Full Record

The Rain at Southern Cross The Working of Mining Companies
Record no:
27 May 1890
The Working of Mining Companies is a Letter to the Editor from Alfred Arnold
Kept:Press clippings book 1, p. 26
For the



A report, dated Monday, 19th inst., has been received from P.c. McCarthy,
at Southern Cross, concerning the condition of affairs on the fields.

The report states the rain fell at the Cross on the 8th, 9th and 10th
inst.  Lake Cotton was filled and also the tanks there.  The tanks
belonging to the Exchange, and Frasers' [sic] South, were also filled but
Frasers' [sic] only got two feet of water.

The Central did not catch any water.  There was three feet of water in the
Kookerdine tank.  The seventeen-mile tanks were full, also the tanks at
the Government paddock.  A good shower fell on the night of the 18th
inst., with every appearance of more.

Condensing was stopped for the present, and all the boring pipes which had
been lent called in.

The Exchange G.M. Co.’s Huntingdon Mill started crushing on the 14th
inst., and everything was reported to be going on well under the
supervision of Mr Wallace, the Company's engineer.  The Central Company
would start crushing on the 19th, with the ten head of stampers.  Frasers'
[sic] did not intend to start until the beginning of June.


SIR, — Having for thirty years been more or less intimately associated
with the treatment of precious metals, I have, since my residence here,
tried to arrive at the cause of the non-success attending operations on
the principal mines of this field.  To me it appears the directors of
these companies expect too much from their mining managers.  No doubt
there are many men in our community well able to take charge of, and to
develop a mine; but then it by no means follows that a good miner is also
a good engineer, and equally proficient amalgamator; both of which latter
professions require many years of careful study and experience before
proficiency is arrived at.  Just as a good prospector is often a poor
miner, and an inefficient miner, frequently an indifferent prospector, so
a good mine manager may be a very poor engineer, and still more
indifferent amalgamator.

Of course, we all know that it is very important to arrange and
superintend a mine so as to secure payable stone at the lowest possible
cost, but then, if from want of engineering knowledge, or amalgamating
skill, the machinery will not run smoothly, or the gold contained in the
stone passes the tables, the judgment and tact displayed in the earlier
operations is of but little avail.  Common sense should here come to the
rescue.  Having found a competent manager, the gentleman of the
directorate, who as a rule know nothing about the business of mining,
should do just what our European capitalists do, who run business by
deputy.  Rather than subject the unfortunate aspirant for the managerial
position to an examination, and require from him a profession of
efficiency in every department, they should, subject to certain provisos,
give him carte blanche to make whatever engagement he may deem necessary
for the complete and efficient running of the concern.

Under such circumstances, a good manager would do his best to secure men
whose knowledge and experience was great, just where he knew his own to be

During the course of milling, chemical combinations take place, which
sicken the mercury, and render it altogether inoperative.  It then becomes
the duty of the amalgamator to compound a "pickle" which shall, so to
speak, kill the enemy, liberate the mercury, and set it free to follow its
work of gathering gold.

Every line of gold-bearing reef has its own peculiarities, and while the
baser metals co-exists in the stone, yet many of these are easily got rid
of.  On the other hand, there are ores commonly called refractory, because
of the difficulty experienced by some in discarding certain metals, such,
for instance, as antimony sulphide, and metallic antimony, especially the
former.  And here the mining manager, from want of practical chemistry, is
so often at fault.

The importance of this is fully recognized in the older mining centres,
and no manager of a public battery would, for one moment, pretend to pass
himself off as an efficient amalgamator.

Further, so important are the amalgamator's duties, that frequently he
receives higher pay than the manager, and often an interest in the mine is
given him, so as to secure his best services.  A good amalgamator is not
to be obtained at a working man's price, nor will he be subject to any
interference.  He must have sole charge of the battery.  He will then
watch it day and night.  When difficulties arise he will be there the
twenty-four hours through, if necessary; and is always willing that his
work should be judged of by what his tailings contain.

In opening up and working a new venture, economy must be studied, but I
fear the Directors of these mines, while laudably aiming at economy, are
in fact pursuing an extravagant policy, and one, which if not altered very
speedily, will deprive these mines of that confidence which their merits
fairly entitle them to hold.

If, as is occasionally the case, the man can be found who combines
engineering knowledge with amalgamating experience, by all means let his
services be secured, and we shall very soon see an end and to the
vexatious delays, and expensive experiments, which have hitherto been
experienced by the mining public of Western Australia.
Yours etc.,
Southern Cross, May 20.
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