 without return. Larnach would try to get something to help them build the new race.
He was also shown where the Waihi-Tauranga bridge had been washed away by a flood. The ford was dangerous, and he was told a mail boy and two horses had been drowned.
On September 16 the boundaries of the new Ohinemuri County were gazetted. It included the Ohinemuri group of mines.
Elections for the new Ohinemuri County were held on November 11, 1885. The Karangahake Riding returned Messrs Humphreys and Walsh, Waitekauri E.M. Corbett and J.H. Moore of the Martha. Paeroa had W.G. Nicholls, F. Cook and Hugh Butler, Waitoa Frederick Strange. (The last-named was made chairman.)
During November, 1885, a visitor to Waihi was shown around the Martha battery, "on the opposite bank beside the crossing", by its "courteous and obliging manager, Mr Moore", who had had the battery "working day and night for a long time past." The number of claims originally pegged on the Martha hill had been absorbed into the Martha which now covered the whole ground. The battery was nearly a mile from the mine.
An application for a water race was made in August 1885:
Notice Of Application To Form A Water Race.
Warden's Office, Thames, 28th August, 1885. Application has been made by a John H. Moore, for the Martha Extended Gold Mining Company (Limited), for a license to construct a Water Race for mining purposes, commencing at a point near Old Martha dam, on Walmseley's Creek, Waihi, and terminating at a point opposite Rosemont Hill, as shown on the plan. The length of such Race is two miles and a half or thereabouts, and its intended course is north westerly.
A description of the extra water race mentioned above has not been traced, and it appears never to have been built. In 1887 a very similar race is applied for, and then forfeited. When the Cabbage Tree Creek (Waimata) race flume blew down in May 1887, the battery came to a standstill, suggesting this race was still the only water source.
The dam on the Ohinemuri River was not constructed until 1895-6. In late 1891, early 1892, a water race was constructed on the Mangakiri Stream to add water to the Cabbage Tree Creek (Waimata Stream), and a race was constructed to capture the Mangatoetoe Stream. They are shown on various old maps. More on water races later.
By 31 December 1885, the Company had increased its capital to £50,000. No dividends had been paid, and production to date totalled only £11,401. A total of twenty-four men were employed.
On April 10, 1886, there was general heavy rain following a drought, and the Martha battery creaked into life again after long disuse and began thudding away at the limitless supplies of low but even grade quartz. The Silverton [mine] across on the next hill continued to produce very rich "specimens". It was more patchy.
So far Mr Moore had taken out 50,000 tons of quartz, giving 3 to 5 pennyweights to the ton, and that had been proving payable.
Martha battery was using 10 of its stamps to crush rich Silverton ore (late 1886).
From the Union mine "a trial of 34 tons of second-class stuff at the Martha Battery gave 54oz. 3dwt. melted gold or bullion".
Very much gold was being lost in treatment all through the goldfield ... Te Aroha ... At Waihi, where special pits were made to save the tailings for 45 tons of stone from the Silverton mine, the quantity thus saved proved to be worth £15 per ton." No steps were taken at either Waihi or Karangahake to prevent such waste.
"Waihi" in the above quote presumably means the Martha Extended Company.
The Silverton Company was using 10 stamps of the Martha Battery, and knew to save their tailings. The earliest photograph of the battery (1898 ) shows a tailings impoundment, with wooden dam, in the old stream bed of the Mangatoetoe Stream beside the battery. Whether this was being used this early is not known.
The Silverton had "produced the richest stone yet found in Waihi."
The recent crushing of the Silverton dirt which realised for about 40 tons stuff and 500lbs picked stone a nett. value of £570 in bullion, looks very well, but when one considers that there remains another £700 worth of gold in the tailings which is not lost any more than was the Dutchman's anchor in the bed of the Pacific, it must appear that there is something very rotten in the present system of ore reducing.
What happened to these tailings? Director and part owner of the Silverton Company, J.A. Pond , had "superintended ‘the reducing of the picked stone’". "By August 1887, as he had ‘ascertained by making a series of assays while the battery was in operation, that very little more than 25 per cent of the bullion value of the ore was being saved’, he proposed that the tailings be re-processed." By roasting, desulphurising, and panning of ores. It is not clear to what extent this may have happened.
The Firth and Clark Battery at Waiorongomai erected a rotary reverberatory furnace in 1887 in an attempt to improve recovery from Waiorongomai ore , and Long Drive Walker determined that ore roasting would be implemented at the Waihi Battery (Union Hill) when that was established in 1888.
