Miners’ and prospectors’ skills in general and at Te Aroha in particular
Hart, P. (2016). Miners’ and prospectors’ skills in general and at Te Aroha in particular. (Te Aroha Mining District Working papers, No. 47). Hamilton, New Zealand: University of Waikato, Historical Research Unit.
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/10359
Mining was a skilled occupation, and untrained men were poor miners. A variety of skills were required to trace ore and to develop safe and well-operated mines. Mine managers needed not only to understand all aspects of mining but also required knowledge of geology and an understanding of treatment processes. Ensuring safety was paramount. And ideally, in some circumstances they should have the fortitude to stand up to their directors. In the small mines of the Te Aroha district, as elsewhere, managers worked alongside miners, which could be bad for discipline. Examples are cited of managers who were unfairly dismissed for not finding high-grade ore. It was vital for the welfare of the industry that all their reports were accurate and not adjusted to suit share trading. Until late in the nineteenth century, managers were appointed because of their experience, but from 1887 onwards training was required, though for a time some very competent managers were granted certificates of competency without having to pass examinations in technical subjects. For long a preference was expressed for ‘practical’ men rather than the newly trained, and in the 1890s overseas experts were commonly ridiculed. An ability to trace payable ore on the surface and underground was vital, and also one of the most difficult tasks facing both prospectors and miners. Untrained prospectors were notable for misunderstanding geology and wasting their efforts, as illustrated by some over-optimistic amateurs who failed to find anything of value despite years of effort. But even experienced men struggled to find good ore – hardly surprisingly because of its rarity. At least such men were not tempted by some of the more esoteric prospecting methods tried. Because many in the mining industry realized their lack of knowledge, they were enthusiastic to learn from visiting lecturers and the schools of mines that were established in the 1880s. And several became inventors, with not all their inventions being limited just to the mining industry.
Historical Research Unit, University of Waikato
© 2016 Philip Hart