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Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies, Volume 1, Issue 5, October 1985

Coal Mining Near Nelson City

Coal Mining Near Nelson City

page 4

Early Reports

It appears that the first report of coal in or close to Nelson was made by Arthur Wakefield who in November 1841 noted in his diary, a few days after coming ashore on what is now Wakefield Quay, the finding of small specimens of coal nearby. These and other indications of coal were observed and reported on by Dr Charles Forbes. Forbes was assistant surgeon on the paddle steamer HMS Acheron which in 1845–51 was engaged in surveying much of New Zealand's coast. That this survey was extremely successful was due not only to the ability of the Acheron's captain, John Lort Stokes and his officers and crew, but also to the versatility a steam powered vessel had over sailing ships. Thus the significance of coal in New Zealand was of more than academic interest to Forbes when he presented a paper to the Geological Society of London in 1855 on the geology and coal resources of New Zealand. However the reference by Forbes that "in the neighbourhood of Nelson, a fossiliferous sandstone is found, and seams of lignite and shale occur" was not very encouraging. The fossiliferous sandstone he refers to is that at Magazine Point and the lignite and shale are probably those at Wakefield Quay previously noted by Wakefield and which occur in what is now called the Port Hills gravel. Although the gravel outcrops extensively in the vicinity of Nelson the lignite proved to be present in uneconomic amounts although intermittent prospecting was undertaken at a few localities in this area. Therefore for fuel the early settlers would have to have used imported coal or locally obtained firewood. Undoubtedly wood would have been widely used and even up to 1872, some 10 years after it was built as part of an ill-fated chromite mining venture on the slopes of Wooded Peak, the Dun Mountain Railway was used to transport firewood to the city. However as the forests were felled, both for timber and to make way for pastures, it would have become more expensive as transport distances and therefore costs increased and coal, if found locally, would be a more viable alternative. In addition, if large quantities of coal were found then it could be exported thus generating additional capital and therefore spending power within the settlement.

Jenkins Hill

Although coal was known in the Brook Valley at least as early as 1853 it was at the foot of Jenkins Hill on the south side of Jenkins Creek (also known as O'Brien's Creek) to the southwest that the first mine was developed (Fig. 1). During 1858 Alfred George Jenkins opened up a coal prospect on his property called Enner Glynn. It must have been very superficial for in July heavy rain destroyed the workings and a more ambitious investigation was then initiated. By September Jenkins had two drives constructed by John Marsden, an experienced miner. Although in September it was recorded that 200 tons of coal had been won the drives had to be abandoned because of unstable ground conditions. The coal was very soft but trials using the iron screw steamer White Swan (124 tons), the paddle page 5steamer Tasmanian Maid (32 tons), and Mathew Campbell's steam mill all proved satisfactory. Campbell declared that the coal was better than the best firewood available.

Fig. 1 Locality map showing various coal mining ventures near Nelson.

Fig. 1 Locality map showing various coal mining ventures near Nelson.

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Nelson Coal Company

At this time moves were in progress to establish the Nelson Coal Mining Company which would develop the seams located by Jenkins. At a meeting, on 21 Sepember 1858, a preliminary committee comprising N. Edwards (merchant), W. Wilkie (storekeeper), A. Kerr (banker), M. Lightbank (tanner), J. Hooper (brewer), E. Everett (publican), M. Campbell (miller) and J. Lewthwaite (publican) was established. M. Bury (engineer) was secretary. Bury and Edwards were later replaced by W. L. Wrey and G. Richardson and J. Corrie became secretary. The company was to have a capital of £ 10,000 in £ 1* shares and in return for a lease on the property, and for making land available for miners cottages and for the right of way for a tramway from the mine site to the main road at Bishopdale, Jenkins was to receive 500 fully paid up shares. A deposit of 2s 6d was to be paid on all other shares. However, by the middle of February 1859 only 2,978 shares had been allocated with £434 12s subscribed. The committee decided that the best way to test the property was to sink a shaft and commissioned reports from Marsden, Wrey (a mining engineer and a strong proponent of the Dun Mountain ores), and James Burnett (a mining engineer of Motupipi). As each man wrote a separate report the company ended up with three different recommendations. However they accepted that of Marsden who had become their manager. On 23 November 1858 excavation of a 7ft by 4.5ft shaft began and by mid February the following year it had reached a depth of 168ft. Because of the unstable ground conditions the shaft had to be timbered and two sawyers were employed on site. Two seams, of 4ft and 3ft were encountered but the shaft had now encountered tight gravel and there was considerable disagreement between Wrey, Marsden and Jenkins concerning the interpretation of what was revealed in the shaft. Wrey argued that the shaft was entirely in alluvium and Marsden correctly realised that coal would only occur above the gravel. Wrey also realised that the seams belonged to the same coalmeasures found earlier in the Brook Valley. However in contrast to almost vertical dip of the seam in the Brook the Enner Glynn seams had a more gentler dip and were in places almost horizontal. Marsden also had a summons issued regarding non-payment of wages, etc., by Jenkins who in turn produced accounts that showed that the former had received all monies due to him.