Te Aroha News, 8 January 1887, provide this report, which includes part of the Report to the Directors of the Martha Extended Company by Adam Porter, Chairman. Auckland, December 1, 1886.
The annual meeting of the Company was called for Thursday December 30th, but as there was not a quorum present it was of an informal character, and no resolutions were passed. The following was the directors' report prepared for presentation :— The directors beg to lay before you their annual report, and regret to state that the prospects held out at the last annual meeting have not been realised, as up to the present time no cheap process has been discovered whereby a larger percentage of bullion can be saved. The directors are aware that several new processes are now offered to mineowners, and they are of opinion it would be advisable for the shareholders to take into consideration the advisability of adopting one of the processes most adapted to our class of stone. The directors also understand that there is a scheme on foot to connect the mines of the Rosemont district with our company's battery [This never happened?]. If such is the case, we think it would be advisable to render some assistance in the matter. Very little crushing has been done for several months past, but the manager is at present engaged in opening up two blocks of ground which he considers payable. Several small portions of the mine have been let on tribute, which are now being worked by tributers, the company deriving a small revenue therefrom.
Gloomy! Isdale suggests that Martha did "talk of a chlorination plant, which could be put up for about £400" , but no further mention of this has been found. Isdale goes on to provide production figures:
Companies actually in operation on 31 December, 1885, with production values and date of commencing operations, included (Ohinemuri):
Martha Extended (Waihi), March 31, 1883 (date of formation of existing coy.), 24 men, production worth £11,401 (to 31.12.85. Silverton (Waihi), Dec. 1885, 6 men, no production given to Dec. 31, 1885. Union (Waihi), Oct. 1885, 8 men, no production to Dec. 31, 1885. Rosemont (Waihi), Sept. 9, 1885, 6 men, no production to Dec. 31, 1885.
Water and Weather Woes
Lack of water to drive the battery was an on-going problem. Then, perversely, floods.
The heavy rains did not really break the drought, and early in March the Martha mine at Waihi had its hoppers stuffed full with quartz awaiting water for the battery.
A Special Correspondent for the Te Aroha News, on a trip from Auckland to "the Thames and adjacent goldfields" gave a report published 19 March, which included comments on Waihi.
On visiting the battery I was astonished to find in such an out of the way place such completeness in detail. The mine to which the battery belongs is about a mile and a half away, and the connection is made by a tramway which has cost about £600. The company has constructed a water race for motive power about a mile long at a cost of over £1500, the fall from this race into Leffle turbine is 28ft. The battery has 30 heads of stampers, but owing to want of water they are only using eight heads at present.
It seems the company did indeed install a Leffel wheel, under 28ft (8.5m) of head.
In May 1887, about 100m of fluming blew away:
Paeroa last night. A deal of damage has been done by gale in Ohinemuri. At Waihi about five chains of the Martha Extended water race [Cabbage Tree Creek or Waimata flume], was carried away by the wind which will suspend operations for a month and keep upwards of 1000 tons ore awaiting crushing.
From Waihi there is a sad state of affairs to chronicle. Early on Tuesday morning when the gale was at its worst the battery, of which 20 head of stampers were then in full operation, suddenly came to a standstill caused by a falling off in the water supply, and upon examining the race at the battery end it was found to be empty. At first it was supposed that a breach had taken place in the breastwork of the dam which is located about half a mile from the mill, but when travelling along in that direction one of the hands was somewhat surprised to find that several chains of the trestle work belonging to the race had been knocked down and it was here that the water had made its escape. This battery has been idle or comparatively so for want of water during the past four months, and it is very much to be regretted that this mishap should have occurred just at a time when there is an abundance of that element available.
More damage than was at first thought has been done by the recent gale it Ohinemuri. The Waihi (Martha Extended) water race had a nasty mishap and some three chains were blown away. Mr D. Farrell is the successful tenderer for repairing it at the low figure of £24 16s, (labour only).
Quickly followed by:
Another flood came on June 25, 1887, causing extensive damage to dams, water races and fluming at Karangahake, and carrying away fluming at Waihi.
This was also reported in the Te Aroha News with more detail:
WAIHI The Ohinemuri river rose here to a height which surpasses all previous flood records, and at one time, when the water was at its highest, it was thought that the Martha battery and all its attendant paraphernalia was doomed to destruction. In fact, if it had not been for the care exercised by the manager and some of his employees, the water race and a considerable amount of timber belonging thereto would certainly have come to grief, as it was two legs supporting the water race [Cabbage Tree Creek or Waimata flume], in mid-stream [as it straddled the Ohinemuri River] were snapped off by the force of the current, but not before the manager had secured both by making them fast to ropes prepared for the purpose.
