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Peter Ferguson and his new Era: the second battery at Waiorongomai

Peter Ferguson was an experienced miner who did not take kindly to criticism. After spending years mining at Thames he prospected Te Aroha mountain before it was opened to mining, but after finding that he had not discovered gold, as he had believed, he turned to prospecting nearby. He then spent most of his life as a mine manager at Waiorongomai, where he was prominent in the local community. As Waiorongomai was handicapped by having only one treatment plant, investors, sometimes assisted by Ferguson, made several attempts to erect a second one. After these attempts failed, he formed a private New Era syndicate to erect a plant. Being under-capitalized, it struggled to meet the cost of constructing a road and a branch incline tramway to its site, far up the Waiorongomai Stream; some county councillors, led by Josiah Clifton Firth, who was suspected of trying to retain his battery monopoly, opposed providing financial assistance. The most important member of Ferguson’s small syndicate was George Fraser, an Auckland engineer whose skills were vital for providing the appropriate machinery for a plant that used a different process to the norm. Visitors were impressed with the new plant in its dramatic setting and miners and investors held high hopes for it, but were quickly disappointed. After his plant closed after working for only a short time, Ferguson went to Glasgow, where he formed the Ferguson Syndicate Company with the inventors of the new cyanide process. After two years’ absence seeking capital he returned, acquired a large area of mining ground, and erected a second plant, once again raising high expectations. The cyanide process was not, after all, used, and after his new plant quickly proved itself to be unsuccessful, the company collapsed. After leaving Waiorongomai, Ferguson continued to experiment with new treatment processes, and also sought copper in Northland, in neither case with any success.
Working Paper
Type of thesis
Te Aroha Mining District Working Papers
Hart, P. (2016). Peter Ferguson and his new Era: the second battery at Waiorongomai. (Te Aroha Mining District Working papers, No. 86). Hamilton, New Zealand: University of Waikato, Historical Research Unit.
Historical Research Unit, University of Waikato
© 2016 Philip Hart