Full Record

Mr. Woodward's report on the Fraser's & Central's Mines. Fraser's gold mine. The Centrals. Other mines. Alluvial. Means of communication. The roads.
Record no:
5 March 1890
Kept:Press clippings book 1, p. 16

The Acting Colonial Secretary (Hon O. Burt) has received the following report, dated 18th ult., on the Fraser's and Central's mines.

SIR: This trip was planned, in the first instance, to see if I could render the Fraser's Company any assistance with their crushing, or the production of their amalgam, but as they subsequently decided to send Mr B. H. Woodward, privately, to do this for them, I had therefore nothing to do with it, but as I was unable to travel about, owing to the scarcity of water on the field, I was down on this mine nearly every day, so that I have the honour to hand you, for the information of his Excellency the Administrator, a few remarks on the Fraser's and Central's mines.


The battery, although a good, strong machine, is of rather an old pattern, which causes a good deal of loss of time in cleaning up, or in changing the screens, which latter, with this machine, is a most complicated affair.

I should have recommended that, in starting a new mine, one of the most modern machines, from one of the large works in one of the great gold-mining colonies, had been selected.  The tables are not at all good, the ripples or wells being a great deal larger than required, whilst the copper plates seem, from their behaviour, to be of a bad quality. Brazier's copper is the best, of not less than 3lbs weightt per square foot, as hard-rolled copper-plates never amalgamate properly, and although an apparently well-silvered surface is obtained, it will not stand, but quickly gets spotty and discoloured.

The tables, also, I think, have not sufficient fall; this, however, is difficult to say at present, until worked with a full supply of water.  As I am now writing for plans, with measurements of tables that we found to work with a great success, I shall shortly been a position to supply anyone with a copy, so that they can get them made here.

The battery site has been very unfortunately chosen, as, added to the fact that there is no fall to run away the tailings without carrying them on to another company's property, the machine has been placed on the back of the load, i.e., the load is dipping away under it, so that when mining work is carried on at this end of the claim the settlement from the under-mining of the machinery may cause serious trouble.  I mention this more for the benefit of others who are about to erect machinery, as this company will probably decide to change the site when they add to the plant.  The shaft, to, has been sunk on the cap of the load, instead of to the W., in which direction the load is dipping.  This necessitates so much driving, as the load gets further and further from the shaft every foot it is sunk, but as this can be considered little more than a prospecting shaft it is not of much consequence.  The water supply is bad, but this can be greatly improved by driving at the bottom of the water-shaft, which would be of great advantage, as the water that is now used, after passing over the tables and through the settling pits, is returned to the well; this is also supplied by the water that is raised from the main shaft, which is conveyed from it to the well by ditch about 200 yards long.  The water, passing continually over the tables, increases in saltness, added to which is a quantity of mind that is held in suspension, does not improved its quality for gold saving or boiler feeding.  A good deal of this might be avoided if the manager had sufficient piping to carry the water which is raised from the mine (to the top of the shaft being a considerable height above the battery) direct to the tanks from which the tables are fed. This would also save the pump a considerable amount of work, as at present the water is allowed to run down the well and has to be pumped up again.

The pump is perfectly inadequate to supply the tables with water, and the size of the pipes will make very little difference, as more water cannot be raised by it.  It was evidently intended to feed the boiler-not to supply the tables.

The water is perfectly unfitted for boiler purposes, as half an inch of salt was deposited during 70 hours crushing, which tookabout two and a half days to chip out.  The danger is not the chemical action that this water has on the plates, but that a scale being formed inside the boiler of very bad heat-conducting substance, the plates are burnt through by the fire.

As far as these tables are concerned, I am of opinion that this water will work alright when sufficient can be supplied, as at the present time the battery is being worked at about half speed in about 47 strokes to the minute instead of about 80, whilst the water is dribbled over the tables. It would, in my opinion, have been better to have worked five head at full speed, with a full supply of water, then to have attempted to work thewhole ten.  I should also recommend that no mercury be added to the crushing in the boxes, as all the complication in the amalgam is due to the iron from the wear and tear of the stamps which would mostly then be left selected freshwater in the boxes, and could easily be separated when dry from the gold by a magnet, or by silver with a little fresh water. What did pass through the screens would be carried by the water over the plates and ripples without amalgamating if there were a sufficient fall and stream of water, as it is only amalgamated with mercury in this water when kept long in contact, or on being ground with it. This trouble will also be encountered in the amalgamator, one of which the company will have to get in order to save the fine gold which, at present, is lost with the tailings.  The battery is being badly supplied with enamelled amalgam buckets, iron dishes, mortars, amalgam scoops, india-rubber brushes, &c., for cleaning the plates, all of which are absolutely necessary for the working of a battery.  Also small iron piping is required for rigging up a condenser.