A correspondent of the Thames Advertiser, in August 1887 reported on a two day trip to the Waihi mines.
To accomplish this journey at present the traveller requires the strength of a horse and the courage of a lion, backed up by a large admixture of 30 O.P. whiskey, so as to render him sufficiently reckless with regard to the risk which he runs of losing himself in one or other of the "sloughs of despond" that occur at very frequent intervals, by way of relief to the monotonous sea of mud with which the road is covered......
Here it may not be out of place to say that I visited the Martha battery, where 15 head of stamps are employed as follows:- 10 head on Silverton quartz, and 5 head on stuff from one of the tributers in the Martha mine. By way of illustrating the economical manner in which the affairs of this company are being managed, I may remark that the battery plant, which is running full time, is looked after by two men, who work twelve hour shifts each. They do the feeding, blanket washing, amalgamation, and attend to the berdans, tail race, and tailing pits, which have to be cleaned out very frequently.
The whole of the tailings belonging to the Silverton company are being saved in a series of 6 pits, which are located about 4ft apart, and are each large enough to hold about 10 tons. As the result of previous crushings for this mine there are about 150 tons of tailings stacked on the uphill side of the pits, and the assay value of these is said to be over £12 per ton. The 90 ton parcel which is now going through the battery is shaping for an all round return of fully one ounce per ton, and the clean up which will take place in about 10 day's time should give about 100oz of retorted gold.
The idea of saving the tailings emanated from Mr J.A. Pond, Colonial Analyst, who is one of the shareholders, and who ascertained by making a series of assays while the battery was in operation, that very little more than 25 per cent of the bullion value of the ore was being saved by that process, and therefore he determined upon saving the residue in the manner above described. The next question which presents itself for consideration is how will these tailings be dealt with in order to extract the bullion contained therein.
Are the tailings pits, referred to above, in the old Mangatoetoe Stream bed (as shown in the 1898 photograph)? If so, then the stream has already been diverted, maybe as early as 1896.
Martha Mine is still under Mr. John Moore. The battery in connection with this mine consists of thirty stampers and six berdans. The tramway is one and a half miles long, and the quartz can be delivered into the battery at a cost of 9d. per ton. The long summer drought has caused a great scarcity of water, and for some months only sufficient could be obtained to occasionally drive a portion of the stampers.
Silverton.—This mine is also under the charge of Mr. John Moore. At the Martha battery 160 tons have been treated by the ordinary stamper process, which gave a return of 3oz. per ton, the gold being valued at £2 18s. per ounce. Another 100 tons are now in the paddock for transit to the battery as soon as the rain comes and gives sufficient power to drive the stampers.
Union Gold-mining Company.— At the Martha battery 400 tons have been treated for a return of l 1/2oz. to the ton. Of this quartz 50 tons have been selected and exported to England and America for trial.
Inspecting Engineer to 31 March 1887, discussing the Silverton mine and its ore crushed at the Martha Battery:
150 tons of stone have been crushed by the ordinary battery-process, which yielded about 3oz of gold per ton, value £2 18s. per ounce. The loss in crushing this class of ore with the ordinary battery-process is something enormous. When the stone is rich in silver not more than 20 per cent of the bullion is saved, the whole of the silver being carried away with the water. It is quite disheartening to the owners of these claims to know that they have a valuable property, and cannot extract the metals from the ore.
Water Race Shepherding?
As we have seen, water power was critical for the early batteries. This was a limited resource, and more so in dry weather. Wood fired boilers used an expensive and rapidly dwindling resource. Coal fired boilers were used once coal became available in Waihi after the railway was completed in 1905.
So it is of interest to note that in 1887 four water races were applied for, all apparently from the same source, what we now think of as the Walmsley Stream.
- J.W. Walker applied on behalf of the Union Company in February, application to be heard in March (and granted? but no evidence found that it was granted)
- E. Kersey Cooper applied for his Winner claim, and was granted in late April. He got protection in October.
- Martha Extended Company forfeited in September the water race granted them in July.
- Pond, on behalf of the Silverton Company, applied August, granted October.
None of these were ever constructed, but their forfeiture has not been further traced. The Waihi Gold Mining Company constructed a very similar water race in 1889.
