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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 29



Gold is the main product of the district. The whole country intersected by the railway is auriferous, and is now more or less worked— page 11 the Buller end by scattered parties of miners, who with difficulty obtain the necessary supplies—the Grey end by mining township communities, who for years have largely contributed, directly by gold duty and indirectly by the Customs, to the wealth of the colony. In spite of the cost of obtaining supplies, about £15 to £20 per ton above Nelson prices, the Warden's reports show that thousands of miners have for years been working gold in the district. But the alluvial workings are as nothing compared to the permanent gold bearing quartz reefs proved to exist over a belt of country twenty-five miles long from Reefton to the Lyell. I rode up the Inangahua before a single road was made, traversing the river as the only available passage through the bush, most of the way, and I saw the commencement of the quartz-crushing industry, and can speak as to the difficulties to be contended with. I saw the boiler of the Golden Fleece battery parbuckled up a wooded hill 500ft. high by the sturdy arms of fifty miners. In 1872, these mines were almost unknown, and the main roads were not formed until 1876. The surest test of the value and continuity of gold is the dividends they pay during successive years, and in spite of the immense difficulties of conveying machinery on to the ground. The Warden's Reports to the Government show that the Reefton mines have paid to their owners the following dividends :—
1873 dividends £7,000
1874 dividends 13,000
1875 dividends 13,000
1876 dividends 27,000
1877 dividends 50,000

This proves during the last three years the enormous increase of about 100 per cent., and as yet not one-fourth of the mines have got machinery on the ground. I know of my own knowledge that the average cost of erecting machinery and putting a mine in working order has been £10,000. You will, therefore, understand that until more capital has access to the field, the power of development by the local settlers, is necessarily limited by the extent of their means. In the report for 1877 of Mr Warden Shaw for the Inangahua District, be states "that from an examination of Victorian statistics the average output of gold for each quartz-miner is 43ozs 2dwts per annum, whilst at Inangahua, where the labor-saving appliances are more primitive and limited, the average per man is 54ozs 16dwts. This difference is no doubt attributable to the fact that here only the richer reefs are considered payable, no company having been able to declare a dividend from less than 10dwts to the ton, whereas in Victoria one-third of that amount is highly profitable, but this explanation argues well for the future of this enormous field when worked more extensively and more economically. Notwithstanding all that has been said and done, I still deplore the want of proper communication with the coast. After a few hours' rain all traffic is suspended, and enormous rates for carriage are consequently charged. The small population of this town (Reefton) and its vicinity, in all some 1500 souls is paying a surtax of £20,000 per annum for freight, over and above the page 12 cost of goods supplied. A 20-head stamper battery with engine boiler sold in Melbourne for £2000 would cost erected here £4000. It is not astonishing, therefore, to find the development of this district to be but gradual and slow."

The export of gold for the year ending 31st March, 1877, was—
Inangahua District £191,000
Westport do 93,000

Most of this gold was derived, not from alluvial workings, which are more or less fluctuating, but from permanent reefs. It is impossible to give an opinion on the future of these reefs (which the underground workings have proved to be more permanent than any others in the Colony) without stating figures that would probably seem to you to be extravagant. But as each mine gradually gets its machinery up, we may fairly expect to see a similar rate of progress to that of the last three years maintained, and with a railway lo bring machinery and supplies on to the ground, and to tempt capitalists to visit the mines, I think that this hitherto isolated inland district will excel the richest fields of Australia in its output of gold. The fact of timber, coal, and water existing on the ground in abundance, which enables the mines to be timbered and steam power to be supplied at a nominal cost, compared with Victoria, is an important factor, in estimating the value of these as yet infant mines.