* Abbreviations used are: £ s d = pounds, shillings and pence; ft = feet.

Hochstetter's Visit

By the end of February 1859 the company had exhausted its capital and Sir David Monro, a shareholder, wrote on the 9 March 1859 that "both the shafts that had been sunk are in such a place to miss the seams" and prophetically remarked that the stratification did not seem continuous. Also the quality was inferior to that obtained earlier and had proved unsuitable when used in the Tasmanian Maid. With the Austrian geologist Ferdinand von Hochstetter due to visit Nelson, the company, a fortnight later, resolved to suspend all operations and get Hochstetter's opinion. As this would have left the mine idle for three months some shareholders tried to raise a further £35 to find the seam from which coal, to the value of £42 10s 4d, had been sold to the White Swan. However this was unsuccessful and during the winter of 1859 Jenkins began mining operations again and, starting page 7on 26 May, was advertising coal at £2 per ton delivered or £ 1 10s per ton at the works. Broad, in his Jubilee History of Nelson, wrote that "good household fuel was sent into town at the rate of two tons a day and found a ready sale". How long Jenkins continued mining is uncertain but he was still advertising coal early in 1860. However by 1875 the geologist Alexander McKay found that the mine at Enner Glynn had fallen in.

Hochstetter, who was commissioned by the Nelson Provincial Government to assess the geology and in particular the mineral wealth of the province, made a detailed examination of the mine and its environs in early August. He noted in a 252ft drive put in by Jenkins several seams, 3 to 6ft thick, that dipped steeply (50 to 60°) into the hill (i.e. towards the southeast). He reasoned that as the coal measures were apparently overlain by older rocks to the southeast they were in fact overturned and had been subjected to considerable tectonic pressures. Hochstetter incorrectly described it as a brown, rather than bituminous, coal. No doubt due to the weathered nature of the coal close to the surface. This was also a mistake that was to be repeated several times by geologists such as McKay, J. M. Bell and others.

Today the remains of the mine can still be seen although most of the workings have been bulldozed over to allow pasture establishment. However, pieces of coal are widespread in the soil. Several exploratory drives that penetrate the Port Hills Gravel and which were probably put in much later than Jenkins day, are still in good repair. It appears from the reports of Wrey and Marsden that the coal measures in this locality had collapsed from higher up on Jenkins Hill and thus the shaft had bottomed in the Port Hills Gravel which normally overlies the coal measures.

Brook Street Coal Prospeting Association

In 1894 there was renewed interest in the coal measures adjacent to Nelson. This was probably prompted by increases in the cost of coal shipped to Nelson from Golden Bay and even from as far afield as New South Wales. In August 1894 several citizens living in Brook Street took the initiative and established The Brook Street Coal Prospecting Association to prospect a farm, owned by James Wilson Newport, on the east side of The Brook downstream of the reservoir (this was the circular basin just behind the present caretaker's house, the present dam was not yet built). £ 100 in £ 1 shares was subscribed and at a meeting on 10 September 1894 a 50 year lease over 200 acres of Newport's land was negotiated. If a company to mine coal was subsequently registered, Newport was to receive five fully paid up shares for every 100 issued. A royalty of sixpence per ton for every ton over 100 tons mined, with a maximum of £50 a year, was to be paid.

Directors of the association were John A. McArtney (Chairman), A. D. Blick. W. Miller, C. Park, and the secretary was F. A. Bamford (in January 1895 Blick and Miller were replaced by P. Martin and F. Atkinson). The association appointed a miner John Kissell to take charge of the prospecting. No time was wasted because on the 11 September a drive was started into the hillside on Cummings (now Cummins) spur, 30ft below page 8the old workings of many years earlier (Cummins Creek is the first creek to enter The Brook downstream of the waterworks reserve, Bullock and Cummins Spur are to the north and south of the creek respectively). The workings must have proved quite a point of interest because Bamford was to advertise that no one would be allowed in the drive without a written permit and that dogs worrying Newport's sheep were liable to be destroyed.