It appears the Martha Extended Company intended to put in a new water race for the battery (remember it applied also in 1885). It forfeited this one in September 1887. "Water Race, declared forfeited by the Mining Inspector. Water Race No.-, situated at Waihi, held under license dated 22nd of July, Extended Gold Mining Company, Limited; commencing at a point on Walmsley's creek, and terminating at the Waihi Extended battery site."
This would be an ambitious project. Did they intend to reuse part of the old Martha race? Or was this a speculative or manipulative application? It seems possible that the various companies mentioned above were jockeying for water rights.
Of interest is Walker’s comment about his water race application in this passage from the Thames Advertiser, February 1887 "Mr Walker said it was an old water race right which he was originally intending to obtain, and which had, as he thought, been abandoned some time ago, but on enquiry he found it was still protected." Was this old race the original Martha race?
Further, it appears that two water race rights (which seem very similar) could exist at the same time. In October 1887 Pond’s application was granted, and Cooper’s right was granted protection.
Water rights were subject to goldfield regulations. If these regulations could not be complied with, then an application could be made for "protection" from forfeiture.
28. The cutting and formation of a race must be commenced within one calendar month from the date of the license, and the occupier shall continue cutting and forming the same, or engaged in necessary work connected therewith, until the work is completed, otherwise such license shall be deemed forfeited.
John Moore Leaves
On October 15, 1887, J.H. Moore, manager of the Martha and Silverton mines, who was leaving for his new sphere at Maratoto, was farewelled at Waihi.
It was reported around October 25, 1887, that at Waihi, with Moore gone to Maratoto, five tenders were received for working the Martha Extended on tribute.
Early in November it was noted that the Martha battery at Waihi was being kept going with 20 stampers on the quartz from the various tribute sections. All the tributers were finding their returns payable. A man could at least make wages there.
Tributers had been working sections of the mine since at least 1886 . The tributers were the Hollis brothers, William and Fred, and party, and Brown and party , and probably others.
Hollis, with his brother, had at Waitekauri
discovered Butler's Reef, containing a rich patch of gold, some of which yielded over twelve ounces to the ton, and the company took six ounces per ton out of the tailings by the berdan treatment. In one period of three weeks the tributers made as much as £763 per man, after all expenses had been paid. Mr. Hollis afterwards took the Waitekauri mine and battery on tribute, and worked it with success for two years and a half. After a successful career at Waitekauri, he removed to Waihi, and pegged out the Young Colonial, now one of the best parts of the Waihi mine.
William Hollis had married Nicholl’s sister-in-law Sarah Margaret Compston in 1882.
Hollis took over from J.H. Moore, working on tribute from October 1887 until the Martha mine was purchased by T.H. Russell and transferred to the Waihi Gold Mining Company Ltd. of London. He remained mine manager until handing over to Thomas Gilmour on 5 February 1891.
The Martha Extended Company and their battery plod on
No mention has been found of any changes made to the battery up to this time. Running repairs and some modifications can be safely assumed. From the years 1883 to 1889 approximately 30,000 tons of ore were crushed for a return of £17,370.
Most of the bullion was being consigned to the river, the company, and later tributers, barely covering costs. It is hard to tell from the literature what attempts were being made to improve recovery rates. Isdale suggests that the battery may have had an assaying plant by 1886. Batteries throughout the Ohinemuri and Te Aroha districts were failing to treat their ore successfully at this time.
Experiments with new methods had been made at Karangahake and Thames; none were useful. The Martha Extended Company presumably felt they had little option but to soldier on. They were making wages, well at least the tributers were. Both the Union and Silverton Companies were able to run parcels of ore through the battery; Silverton taking the precaution of saving the tailings. Parcels of ore from different companies could be processed in the battery concurrently. Each five stamp mortar had its own amalgamated plate and berdan(s), and could have its own ore bin. The mercury amalgam would need to be retorted separately.
Water for the turbines was often inadequate, with crushing ability frequently reduced, or stopped entirely. They sought to boost their water power by the construction of a new water race from Walmsley’s Creek (or possibly reuse the old Martha race), but this was never built.
The Martha Extended Company had stayed solvent, paid wages, and helped to create a small township. They also tipped thousands of tons of rich tailings into the Ohinemuri River.
With Moore’s leaving, the company may have felt leaderless; he was a popular manager. His departure was celebrated by a "spread [celebration with food] and a very enjoyable evening was spent" .
