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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 70

West Coast Gold-fields

West Coast Gold-fields.

The whole of the west coast of the South Island is auriferous, in many places richly so. Generally speaking, the country is clad with dense forests, covering the high mountain range, which runs from one extremity to the other. Traversing this range are large rapid rivers, subject to heavy and sudden floods. In consequence of these natural difficulties, the early explorers underwent great danger and privation, and, in addition, the page 8 natives showed great opposition to the intruders. It was not until 1856 that this obstacle was removed. All the rivers have shifting sand-bars at their mouths, and the early navigation was a matter of extreme risk, The first explorations were made from the Nelson base, and in 1863 a party started from Christchurch on the east coast to find a route by the headwaters of the Rakaia River, The task was almost impossible. In one day of ten hours the explorers, notwithstanding the greatest exertions, made an advance of about 200 yards. The expedition ended in disaster. Mr. Whitcombe, a surveyor, after many days of incredible hardship, was drowned while attempting to cross the Teremakau River, and his companion, a Swiss, named Louper, managed to reach a settlement of Maories. The party discovered a little gold, but alluvial deposits only, and it was not until 1864 that quartz reefs are mentioned.

For convenience it may be better to commence at the northern, or Blind Bay, portion of this large district, that being, although not of much importance from a quartz-reefing point of view, perhaps the richest mineral locality in New Zealand, so far as regards variety of ores.

So early as 1853 auriferous quartz specimens were brought from Takaka, but at the time little excitement was caused.

Since then, intermittent efforts have been made to work reefs, bat with poor success. Not that this failure is necessarily due to the poverty of the stone, for rich patches have been found, as, for instance, at the Phoenix Mines, which is stated by Dr. (now Sir James) Hector to have produced in 1877 stone yielding at the rate of 22 ounces of gold to the ton. The reef here occurs nesting on a grey tufaceous sandstone strongly impregnated with iron pyrites, and lies parallel with the junction of the dark blue slates and the overlying felspathic schists. On the western side of the range at Golden Ridge, quartz reefs occur in black slates containing graptolites.

Passing on our way the deserted districts of Mount Arthur and Owen, we arrive at the town of Reefton, where quartz-mining commenced in the year 1870, and from which large, though not uniform, returns have been obtained.

The town itself is about 50 miles equidistant from the seaports of Westport and Greymouth, and has, until recently, suffered from considerable difficulty in communication with the coast. This naturally increased the cost of stores and retarded prospecting, besides augmenting the cost of working. There was also a tendency to "boom" when "wildcat "schemes, which never had any chance of success, were freely floated and as freely sank, and it will be understood that the district has had a page 9 good deal to contend with. The country is excedingly rich and well supplied with water, timber, and excellent coal. Railway communication with Greymouth was established in February. 1892, and steady application of the natural resources of the district will no doubt eventually bring the mines into well-deserved prominence.

The quartz reefs occur in Devonian and Carboniferous slates, which are tilted at high angles, and contain (in the former formation) many characteristic fossils. Below these are metamorphic rocks, considered for stratigraphical reasons to be of Silurian age, and containing in their softer parts the auriferous reefs of the Lyell district.

Many mines are at work, some paying good dividends. The Welcome Company at Boat mans may be taken as a typical example of a prosperous concern, though for some time it has been under a cloud. To the end of 1886 the paid-up capital, in cash, was £5,750, and £7,500 was given to the shareholders as paid-up scrip. £110,250 had been paid in dividends, and the total value of gold obtained was £222,808, while the value in 1886 was £17,877, During 18U0 only five men were employed, but latest advices tend to show that prospects now are a little brighter, and even with so little attention the property yielded during 1888, 1889), and 1890 no less than £28,207.

Taking thirty-three mines which had crushed atone in this locality during the same period, the capital called up is £65,594; £96,575 has been paid as dividends, and £310,692 worth of gold has been produced.

The claims at Reefton are worked both by shafts and adits; the machinery is of first-rate description, compressed air and rock-drills being extensively used. The town is lighted by electricity, the roads and tracks in the neighbourhood are good, and the field has a great future before it.

In other parts of the west coast are auriferous reefs, as at Ross, but at present they are doing little or nothing, and time alone will show whether they are worthy of attention.