GOLD MINES - Manilla District
Panning for Alluvial Gold Image: CC
Gold discovery in Australia in the early 1850s raised great excitement. As news spread of the riches being unearthed, men of all trades and professions downed tools, left work in their thousands and brought much of the country's business to a standstill. In northern New South Wales, the diggers made their way to 'Bingera', around 100km north of Manilla.
Beyond Bingara, to Bundarra and other locations further north, back south along the range to Ironbark Creek and Woods Reef, east of Barraba to Manilla's immediate north, shafts were dug to great depths in search of the rich veins of primary gold and the fortune promised.
In the mid 1860s, Charles Muggleton, son of the manager of Manilla and Glen Riddle Stations, was out mustering cattle on the Crow Mountain Range when he and a mate, Miles Hagan, found a stone with golden flecks. They showed it to the miner, John Crowley, taking him to the spot. Crowley sunk a shaft, establishing the "Dodger" mine on the Crow Mountain field, from which a wealth of gold would later be taken.
Hundreds came to work at the surface during that time, to dig up the earth and sift through it for the small particles of Alluvial gold left behind by the movement of water over time. Many worked for set wages, prospecting for new veins, digging shafts and processing the rock. Others were the 'tributors', paid a percentage of the value of ore they mined. News articles of the time, collected below, describe well, the diggings and data collected during the 40-50 years of productive mining in this area.
1889 Manilla District GOLD FIELD DECLARATION
"The Princess" had become the leading mine at the Crow Mountain gold field towards the end of the 1800s and we have the Crow Mountain Correspondent's reports from those early newspapers to provide some detail. In January 1899, the first of his articles appeared in the Manilla Express, which had just gone into publication. The "Crow Mountain Correspondent" was Arthur Vincent, of the Vincent & McLaurin Mine. Arthur left the gold field in 1900 to establish The Manilla Express on behalf of the Vincent family of printers of Glen Innes, pioneers in publishing and responsible for many of northern New South Wales' independent newspapers.
Remains of a Crow Mountain Gold Mine, 1980s
Crow Mountain Mine Shafts, c.1900s
Collected Articles - GOLD 1865-1904
TIN MINES - Manilla District
Questions around the date of tin discovery in Australia were much debated in the late 1800s. In 1912, a determined effort was made to clear the confusion. Some remains, but it was found that George Bass, surgeon on the ship "Reliance" recognised tin crystals on a Tasmanian beach in 1799. Moving half a century forward, The Rev. W. B. Clarke went to investigate the granite country of northern New South Wales and southern Queensland districts in the late 1850s and reported finding gemstones and a wealth of other minerals. In 1863 he added the collection of a specimen of tin from the New England to his findings, which he presented to the government. It is reported that tinstone was found by Messrs. Fearby near Inverell in 1872, resulting in the opening of the Elesmore mine, which operated between 1871 to 1920, then spasmodically until 1977. Surveys had been carried out all along the New England during the 1860s, locating a wealth of tin ore in the districts of Glen Innes, Bundarra, Tingha and surrounds and extending south east to locations nearby.
Tin discoveries in the Manilla district during the late 1860s created a rush to Bendemeer, to Giant's Den Mountain and Watson's Creek, 28km from Manilla. The Armidale Express of October 26, 1872 noted seven mining operations in progress in the district at the time. The proprietor of one, Mr. J. C. W. Hinsch, had a substantial claim on the slopes of the hill, extending to the top, around 182mtrs [600ft] above the source of Watson's Creek. The detailed description posted here, appeared in the Australian Town and Country Journal in July 1873, several months after he launched his venture.
The Giant's Den Tin Mines 1873
Collected Articles - TIN 1872 - 1926
Australian tin production was waning in the late 1930s. By 1941, Australia was importing a quarter of its requirements from Asia.
As time went on the disadvantage to the local tin miner was that all he produced, had to be sold within Australia at a fixed price, as opposed to other mineral producers who could export as they wished. Tin producers also had to pay income tax, tin being declared a strategic metal during wartime. By the 1950s fixed pricing and the immovability of the Federal Government on the question of imposing tariffs on imported metal would drive Australian producers out of the industry.
Mining operations were dependent upon water. Work at the top was more labour intensive due to a lack of it, but easier lower down, as long as there wasn't too much of it. At one stage, around 30 Chinese workers were engaged in dam construction along the creek. But the ground on Watson's Creek was renowned for its sogginess, with or without recent rainfall. As a result of having to contend with in-rushing sub-terranean water hampering underground work, this area would be subject to a cycle of non-production and revival in the decades to come.
During the Australian Gold Rush of the 1850s and '60s, diggers unknowingly discarded the glittering black flecks of tin in their panning dishes, in a feverish search for gold ones. It wasn't until experienced miners identified the value of the alluvial crystals in the black soil they were casting aside, that interest in the potential wealth of tin grew. Tin ore had been identified in Tasmania during the 1850s and the quality of the lode at Mount Bischoff in Tasmania was found to match that of Cornwall, England. It is said that the Australian Tin boom, in full flight by the 1870s, signalled the demise of Cornish tin mining which had sustained its worker community for generations. Cheaper production costs here and in the Asian Straits Settlements, forced the price of tin to drop below the cost of processing it in England and the 4,000 year old tin mining industry of Cornwall collapsed. It is recorded that 2,000 mines were producing tin at the height of the industry - some below the sea-bed. Most of these mines closed, with just a few merging to stay afloat. Those which managed to survive, were sustained by the increased requirement of tin during wartime, only to slump to non-production, in times of depression. The hardship which came with the end of tin mining in England led to the emigration of hundreds of Cornish mining families in order to survive. Tin mining in Australia was to benefit from generations of Cornish knowledge and experience.
More to come...