A 11 March 1886 Bay Of Plenty Times article on the Ohinemuri Goldfield seems to sum it all up:
Martha Extended. — The mill is in full swing. Twenty head of stamps are working on stuff that will give the usual sort of return. The peculiarity of this mine is that it can profitably work on stone that will not give more than 5 or 6 dwts to the ton. It seems strange that other claims on this field are closed up, if within a few months of starting they do not give a big dividend, while this conservative old mine can be kept going year after year on such small returns, while not creating enormous fortunes for individuals, yet employs manager and men, and circulates money. Such mines deserve every success.
But by early 1888: Mine and Battery 4 Sale!
The long drought and internal discords between the battery lessees, and tributers have suspended crushing, and hindered mining operations, but the advent of rain will probably see another handsome return from some of the tributers which may be the last crushing they may have, as the plant and ground of the Martha Company are advertised for sale.
Unprofitable mines may be difficult to sell. At the end of 1888 the company was advertising for tributing tenders, for 12 months from February 1889. That would allow the company to stagger on until early 1890.
That the company eventually lost heart can be seen from the sale of mine and battery to Thomas Henry Russell for £3000 in April 1890 . The company was exhausted and saw a handy cash price and exit. Russell saw it differently.
The battery would be surplus to requirements. More on this later.
Introducing the Rosemont, Union and Silverton Mines
Whilst the Martha Extended Company was scratching a living from its under-performing battery, activity was occurring on the small hills to the south east of Martha Hill. For extended discussion of Union Hill mining, and the Waihi Battery, see: Historic Features of Union Hill Waihi. Research by Eric Lens 2003 – 2004; and Union Hill Early Mining History: Early Events Pertaining to Union Hill Waihi, including Mining Claims, and Prominent People (Eric Lens 2010), produced for inclusion in Conservation Plan For Union Hill, Waihi. Phillip R. Moore 2010.
The Rosemont, Union and Silverton mines, their ore rich in silver, were seen as more promising and valuable than the Martha. Some incredibly rich specimen samples were obtained.
Some very rich reefs and leaders have been discovered and opened up in the Silverton, Union, Rosemont, and other claims, the stone obtained being very different from any previously got in the district—it is largely impregnated with silver, and has essayed up to very high figures.
WAIHI. Rosemont. —There can be no two opinions about the value of this ore, of which some has assayed 50ozs of gold and 500 ozs of silver to the ton.
On Thursday last Mr J.W. Walker took down to Thames a sample of a parcel of stone now on its way to the smelting works, from the Union Claim, Waihi, which being assayed, yielded at the rate of 27ozs 2dwts 6grs of gold and 165ozs 9dwts 3grs of silver. Mr Walker avers that the stone was taken as a fair average sample from the bulk, and that on examination by himself and experts they failed to discover the slightest show of gold in it The above assay shows a value of £141 per ton.
John Watson (Long Drive) Walker, with Thomas Russell (father of T.H. Russell), floated the Waihi Gold Mining Company in December 1887 with English capital. "The mines to be worked were the Union, Rosemont, Amaranth, and the smaller Trio, Nelson, and Winner claims." The Silverton was not included.
The company would establish the Waihi Battery (Union Hill), which was intended to process the difficult ore successfully.
John Watson (Long Drive) Walker and the Union Mine
Walker was one of the party that proposed to establish the first Martha Company in 1881, from which he withdrew (see The First Company, page 14).
In 1885 he was granted the Sheet Anchor claim, but forfeited it the following year.
December 1885 had the first mention of a United [presumably Union] claim.
1886 saw him as "one of the largest shareholders in the Union as well as its manager". Mr E. K. Cooper in charge. In April:
Union. — Crushing for this mine with 10 head of stampers was started in the Martha Battery last week and by the show on the plate, the return should at least be worth 2½oz to the ton.
Early in 1887
Mr J.W. Walker informs me that he has received a cablegram dated January 29th from Home stating that the Union mine has been successfully floated on the English market for the magnificent sum of £100,000, half of which will be spent in the opening up and development of the mine.
The significance of this is not entirely clear to me. This "fact" was also reported in Thames Advertiser. Hart suggests Walker had not gone to London at all. If a company was floated at this time, it seems that this event was overtaken by events later in the year. By the middle of the year was reported "the Union Mine, which they intend floating on the English market as soon as possible" (see below).
John Watson Walker: The "Union" Gold Mining Company, Limited applies for a Battery Site on the Waitete River [Waihi was sometimes called Waitete early on; presume Ohinemuri River], immediately adjoining and northward of the Amaranth Licensed Holding, to the River bank. Also applied for a Special Claim of about 70 acres, bounded on the west by the Sheet Anchor claim [which he re-applied for in August 1886]. Also applied for a Water Race. The Race head is on the Waitete River [What we think of as Walmsley’s Creek. Race never built?] near Walmsley's Agricultural Sections, and Crosses the plain past the Union mine, and onward to the Battery Site on the main river.