After the drive reached about 42ft a crosscut was started in an attempt to meet the old workings. However by late October the air in the new workings had steadily deteriorated and safety lamps were ordered. Several other drives and two shallow shafts were put in by the association in the area between Cummins to Bullock Spurs and although indications of coal were found in some of them it was decided, on the advice of Kissell who was now mine manager, to keep on with the main drive. Some hard, good quality coal was obtained from a 2.5ft seam in this drive. Of the 3 tons extracted 1 ton was used on 30 October 1894 in Messrs Griffin and Sons mill and proved so satisfactory that six days later two dray loads were purchased.

By the end of 1894 the association had all but expended its capital with £61 2s 6d paid in wages (mostly to Kissell and Williams), £11 15s for timber and £4 2s for mining requisites. An attempt to raise further capital by issuing another 100 £ 1 shares, nominally paid up to 10s per share (in five calls of 2s each) were not very successful. At a meeting on 30 January 1895 only 42 shareholders had paid the calls due on their shares and the miners were advised hat prospecting would cease. However the miners entered into an agreement with the association to continue working for no pay but would receive any monies obtained from the sale of coal for which orders for 10 tons, at 15s per ton, were on hand. This arrangement ceased nine weeks later when the Inspector of Mines declared the drive unsafe. Because of unstable ground conditions and despite being well timbered, it was proving impossible to keep the drive opened. A further drive in Cummings Spur 130ft up the valley was abandoned after 110ft. At a meeting on 29 April 1895 it was agreed to sell the materials and tools and an offer from Newport was accepted; any balance was to go to Kissell and Williams. A vote of thanks to Bamford, who had received no remuneration at all, was given.

Jenkins Hill Prospecting Association

Meanwhile a rival company had been established to prospect on the Enner Glynn property on the west side of The Brook opposite Newports. This property, formerly owned by A. G. Jenkins, was now farmed by a relation Alexander O'Brien. Because the name Brook Street had been preempted, the name Jenkins Hill Prospecting Association was adopted. Capital of £ 100 in £ 1 shares was raised locally and two experienced miners, George Wise and James Gribble were employed as prospectors. Good indications of coal were found in October and Wise is credited with finding an almost vertical seam which in places at depth reached a thickness of 124ft. This seam outcropped on the hillside close to a small alluvial terrace opposite the circular basin. At a meeting attended by 30 to 40 shareholders on 31 October 1894 Thomas Pettit was elected chairman and F. G. Newman was appointed secretary.

page 9

A 12 month prospecting lease was negotiated from O'Brien which, if a coal mining company was established, could be transferred to a 50 year lease. O'Brien had a better deal than Newport as he was to receive a royalty of 1s per ton.

Prospecting by the Jenkins Hill Association continued through the remainder of the year and in November 1894 blocks were exhibited at the Colonist office and Roughton's grocery shop in Hardy Street. Mention is made at this time of the Bishopdale Prospecting Association working on the Enner Glynn property. This is almost certainly the Jenkins Hill Association and not a third company prospecting in the Brook Valley. The first major underground work commenced on 3 November with a drive southeast into the hillside above the river terraces (Fig. 2). A steeply southeast dipping coal seam 5ft thick was encountered 50ft from the entrance and the coal although soft (due to surface weathering) proved suitable for household purposes and for raising steam. The Colonist reported that a gentleman* who inspected the property on 3 December had declared that it was a true coal and not a lignite and on this basis he was prepared to invest £ 100 in the property there and then. Three days later it came to the same paper's attention that a share had been sold for £5.

Fig. 2 Enner Glynn mine in February 1896. On the left is the initial prospecting drive with the first (prospecting) shall on the hillside above. The Brook Valley is on the far left.– F. G. Gibbs photo courtesy Nelson Provincial Museum.

Fig. 2 Enner Glynn mine in February 1896. On the left is the initial prospecting drive with the first (prospecting) shall on the hillside above. The Brook Valley is on the far left.
– F. G. Gibbs photo courtesy Nelson Provincial Museum.

page 10

By the end of January 1895 the drive had reached 130ft and was timbered. A tramway from the face to the tiphead was now required and at a meeting on 28 January there was much discussion amongst shareholders whether the rails should be of iron or wood capped with hoop iron. In the end the cheaper wooden rails were agreed on. Thirty tons of coal of fair quality was now stockpiled and was bought by Roughton, a shareholder, for 15s per ton. Slack coal fetched 5s per ton. At the close of the meeting Roughton had received orders from a number of shareholders for coal. Coal was also found near Tantragee Saddle on Donald Stewart's property and a lease was offered to the Jenkins Hill Association. However the association must have felt it had enough to deal with for the offer was declined.

