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Hillgrove and its mines. Part IV.

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Wednesday 26 August 1891, The Sydney Morning Herald



Like ourselves, all mines are not Fortune’s favourites. Many a man goes wrong, and so does many a mine. Sometimes it is not the fault of the man or the mine, but hard luck. In the case of the Eleanora, the oldest mine of Hillgrove, its failure in the very important matter of paying dividends is due to the hardest line of bad luck. Some good authorities say it is the greatest antimony mine in the world. I am not a good authority, but I can say that if the antimony mines of Borneo, Nevada, New Brunswick, or Hungary, which are reported to be the chief yielders of commercial antimony, are greater than the Eleanora or other mines I know at Hillgrove, the metal is not likely to be scarce for many years.

Now, just as the Eleanora was ready to yield 21 tons of crude antimony a week, down went the market. Antimony which was worth £45 per ton is at present quoted at something below £20. How much lower it may go no one seems prepared to say, nor is there any one who can give a hope of the price improving. It is a very useful metal, being chiefly valuable for the alloys it yields to other metals. It forms one-fifth of Britannia metal, one-fifth of type metal, one-tenth of Babbitt’s anti-friction metal, and is used in place of gun metal for the bushes of heavy machinery. Pharmacy needs it. We all need it if given to writing with lead pencils, and it has something to do with paints. One authority says that the paint used by Jezebel was from antimony, and, as science is ever marching forward, there is no reason why antimony should not also find new channels and become more valuable than it is at present. If the price could be brought up to about £35 per ton Hillgrove could live by antimony – aye, and become independent of its gold veins. Taking things as they are, however, I regret to say that the district would be better without the baser metal. Antimony does not agree with quicksilver, and consequently when associated with gold somewhat confuses the ordinary work of amalgamation. Picking and sorting, jiggering and washing, are costly proceedings but notwithstanding those drawbacks the Eleanora, with its 5½dwt. of gold mixed up with the antimony ore, manages to employ 70 hands, and go on with improvements without troubling its shareholders for more than 1s per £1 share in 12 months. If antimony had kept up in price the mine would be paying over £500 per week clear profit. That is where the bad luck comes in.

The mine was worked with varying results, but on the whole profitably, by Mr Scouller up to August, 1889, when it was sold for about £30,000 cash to an Adelaide syndicate, who formed a company with a capital of £100,000. There are 65 acres of land, which give about 3600ft. along the reef’s course. Machinery, smelting plant, and gear are worth about £25,000. During the last 13 months since the present manager, Mr. W. Taylor, late of Fairfield, and formerly of Stawell, came into charge, a very good, well-informed, steady man, the company has spent in permanent works no less than £4550, and seems prepared to go on spending. I do not think there is much rashness in this course.

Let us review the position. The lode, which varies in width from 3ft. to 12ft., is what is known as a true fissure lode. It is true on the surface for the entire length of the land. It is true down to 400ft., the present depth of the mine, and as it is on the top or extreme edge of the side of the Falls, where the Baker’s Creek mine, 1500ft. down, has rich golden veins and very little antimony, we may side with the experts, who say that as the Eleanora goes down the lode will become richer in gold and poorer in antimony. I had a pleasing journey over all the workings of the mine, and saw at the 300ft. level, 320ft. north of the shaft, what is regarded as completely new make of a reef, 3ft. wide, showing gold freely. This, when put under the stamps, should tell a very encouraging tail.

The mine should not fail. It is great bulwark for Hillgrove, and is to visitors the most interesting portion of the field. The first night of my recent visit found me rambling amid the Eleanora machinery, standing by the four new smelting furnaces and the refiner, and watching the dull liquid-metal being poured into huge moulds. I then rambled around the passages formed by 1500 cords of good firewood down to the crushing battery – 25 head of 7cwt. stampers and 10 berdans all moving with clockwork regularity. Close to the crushers was the air-compressing plant, which works three rock-drills, pumps and performs other serviceable work. The huge dam, 20ft. deep, with a Blake pump, was ceaselessly working, sending water up to the cleaning works, where a shed full of jiggers were ready for employment. Then, before breakfast the next morning I was again on the mine, and much interested in the ore-sorting and cleaning, which is now done by hand but which will in a few months be altogether effected by steam-power. The steam-jiggers are already erected close to the dressing-floor. There are crushing about 600 tons of ore per month, and each ton yields about 5½dwt. of gold. Only two of the four furnaces are used for smelting, yet 12 tons of crude antimony equal to 65 per cent quality are obtained. There has been recently a cleaning up of the oxide obtained during six mouths’ work. The result was 27 tons 4cwt. of white metal worth £46 per ton. The wage-sheet of the mine is now £346 per fortnight. A mine such as this, if profitable, would afford work for hundreds of men for scores of years. The shaft now being sunk to 400ft, will be driven at that level north and south. There are at present 30 men at work below. The mine is in excellent order. The country worked is but a “mere dot” on tho admirable general plan, which is in the manager’s office.

The Lady Carrington Mine, which was but budding when I first visited Hillgrove two years ago, has since bloomed, and is now in a state of decay. It started with 60,000 shares, one-half of which were liable to contribute. The mine was opened, and £10,000 spent in machinery. A tram line, 1500ft., was laid from the top of The Falls to the crushing plant which was on the mine, but when the machinery was all in order it was found that it could not separate the gold from the antimony. Instead of the expected dividends there came culls, and the contributing shareholders became like the battery’s quicksilver – somewhat sick of antimony, so the work stopped ; but now there is reformation in progress. Captain Cock feels confident he can by chlorination and other treatment render the ore payable. There is a good lode to work upon, the width averaging 4ft. Take with this a good crushing-plant, 10 head of heavy stampers, a mine well opened and quartz which goes 1oz. to the ton, and there is a probability of the Lady Carrington becoming a payable mine. The new machinery was being erected at the time of my visit, the expenditure being about £150 per month.

Another of the mines which has passed from full blown to decay and is coming again to bloom is the North Baker’s Creek. Here is a shaft down 250ft., machinery to crush, wind, and pump all ready, provided at a cost of £15,000. The cessation was due to the lack of courage on the part of the former shareholders ; but there are now 30,000 shares, all of which are contributing, to draw upon. Furthermore, there is gold without antimony. The North mine being 250ft. down in the bed of Baker’s Creek, on the boundary of the Baker’s Creek mine is, of course, a long way below the level of the Eleanora. Captain Cock assures me that it has three good reefs, one of which will go 2oz. to the ton. No. 1 reef he ranks as the Smith’s reef of the Baker’s Creek mine. If it proves to be so, it should be very rich and very reliable. He struck Lode No. 3 in his deep shaft within a foot of the spot he expected to meet it. He is confident of making the North a payable mine. Its success would send Hillgrove up many notches in public estimation.

Written by macalba

April 23, 2011 at 8:09 pm

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