Eighteen tons of quartz from the Union mine, Waihi, sold in London for £43 7s per ton; gratifying in the extreme.
In June Thomas Russell has been encouraged to come and have a look, and by August was off to England with Walker.
Last Sunday this place was visited by the Hon. Thomas Russell C.M.G., who was accompanied by Messrs J. B. Russell [James Russell, brother], Henry Russell [Thomas Henry, son], Thomas Morrin, and J. W. Walker, who are all interested in the Union Mine, which they intend floating on the English market as soon as possible.
Mr J. W. Walker will be a passenger for England by the R.M.S. Alameda from Auckland on Monday next, in connection with the floating of the Union mine, Waihi, and others on the London market. Mr Thos. Russell, C.M.G. will also be a passenger by the same steamer.
By mid December 1887 the Waihi Gold Mining Company Limited was established.
The following cablegram was received yesterday by Mr J. Russell, chairman of the Union Gold Mining Company, from Mr Thomas Russell: "Company floated, capital £100,000, Union get 30,000 paid up shares, Rosemont, 11,000, cash. Mines floated under name of Waihi Gold Mining Company Limited. Shares be saleable shortly."
Throughout this year, as Walker was busy organising the various claims to come together under the new company, certain responsibilities had been missed, and liberties taken. One headline in the Te Aroha News claims Evasion of the Mining Act.
The law compels all mining companies to publish half-yearly statements of their operations, and failure on the part of the Union Company at Waihi, Auckland, to so comply with the Mines Act has been brought under the notice of Mr Seddon by some shareholders and interested speculators.
"Interested speculators" may have included E.K. Cooper, who held the Winner claim. James Russell wrote to Walker in March 1887, concerned to learn that Cooper was applying for a fresh water right. "I hope this will not interfere with our water race and commend the subject to your careful consideration." ‘Our water race’ presumably the one Walker applied for in February. Russell went on to "enclose an extract from the NZ Herald respecting the Union - the style is remarkably like our little friend Kersey’s......I hope we are safe against any chance of forfeiture, jumping, etc. I also commend this to your very careful consideration."
Even if Cooper did not author the Herald article, James Russell was fearful, and it suggests that tensions were running high in Waihi. Hart reproduces part of the article:
From a Correspondent.
Mr Kersey Cooper is still driving ahead for the lode. The tunnel is in 450 feet. The Mining Inspector might be less usefully employed than affording this district a little of his attention. Far be it from me to desire anyone’s property forfeited, but, on the other hand, shepherding valuable mines will never send the place ahead.
The Rosemont is manned. Yes, one solitary man is holding seventy men’s ground. And yet there is a large quantity of more than payable quartz on the upper levels. There were two men up till Christmas; since then, "the last rose of summer." How does that chime in with the new Act?
Another patient for Dr McLaren [James Monteith McLaren, the mining inspector] – the Union. Here there are two men, who resemble Israel at the time of the Judges – each doeth what seemeth best in his own eyes. Report says they have not received any money, nor seen their boss for at least two months, and don’t know what to go on with. However, they should be happy, for are not Unions quoted at half-a-crown?
The Waihi Gold Mining Company’s Waihi Battery (1888)
With Walker as manager, the Waihi Gold Mining Company set about building a battery at the base of Union Hill. The first annual report indicates how the company intended to set off, and how well it went.
MILL PLANT.—Under the best advice obtainable the Directors determined upon adopting a system of dry crushing, roasting followed by amalgamation in pans, and to accomplish these objects they provided and erected a Mill with Settlers and Wheelers pans, a Howell furnace, several roasting kilns; stone breakers, a set of Eckart rolls and two Globe Mills for reducing the quartz prior to roasting in the furnace and amalgamation in the pans. The whole driven by a steam engine.
After repeated trials the Globe Mills proved inadequate to the work required; the steam engine was found not to have sufficient power to drive the whole of the mill machinery.
There have been mistakes made in connection with the Mill, involving loss of time and waste of money. Some of these failures were, no doubt, incidental to starting a process, new to New Zealand, for the special treatment of our ore. The Directors can see no good result from apportioning blame for these mistakes. The necessary steps have already been taken to rectify them.