Since October 1894 some of the shareholders had been pressing for the Rev. Joseph Taylor, a lay reader, of Collingwood to report on the property. Taylor had some geological training, being a certified teacher of mining and had taught in technical institutes in Staffordshire during 1891–93. He was also actively promoting development of the coal seams at Puponga. In February the directors agreed to engage Taylor and in due course he reported on the property and on 8 March gave a public lecture. In his report and lecture Taylor maintained that geologically the "country had not been read properly" and that the coal near Nelson was not a brown coal, as thought by the geologists Hochstetter and McKay, but bituminous. He therefore considered that the coal measures were considerably older than the Tertiary age that had been assigned to them and were equivalent to the major English coal deposits of Carboniferous age. In March 1895 well known educationalist F. G. Gibbs purchased five shares in the association and, as recorded in his diary, took a leading role in the search for coal in the Brook Valley. The drive had by this stage reached 162ft but as conditions were unfavourable for finding coal (it had probably penetrated the so called Maitai "slates" to the southeast) the association, following Taylor's advice, began sinking a shaft from within the drive at a point 70ft from the entrance. The shaft followed the almost vertical seam at the rate of about 11ft per week. The seam improved both in thickness and quality with depth and further capital to allow exploration to continue was raised by issuing another 150 shares, existing shareholders were to have first preference. It was estimated that the £ 150 raised would allow prospecting to continue for nearly six months. Taylor who had charged £6 5s for his report and expenses offered to report periodically on the property in return for shares but this was declined. Also declined was an offer by O'Brien (who already held shares in the company) to accept shares in lieu of royalty on fire clay found in the mine. Bricks made from the clay were tested at the city gasworks and were declared to be of good quality.

During the winter of 1895 sinking of the shaft continued and it was also extended upwards the 37ft from the drive to the surface. Although the cost of sinking was high at 16s 8d per foot the association concentrated on prospecting rather than development. This was probably partly influenced by the fact that the quality of the coal continued to improve. Wise reported in July that the coal was different from anything yet encountered and was "good, hard and bright". As the shaft increased in depth ventilation had to be improved and a fan and pipes were purchased at a cost page 11of £8. However a certain amount of development work, such as construction of drives and shafts off the existing shaft, was undertaken and Donald Stewart took the first 50 tons of coal at 15s per ton. As raising materials up and down the shaft had become difficult a larger windlass was installed. However more sophisticated headworks were required and, in anticipation of this and other costs, the directors on 28 June resolved to issue a further 200 shares. Newman was to receive a commission of 2.5% on each share issued.

After much discussion amongst shareholders a whim rather than a cheaper whip was decided upon (a whip was a pulley device operated by a horse walking away from shaft whereas with a whim the horse followed a circular path). A tender of £21 19s for construction of a whim was accepted from Charles Hill and was completed by 16 August 1895 (Fig. 2). It was estimated that a boy and horse to operate the whim would cost 20s to 30s per week. Sinking of the shaft resumed on 21 August but as it was not vertical only one bucket could be operated. This displeased some of the shareholders who had previously been advised by Wise that the whim could handle two buckets at a time. Wise was not able to respond as he was off work due to illness and was later admitted to hospital. However the shareholders must have appreciated Wise's contribution to the development of the mine because on 6 September they resolved to grant him a fortnight's salary during his absence. As at the Brook Street Association's workings Sunday visitors were a problem. On the 19 August the Colonist suggested that warning notices be erected and a lid placed over the shaft entrance when not in use.

Meanwhile on 28 August Taylor arrived from Collingwood to again report on the mine. Two days later, before a very receptive audience of about 50, each of whom had paid Is admission, Taylor gave a lecture entitled "Coal formation in and around Nelson". In this he repeated his earlier assertions about the age and quality of Nelson coal and claimed that not only were the reports issued by the authorities misleading but that this had hindered the investment of capital from England into coal prospecting in New Zealand. Taylor calculated that the association had 4320 tons of coal in sight and that this would return £ 3240 giving a profit of £ 1600. He thought that £ 5000 (the association to date had only spent £ 450) was required to fully develop the mine and have it fully operational. The shareholders must have been impressed because when he presented his draft report on 3 September they resolved, in view of the "valuable nature of his services", to increase his fees.

* Possibly Joseph Taylor who first visited the mine about this time.

