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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 8 (November 1, 1937)

Gold Mining in Central Otago

page 42

Gold Mining in Central Otago.

(Continued from page 39.)

gold. The sand may be blown off, or the sand and gold separated by means of mercury. In this latter course the mercury is introduced into the pan. Mercury possesses the peculiar property of amalgamating with, and collecting the gold. Thus, if the pan is shaken and stirred to allow the mercury to penetrate the silt, small globules of “loaded” mercury gather, and all the gold is thus rescued. To separate the gold from the mercury, an evaporation process is required. Here again several methods are open, viz., by a retort, by a potato, by paper; with all of these, of course, heat is essential. The mercury-gold conglomerate is gathered together (usually spooned out of the pan) and put into a rag. This is rolled, and all the water squeezed from the mercury mixture. Let us use paper, as the simplest and most expedient method. The block of mercury-gold conglomerate is wrapped in a piece of paper, and put into a tin match box, in the top of which is a hole (for the double purpose of providing a grip for a poker, and of providing a vent for the evaporating mercury).

The closed tin is then put bodily into a red fire, where it remains for several minutes, after which it is removed and the gold extracted. We now examine interestedly this lump of dirty-yellowish matter. Gold!

Now is the moment when the miner excitedly dances a jig, smiles with philosophic calm, or with disdainful or despairing grimace, reveals the innermost reflections on this visible sign of the reward of his labours.

Please be it understood that this is a description of the means adopted by the individual miner in certain parts of Central Otago. There are other forms of mining—quartz reef crushing is a notable example.

On a larger scale, mining here is carried on by dredging, by elevating, by large power sluicing. But for the individual, the above descriptions cover the existing means.

You will soon know when you are in a mining area. You will see large heaps of stones—“tailings” is their name. You will see the hillsides marked and scarred with tiers upon tiers, and miles upon miles of water-races. You will see an old sod hut here, a derelict cottage there, a ruined pipe line, falling into disrepair. And should you enter into a group of miners you will at once hear such remarks as: “How was So-and-So's wash-up?” “How are you off for water?” and so on.

By their speech shall ye know them.