At the outset of the Company's operations the cost of timber and other materials required, the cost of transport over long distances and difficult roads, and the cost of construction of the buildings, works and roads were all very much under-estimated, moreover as the plan of operations was developed, the actual requirements became much more extensive than was at first realised, and it soon became apparent that sufficient working capital had not been provided.
Shareholders will remember that the original plan was to drive the machinery of the mill by water power; it was not carried out at the commencement for want of funds, and because the estimated cost was greater than it was afterwards found to be, and the Directors were advised that steam power would more cheaply and speedily procure funds from the mine with which to construct the water-race. The original plan has now been resorted to. Contracts have been made for constructing the water-race so as to drive the whole plant by water power.
Detailed coverage of the Waihi Battery, construction and development, can be found in: The Waihi Mill on Union Hill, a document which pulls together text from Mines Statements, Annual Reports of the Directors, EG Banks 1911 and McAra. Therefore this material will not be presented here.
For a well considered summary of events we can’t go past Philip Rainer’s analysis; an extract well worth reading is presented in the Appendices: Rainer on the Early Waihi Goldmining Company (page 98).
Of importance to our story is the purchase of the Martha Extended Company by Thomas Henry Russell on April 23 1990 , and its offer to the Waihi Company on 7 July .
The Martha Extended Company was gone, Martha mine taken over by the Waihi Company. The idle battery was not required by its new owner. In time it will be sold to the Silverton Company.
Thomas Henry Russell
Not a great deal is known about Thomas Henry Russell (son of Thomas Russell and often called Henry or Harry). "At the end of May, he was attending Board meetings in Auckland, and shortly thereafter was elected to the Local Board". He worked as superintendent of the battery; rather independently it would seem, but technically under manger J.W. Walker. He had an interest in things technical, and became obsessed with perfecting the battery machinery to provide higher bullion extraction rates. Educated at the Thames School of Mines (I think) , he understood the value of assaying ore.
He was aware that an immense sum of money had been spent on the Waihi Battery, and that the ore reserves of the Union Hill mines were limited. He had been inspecting the Martha mine and tip heads, making assays. He saw large reserves of low grade ore, which the Waihi Battery, when perfected, should be able to process economically. How the Martha Extended Company was fairing was no secret.
In a very bold move he made an offer to the Martha Company, using his own funds. The Waihi Gold Mining Company was teetering on the brink of insolvency. Would it last long enough to make use of the Martha mine, and justify his purchase?
At the same time he bought up a number of smaller claims, as well as the Waitekauri mine a few miles from Waihi.
On 7 July  the Local Board received a proposition from Thomas Henry Russell offering to ‘hand over to the Waihi Company all his interest in certain properties at Waihi’. The offer was accepted. Local Chairman James Russell wrote to London advising that for a payment of £6,000 and 20,000 paid-up shares, the Company had acquired the Martha mine and plant, the Britannia, Nut, and other adjoining claims.
As usual Inspecting Engineer Gordon entered the fray. ‘It seems scarcely credible that the Martha Company should have parted with so valuable a property.’ He attributed the sale solely to the fact that few mining companies relied on assaying, and thus did not realise the value of their holdings.
The Waihi Battery started bringing in ore from Martha mine, but continued to mine and process ore from Union Hill for the time being. Mining stopped at Union Hill in April 1893 , as all effort was directed towards the huge Martha reefs. Mining would be resumed on Union Hill when the Union-Waihi Company was split off from the Waihi Gold Mining Company in 1895.
The Silverton Gold-mining Company, Limited
John McCombie had marked out the Silverton claim on 12th of August 1885. However Hart states:
When Pond visited Waihi in March 1886, he was contemplating erecting a plant there ‘quite as efficient and much cheaper than the La Monte process’, then being seen as a possible solution for treating ore.
Whilst there, along with John McCombie he pegged out the Silverton ground; they named it after the latest mining sensation in Australia, near Broken Hill. Pond held 3,080 of the 24,000 shares in the company of that name formed to work it. Elected a director, he worked on developing a new process to treat the tailings
But it is clear from press reports that a Silverton property was being worked towards the end of 1885. For example the Te Aroha News reported on 14 November 1885 (also giving a little history):
The next claim on the same line of reef going north, is known as the Silverton, ..... and some four years ago a party of prospectors drove a level a distance of 300 ft intersecting the reef at a depth of 50ft beneath the surface. At this point it measured from, wall to wall, fully 17ft in thickness, and though there was no gold visible in the stone it gave fair prospects of that metal when subjected to the mortar process. At that time the prospectors knew little and thought less about silver, save and except when it presented itself to them as the current coin of the realm, and after driving another tunnel and doing a large amount of surface prospecting, they relinquished their title and departed. As the reef has been proved by reliable assay to contain both gold and silver in remunerative quantities, I expect that the work which was started this week will in a very short time be attended with favourable results.