The Enner Glynn Coal Mining Company Ltd

On the 6 September the directors recommended that the Jenkins Hill Association be formed into a company with 5000 shares of £ 1 each (Is was to be paid on application, 2s on allotment, and calls not to exceed Is per month). It was also recommended that the present shareholders receive 1000 fully paid up shares. An amendment that this be only 500 snares was lost but was subsequently agreed to at a meeting a week later.

page 12

The company was to be registered when 2000 subscribing shares had been applied for. A. A. Scaife, W. Haddow, Gibbs, A. St. John and A. H. Bisley were to act as a committee in conjunction with existing directors to name a provisional directorate. Newman and F. A. Bamford were appointed brokers and Newman was to act as temporary secretary. To enable work to continue in the mine in the meantime the directors were guaranteed a further £50 to spend over the amount of funds at present available.

On 28 September the prospectus for the new company was advertised in the Colonist and Mail and gave the names of the 18 provisional directors. The Mail also published in full Taylor's report on the Enner Glynn property. In this Taylor considered that the coal should sell between 20s and 25s per ton (slack coal at 10s per ton) and as boreholes in the coal at the bottom of the shaft had yielded gas it was possible that gas and petroleum might also occur in commercial quantities. If this was the case then Nelson "would soon be converted into a southern Pittsburgh, with its engines driven, and its houses and streets illuminated, by a boundless store of natural gas".

These claims of Taylor's and reports of coal being found in The Brook and elsewhere in East Nelson (e.g. Hiwipango) resulted in Alexander McKay visiting Nelson in October 1895. That the association did not invite McKay is clear for Gibbs wrote on 20 October that "McKay came over suddenly on Saturday week and inspected the mine on Monday (14th). Report favourable but all against Taylor". McKay referred to this in his official report "It has been gravely asserted, in reports to the association and announced in lectures before the public, that the Brook Street Valley coal measures belong to the Carboniferous period, and are representative of the true English Coal Measures". He then went on to quote the fossil evidence as determined by Hochstetter and many others that the coal measures were indeed younger and that "should for ever place the matter at rest and byond controversy". Gibbs' position in this controversy is uncertain. As a provisional director (appointed on 13 September) he was closely involved with the prospectus and his rewrite of it was accepted, with modifications, by his fellow directors. Gibbs not only had a good understanding of geology but was in close contact with amateur geologists such as W. F. Worley (Worley taught with Gibbs at Central School and after his retirement in 1913 until his death in 1923 was Honorary Director of Nelson School of Mines). All this was of more than academic interest for what was at stake was whether the Brook coal was of high quality (i.e. bituminous). Although Taylor was wrong about the age he was later to be proved right about its quality, it was indeed bituminous. As regards the prospects of winning coal in the Brook Valley, McKay told the Colonist on 22 October that he was "more favourable impressed than he expected to be". In his official report he estimated that between 20,000 and 40,000 tons of coal were probably present but largely because of the steep dip and the apparently limited extent of the coal measures along the strike of the seam the amount that could be economically recovered would prove considerably less. He considered that the mine could be worked with a comparatively limited output for many years.

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1895 was a time of financial depression in New Zealand and although a large number of subscribers responded to the prospectus only 1340 out of a minimum of 2000 shares were applied for. In addition a total of 500 fully paid £ 1 shares in the new company were to be allotted, on 31 December 1895, to the original 164 members of the association. At a meeting on 19 November it was decided that this provided sufficient capital to develop the mine and on 2 December 1895 The Enner Glynn Coal Mining Company Ltd was registered with a minimum of 1200 shares. In addition to acting as colliery proprietors, listed amongst its objectives was the construction and maintenance of any waterworks, gas works, ponds, reservoirs, water courses, railways, tramways, wharves, piers, docks and canals, etc., that may be required. Capital requirements were estimated at £ 660 to sink a shaft to 300ft, £ 50 to extend a drive from the shaft so as to be able to work the seam, and £ 100 for equipment such as trucks, etc. No doubt influencing potential shareholders was that work in the five weeks prior to the meeting had shown the seam to widen to 13ft. Also before the meeting was a testimonial from Griffin and Sons Ltd regarding the coal and a report of an important discovery by Worley. Some indication of what this report was is given in Gibbs' diary and the notebook of another amateur geologist, John P. Hornsby who sometimes accompanied Worley, Gibbs and O'Brien on field trips. Hornsby (18/11/95) records that whereas "Mr McKay only allowed 2 chains for the coal to run from the mine – Mr Worley has traced outcrops from (the) mine … to run continuously to (the) Gorge (distance of) 1 mile". The gorge is a deep gully east of the old Enner Glynn workings of Jenkins and the Nelson Coal Company.

