The Te Aroha silver and gold mining company: the introduction of Australian capital to Waiorongomai
Hart, P. (2016). The Te Aroha silver and gold mining company: the introduction of Australian capital to Waiorongomai. (Te Aroha Mining District Working papers, No. 92). Hamilton, New Zealand: University of Waikato, Historical Research Unit.
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/10424
William Robert Wilson, one of the founders of B.H.P., visited New Zealand on several occasions both to obtain relief for his rheumatism and to acquire racehorses. In 1888, after Josiah Clifton Firth and Henry Hopper Adams extolled the wonders of the Waiorongomai goldfield, he visited it, took samples for testing, and expressed confidence in its great future. Upon his return to Australia he formed the Te Aroha Silver and Gold Mining Company on terms that benefited the promoters but did not provide adequate working capital. The new company developed some of the existing mines and did some prospecting of nearby areas. The battery, completely overhauled on the American pattern under the supervision of American experts, was the best plant in Australasia. When it operated, after obtaining some very positive results it ran out of both suitable ore and fluxes and had to close, and mining ceased. The company then sought a government subsidy to drive an expensive low-level tunnel to provide cheaper access to the lodes at depth, threatening to dismantle the plant and remove it to Australia if the subsidy was not provided. As Cabinet did not want to set a precedent, its request was declined; accordingly, the plant was dismantled and sent to Australia. For a time its mines were held under protection, to the annoyance of local miners, but were then abandoned. The company failed because its plant had an inappropriate process for the complex and refractory local ore, did not have cheap fluxes, and there was insufficient high-grade ore. Post mortems agreed it should have spent more time developing the mines and testing the ore before erecting such an expensive plant. The collapse of this company held back the development of the field for years.
Historical Research Unit, University of Waikato
© 2016 Philip Hart