A tramway is being constructed from the shaft to the battery, and the general work is making great progress, considering the great difficulties which have to be contended with.

The dam-which after the winter rains was full of very good water-is not quite dry, but has some very salty water in the bottom of it.  This, I believe, is not due to evaporation, but to the fact that the dam has been sunk a little too deep, as the water stands at about the water-level.  The bottom should, therefore, be puddled before any rain falls, to keep out the salt water and to keep in fresh.

I find that a good deal of uneasiness has been felt about the load in depth.  This, I am very have to say, I can set at rest, as the load, where it has been cut at about 70 feet from the surface, is as large and of a more defined character than is Fraser's old workings, being about 12 ft through of nearly solid quartz, with a well-defined footwall, but it has not yet formed a hanging wall.  On each side of the load the country is a mass of large and small leaders, with slatey partings for over 20 feet, a good deal of which carries gold.  A level is now being put in to the north, which will be carried on as far as the boundary of the claim to prove what relation this load bears to that which is being worked by the Centrals, and is from this level that the stone is now being crushed. This will probably not prove so rich as the first crushing, as that was from the surface and the upper workings, and contained a good deal of semi- alluvial gold in the fissures and on the faces of the stone, but considering that the quality and quantity of the stone it should pay well to work when these little difficulties have been overcome, and the battery increased in size; the great mistake that is being made at present is to suppose that this mine is working, whereas it is only being tested.

What this mine may turn out to be is now in the hands of the shareholders; if they are all prepared to put their hands into their pockets again, it will be a success, but if not the sooner they shut it up the better.

The general prospects of the mine are very promising, and the management good, the only difficulties being the saltness of the water, and extraction of the gold, but this latter will, I think the overcome when the machine has being got into proper working order, and when we consider the results of the crushings which have taken place under such adverse circumstances, the amount of gold saved has proved very satisfactory, and would be considered a grand return anywhere but Western Australia.


This mine was not crushing when I was on the field, but was wisely waiting for fresh water to fill the boiler.  In the meantime a good deal of work is being done on the surface, so as to have everything in perfect readiness.  Another large dam has being constructed, and a water shaft, with a large pump, sunk close to the battery.

There is a shaft on the underlay of the reef about 60 feet in depth, which proves that a large body of stone is getting away steadily to the west. This reef seems to be of a compound nature, as the rich portion that has been worked is about 4 feet wide in the middle of a large reef, from which it is separated by a very fairly defined foot-wall and broken faces for a hanging-wall, but as the whole mass has not been cross-cut its width is unknown, but where it has been prospected it has proved to be much inferior to the portion that has been worked, but will probably pay well to work as a whole.  It is now proposed to carry this shaft down to the water level (some 10 feet), then to cross-cut it and put in a level north and south, when the stone above will be stripped.  There is a tramway from the shaft to the battery, and another water-shaft and pump, so as to be sure of a good supply of water.

A condensing boiler is now on the way to the field, so that this company will soon be in a position to set to work vigorously to test is very promising property, and it is to be hoped that they will shortly be able to turn out the gold in a first-class state.


Very few of the other mines were at work, the exceptions being Fraser's South, Central Extended, and the Exchange.  The two former were proceeding with the work of development, whilst on the latter a Huntingdon mill is being erected, but most of the work will shortly have to be suspended if
no rain falls.


A few alluvial diggers are still at work here, and some large nuggets have been found at Parker's, but no thorough alluvial prospecting has yet been done: of course this is in some measure due to so much of the land being leased, but when this regulation is altered, and alluvial diggers can work all over the surface of the leases, I expect some rich deposits will be found-not necessarily on the leases themselves, but by tracing the small runs of gold from them down into the deeper ground. As in this district so many rich reefs outcrop the surface, there are certain to be deposits of alluvial gold, but these deposits will not necessarily be covered by large deposits of sand and clay, but the gold will probably be found almost on the surface.


In my last report on the fields I unfortunately worded a portion relating to the telegraph line.  I did not mean it to be understood the telegraph line would be useless, but the railway would be of greater importance, as to be able to visit the fields quickly, and to get material up is of far greater importance than to know how they are getting on, but at the present time a telegraph line would be of great value to the teamsters to prevent them starting for the fields on every rumour of rain.


I would also like to say a word about the roads, which is that I would not spend another penny on them till the Roads Boards enforce the regulations with regard to driving horses in one line, as all the money spent during the last six months has been thrown away, as the roads are now in a worse condition than they were before, as a new track is completely spoiled by about a dozen heavy teams when they drive all their horses in a line.  On an old road, the ruts of which are deeply cut, it would be impossible to start driving double, but on a new road, or a road on which new pieces are cut wherever the road is bad, they have no excuse.
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