On 13 December 1895 the new company held its first general meeting and to get the shareholders into a suitable frame of mind it was reported that £ 100 had been received from the sale of coal. William Haddow (whose occupation was given as commission agent having retired in 1891 from the firm of Neal and Haddow Ltd) was elected Chairman of Directors. Other directors were Scaife (accountant), Roughton (grocer), Gibbs (school teacher), T. Pettit (manufacturer), L. Kerr (jeweller) and H. Baigent (builder). The directors were authorised to advertise for a secretary and on 16 December, Bamford was appointed. Seven days later W. C. Bennett, formerly of the Champion Copper Mine in the Roding, was appointed mine manager and commenced duties on 2 January 1896.

The main task to be tackled was the sinking of a new shaft to replace the 329ft deep prospecting shaft. As the seam was known to pinch out to the southwest the site of the new shaft was on the terrace gravels closer to the Brook Stream and 60ft lower in altitude (Fig. 3, 4). After penetrating "slates" below the terrace gravels, inflows of water were encountered in the shaft (this inflow would have marked a major fault that forms the upstream boundary of the coal measures). A windlass was initially used until the shaft reached 40ft then the horse whim on the old shaft was shifted on site. The shaft was divided into two compartments each with internal dimensions 4ft x 3.5ft. One compartment was to be used for raising coal, etc., and the other could be used for ladders. Windows were left from which drives for coal extraction could be constructed. It was intended to sink the shaft to a comparable depth to that reached by the prospecting shaft page 14
Fig. 3 Looking southwest across The Brook towards the new shaft on the right and the old shaft, now minus the whim, in the centre. April 1896.– F. G. Gibbs photo courtesy Nelson Provincial Museum.

Fig. 3 Looking southwest across The Brook towards the new shaft on the right and the old shaft, now minus the whim, in the centre. April 1896.
– F. G. Gibbs photo courtesy Nelson Provincial Museum.

Fig. 4 The new shaft at the Enner Glynn mine in April 1896. The horse in the harness operates a whim, a device for raising materials up the shaft.—F. G. Gibbs photo courtesy Nelson Provincial Museum.

Fig. 4 The new shaft at the Enner Glynn mine in April 1896. The horse in the harness operates a whim, a device for raising materials up the shaft.
—F. G. Gibbs photo courtesy Nelson Provincial Museum.

page 15but with only £ 130 available it was stopped at 183ft. Instead a drive was developed from the 160ft level. This proceeded by a devious route towards the old workings so as to avoid a possible collapse and to prevent the loss of fresh air up the old shaft. The underground work was largely carried out by Wise and Gribble who were also major shareholders.

J. N. W. Newport writes that the timber in the mine was "black birch" supplied by the Packer family from their property in the Maitai Valley. Sapplings were used as uprights and split slabs for the sills and caps. Work progressed through 1896 and in September the mine was visited by the Inspector of Mines, N. D. Cochrane. Cochrane, although pleased with the timbering, required a man with a knowledge of gas be employed and this was to cost the company an extra £ 7 per month. Some coal was being won and was carted by George Mellett (who along with his father, Henry, was a shareholder) into Nelson. Income from coal sales did not meet development costs and towards the end of the year problems arose through uncertainties as to where the drive was in relation to the old workings. By December 1896 Bennett was unable to find any more coal and an attempt to dewater the old shaft was made. This was probably in anticipation of a survey being carried out on both the new and old workings and perhaps driving back from the old works. However, because of constrictions in the prospecting shaft the bottom 60ft remained flooded and the pressure of black damp elsewhere was a problem. By the following month the situation in the mine had worsened with Gibbs writing in depair that "Bennett had plainly lost himself and everytime I saw him he had some new theory as to the position of the old shaft".