We have met James Alexander Pond earlier, and know that he was superintending a crushing through the Martha Battery. He and McCombie were evidently principals in the Silverton Company. In August 1887 Pond applied for the Silverton Extended claim , granted October . "The Silverton Extended was not transferred to the Silverton Company until October 1891."
J.H. Moore, manager of the Martha, was also managing the Silverton, presumably since its beginning. He left to go to the Maratoto on October 15, 1887, replaced by McCombie.
Bay Of Plenty Times, 8 April 1886:
The Silverton mine has taken premier position and there have been several skirmishes inside and outside the law in order to gain possession of land which is supposed to hold a continuation of the much coveted Silverton reef. The reef in question is supposed not to run in a direct course and as a consequence ground all around and about has been pegged out greatly to the enhancement of the County Exchequer if of nothing else.
In the Silverton itself things look A1. The winze is down about 64 feet and during the last fortnight every shift has brought several pounds of specimens to light. Mr J.H. Moore has a large box full that would probably pan out over 15 dwts to the pound on the average.
SILVERTON— this mine is now fairly out of the ruck and has taken the lead in this district by many lengths, it is estimated by experts in mining who have made this sort of thing a study, that for the time and capital spent the Silverton is the greatest mining success since the opening of the field. This is not mere empty talk for the concern has not been started more than six months and now all expenses being paid, and a tremendous quantity of dead work to the good, a balance of several hundred pounds still remains on the right side of the Company's passbook, 240 pounds of picked specimen stone was manipulated during the past week by Mr J.A. Pond Provincial Analyst of Auckland, who is one of the largest shareholders in the mine, at the Martha Battery for a return of 65oz of gold being a ratio of about 560ozs to the ton. The tailings of the crushing have been the subject of several offers; but the directorate prefers operating on them itself. These tailings are believed by practical assayers to contain another 60ozs. The directors have wisely decided not to declare a dividend on the strength of the money in hand, but intend carrying it forward for the future opening up of the mine.
The Inspecting Engineer had this to say (report to 31 March 1887):
Silverton Company.—This company is working on a different lode from the Union, Rosemont, and Nil Desperandum Companies; but, like these companies as well as the Martha Company's mines, it is situated on an isolated hill about 20 chains in a north-east direction from the Rosemont Mine. The reef is running at nearly right angles with the other reefs in the district, its course being north-west and south-east. There is a large outcrop of loose boulders along the summit of the hill; but on sinking a winze the reef formed a more compact body of stone, rich in both silver and gold.
The company was formed with a capital of £24,000, but nothing has yet been called up. They are crushing the best of the stone by the ordinary battery-process at the Martha Company's battery, and have, after paying all expenses, £700 to their credit. After picking out the best of the stone, the rest is stacked awaiting some different process of treatment.
150 tons of stone have been crushed by the ordinary battery-process, which yielded about 3oz of gold per ton, value £2 18s. per ounce. The loss in crushing this class of ore with the ordinary battery-process is something enormous. When the stone is rich in silver not more than 20 per cent of the bullion is saved, the whole of the silver being carried away with the water. It is quite disheartening to the owners of these claims to know that they have a valuable property, and cannot extract the metals from the ore. They are now making themselves acquainted with the mode of assaying and ascertaining its value, but are yet unable to get a cheap method of treatment. The La Monte furnace, although a failure in treating this class of ore, has nevertheless been a great benefit to the colony, inasmuch as it has been the means of the miners taking up, proving, and working lodes containing silver, which two years ago they would have looked on as mere rubbish. This, together with the School of Mines, will ultimately be the means of opening up reefs which hitherto have been deemed barren.
Unable to successfully process their ore, activity was restricted to development of the mine.
Silverton Mine.—Very little work was done in this mine. Seventy tons of quartz was crushed for a yield of 340oz. of gold. The mine is now let on tribute and rich quartz is being obtained, but no returns have yet been received from the tributers. Three wages-men and four tributers were employed.
Silverton Mine (Mr. John McCombie, manager).—This mine has been let on tribute. Two hundred and seventy tons of quartz was obtained, and sold at a certain percentage on its assay-value, the amount realised being £1,508 (treated at Waihi (Martha) and Karangahake).
Attempts to float the company in Sydney failed.