The shareholders became discontented and at a special meeting held on 14 January 1897 Gibbs and the company secretary (Bamford) were authorised to arrange a survey in an attempt to locate the seam. However at the end of the meeting an offer by Wise and Gribble to find the seam on a no coal no pay basis was promptly accepted by the directors. Gibbs wrote on 25 January that in the meantime Bennett had agreed "to rest his foot at home". Four days later Gibbs showed an ex mine manager by the name of Marshall (probably George Marshall who was involved in the Johnstons United Copper Mining Co.) over the mine. After discussions at the face with the miners, Marshall assured Gibbs that a survey would not be required. On the 21st a 5ft seam was encountered and Gibbs wrote that "everyone was very curious to know what point in the old shaft we are level with as the men feel sure Bennett is not nearly as deep down as he stated". Gibbs then checked Bennett's calculations with him and errors were found. Although Bennett was subsequently asked to resign it appears that the decision had already been made. Gibbs (7/2/97) writes of this meeting "went up really to see if he (Bennett) had realised he would have to resign and found that he did". It was later found that Bennett had driven for 50ft through a thin seam parallel to and only 7ft from the main seam which at this depth (230ft) was 4ft thick. However considering the lack of any surveys it is difficult not to have some sympathy with Bennett who for a short time later in the year again worked in the mine.

Having now found coal worth mining and satisfactorily negotiated a contract with the miners a shortage of capital hindered the company. At the page 16annual general meeting on 26 January 1897 the balance sheet showed capital assets of £ 137 14s and liabilities of £ 162 8s 9d (the value of plant was excluded). However the services of Wise and Gribble were recognised by the presentation of £ 5 in cash and 20 fully paid up shares between them. During February Gibbs and Scaife had discussions about getting Thomas Cawthron (a merchant and relatively minor shareholder) to join the board of directors and thereby, presumably, hoping he would significantly increase his investment in the mine. Equally unsuccessful was an attempt to raise capital by allotting a further 250 shares but less than half of these were taken up.

In March Gibbs devised a new scheme where some half dozen shareholders would put up money for equipping the shaft (c. £ 40) and provide sufficient finance to allow the mine to be worked on a three month trial. Costs were calculated at 8s per ton to supply coal to the bottom of the shaft and 5s per ton for cartage, etc. Royalty payments to O'Brien brought expenses to 14s per ton. Any balance went to meeting other working expenses. Surface developments included a new coal shed and the repair of the screen, hopper and headwords. Coal was sold on contract by Donald Stewart who advertised the coal under the heading of supporting local industry. Prices were 13s 6d per half ton delivered to town. With the mine again in production the directors decided some publicity was required and articles appeared in the Colonist (28/3/97) and Nelson Evening Mail (27/3/97). The directors went to some trouble to stress that there was little likelihood of the shareholders making great profits and that they were largely promoting the mine as a civic duty in support of local industry. Also the coal appears not to have a very good name with Nelsonians. This was due to coal near the surface being weathered, of lower quality and being wrongly interpreted as a brown coal. However analyses of coal from the lower levels showed it was of high quality and equal to a bitumimous coal. The company also advised that because the coal burnt so well householders were recommended to take care in disposing of the ashes because they remained hot for a long time. In the meantime Worley was also doing his bit for he showed that the coal ash contained potash and was therefore suitable as a fertilizer. Experiments by Stewart using coal ash and farmyard manure showed that the former produced superior potatoes. The directors considered that the burning of slack coal could prove remunerative. On a more sobering note the Mail informed its readers that if the mine did not pay it would close within four months.

On the 30 March the miners began their new contract and 18 tons was sold during the first week. Gibbs calculated that 12.5 tons was sufficient to pay working expenses and above that every ton would return a profit of 8s. In July the contract with Stewart regarding the sale of coal was renewed indefinitely. However the shortage of capital was still a problem and in August the shareholders were asked to raise £ 500 or sell the mine. Unfortunately soon after that, the seam had pinched out and Gibbs (who with 203 shares in the company was its major shareholder) wrote on 15 August "I only hope now we can get out of the concern without losing much more money". At the end of August the directors allotted further shares and adopted a suggestion by Gibbs to crosscut to the west.

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As summer approached the demand for coal dropped but this was not the company's only problem, for on 15 January 1898 fire destroyed the coal shed and screen. This was a very dry summer and fires raged in the Maitai and elsewhere throughout the country. At the company's second annual general meeting, held on 28 January, it was proposed by Mellett (the shareholders lists suggest that this would have been George) and Scaife (the latter was drunk according to Gibbs) that the mine be sold. After a heated discussion this was rejected by a large majority. Subsequently the directors called for tenders for the coal but only one, from Neale and Haddow Ltd, of 13s per ton was received. Gibbs concluded that the "dealers had evidently formed a ring" and the directors decided to sell the coal themselves. The directors also debated the merits of engine power over horsepower but in the end decided to buy another horse to operate the whim.

Sale of the Mine

Coal sales continued into the winter but on 21 June 1898 fire broke out in the mine. Gibbs put the cause down to pressure on a pillar left next to the old shaft causing slow combustion. Although the Mail reported that there was no cause for alarm the fire spread rapidly and the mine had to be flooded. To do this the company borrowed hoses from the fire brigade and City Council and a 1100ft connection was made to a fire plug near the circular reservoir. Flooding must have appeared low because the company with the assistance of the council began to lay pipes from a disused 7in water main. However when the pipeline was within 100ft of the mine it was found that the hose had been effectual after all.

The mine was pumped out in August but the main drive had collapsed and Wise could only penetrate 40ft. At an extraordinary meeting of shareholders on 29 August barely a quorum of 20 sanctioned sale of the mine and this was endorsed at a meeting on the 19 September. Tenders were called on 26 September for the purchase of the mine but no satisfactory tender could have been received for Messrs Bisley Bros. & Co. Ltd. sold it at auction on 28 November 1895. It was bought by Thomas Neale, son of one of the founders of Neale and Haddow Ltd for £ 85 (Gibbs states for £97). Neale was reported as purchasing it on behalf of a party who proposed to resume working the mine although how this was to be done was not decided. This did not eventuate and Neale, who had other coal mining interests, probably used any salvageable plant elsewhere. The final step was taken when the company secretary (Bamford) advised the Companies Office on 4 March 1899 that the company had been wound up.

The mine produced 1337 tonnes of coal and although the Dun Mountain bulletin states that no further mining was done after the fire, 120 tonnes was extracted near Nelson between 1909–1910. This may have been during an assessment to see if the mine could economically be reopened. In 1954 the shaft in the Brook Valley was uncovered but not dewatered and several short drives were put in.

page 18

Proposed Coal Prospecting Beneath the Waimea Plains

The authors of the Dun Mountain bulletin attributed the disturbed and very steep dip of the seams near Nelson as due to a major fault, named earlier by McKay as the Waimea Fault, on the east side of the coal measures. Bell et al. thought that away from the fault, below the alluviam of the Waimea Plains, the coal seams, if not already removed by erosion, would be gentler and recommended exploratory drilling. However Worley, like McKay earlier, appeciated that as the coal measures in the Brook Valley were wedged between considerably older, non coal bearing rocks to the east and west then, he correctly reasoned, this would be the case further south and that the older rocks would also underlie the Waimea Plains. Having expressed this view to Bell at the time field work for the Dun Mountain survey was in progress, Worley must have been annoyed to see what finally appeared in the bulletin. He was to write to Bell at some length on this and other failings in the bulletin. The existence of coal in the Waimeas was something taken up by Thomas Cawthron for his biographer David Miller lists among the projects being considered in 1913 was prospecting of the Waimea Basin measures. This, fortunately, was shelved on Cawthron's death in 1915. Worley had however considerable faith in the mineral resources of Nelson for he later wrote that whilst the main work of the Cawthron Institute (established in 1919) would be in the horticultural field, the mineral resources of Nelson should also be assessed. He went on to argue that although "it would not be absolutely necessary to have a separate professor of geology (as) one of the other professors, the biologist for example, would serve for both positions, especially if a second Charles Darwin could be found". Like a coal mining industry this was not to eventuate.


Bell, J. M.; Clarke, E. de C., Marshall, P. 1911: The Geology of the Dun Mountain Subdivision, Nelson.

Broad, L. 1892: The Jubilee History of Nelson.

Enner Glynn Coal Mining Co. Ltd – documents held in Lands and Deeds Office, Nelson.

Forbes, C. 1855: On the geology of New Zealand; with notes on its Carboniferous deposits.

Gibbs, F. G. 1895–1898: Dairies, Nelson Provincial Museum.

Hochstetter, F. von 1867: New Zealand.

Hornsby, J. P. – Note books.

Jenkins, A. G. – Papers, Nelson Provincial Museum.

McKay, A. 1896: The Enner-Glynn Coal Mine, and the coal-bearing area within Brook Street Valley, near the town of Nelson.

Miller, D. 1963: Thomas Cawthron and the Cawthron Institute.

Natusch, S. 1978: The Cruise of the Acheron.

Newport, J. N. W. 1978: Footprints Too.

Newspapers: Various issues of the Colonist, Nelson Evening Mail and Nelson Examiner.

Williams, G. J. 1974: Economic Geology of New Zealand.

Wilkinson, J. D. 1966: Early New Zealand Steamers.

Worley, W. F. 1910–1911: The Nelsonian (various issues); papers.

Wright-St Clair, R. E. 1971: Thoroughly a Man of the World. A biography of Sir David Monro.