The Tarcoola Goldfields by Captain George Prout
Captain George Prout 1839 - 1914
South Australian Mining Pioneer
BY GEORGE PROUT.
The Advertiser (Adelaide) Thursday 12 December 1901, page 8.
"THE TARCOOLA GOLDFIELD.
AN EXPERT'S OPINIONS.
A WONDERFUL COUNTRY. SPLENDID PROSPECTS.
Having an opportunity of visiting Tarcoola, I thought it might prove interesting to write an account of my visit of inspection to the country and the mines. I went by train to Coward Springs and on arrival there on Sunday I was surprised and delighted to see the fine flow of water issuing from the bore. The weather was anything but pleasant, for it commenced to blow a gale on Saturday evening, continuing until12 o'clock on Sunday night. The atmosphere was so thick with dust that one was not able to see 50 yards before him. It was a real southerly "buster." I have lived in Australia for 55 years and never have I witnessed such a continuation of heavy wind.
On account of the terrible storm we were not able to start on Sunday, as arranged, but early on Monday we commenced our journey to Tarcoola. For the first 30 miles we were passing through a country with numerous springs of water. We could see these thermal springs dotted over the country for miles. These are mounds of silicious matter, formed by the hot springs. From their elevation and the green rushes growing around them the springs are easily discernible for a great distance. I visited several of them and found that the muddy substances which flowed from them caked like cement, the water is not of bad quality.
For the first 100 miles from the Coward the country was badly grassed; after that it commenced to improve, and on nearing Tarcoola I was astonished to see such a wonderfully good grass-growing country. The first sign of auriferous country was seen about 40 miles before we reached Tarcoola, and the country gradually improved until we arrived at the goldfield.
I commenced my inspection of the Tarcoola field on Thursday, October 31. The first shaft I went down was the Government mine. The shaft is between 60 and 70 ft. deep. I saw a well-defined lode at the bottom of the shaft, and as depth is attained the lode will improve in size and value. So far it has been bunchy. Some times it is 2 or 3 ft. wide, and it then narrows off to a few inches in width. It has a good footwall, and I have no doubt about this line of lode being a fissure that will last for thousands of feet in depth, and should be traced for miles north and south.
The adjoining mine, on the same line of lode, is the Curdnatta. Here they have driven over 90 ft. on the course of the lode, and from what I could see from the size of the lodes in the north and south ends and in the back of the drives it is fully 3 ft. wide. From close examination of the ore I am convinced it will be payable.
Within half a mile west is the Bohun. Here two men are sinking upon a well defined lode, over 6 ft. wide. Both foot and hanging walls are granite. Here I saw gold, in the stone and believe it is payable. They are close to the Government battery and will soon be able to prove it's value. This is a permanent lode, and it is close to the town site, and should be worked with vigour, as there is stone enough to keep a mill going. This is a north and south lode.
The manager of the Warrigal showed me over his mine. I believe there were some very rich veins found near the surface, but they have been worked out.
The Federal is west of the Bohun, about three-quarters of a mile. I found a shaft about 140 ft. deep. It is a large east-and west dyke formation, about 10 ft. wide, and gold may be seen in the ore. I think this will prove to be one of the most important mines, as there are north-and-south lodes that must intersect this dyke. At these intersections something rich should be found. I may say the work here is well and properly done.
South-west of the Federal is the Enterprise. This mine is sufficient in itself to prove that we have a permanent mining district at Tarcoola. The shale is sunk on a north-and-south lode. For the first 70 ft. it was not very good, but as depth was reached it improved, until at the present depth it is the best mineralised lode I have seen since I left Queensland. This is a valuable property.
Between the Enterprise and the Bohun there are several north-and-south lodes; some of them exposed by shallow pits from 4 to 6 ft. deep, all of which are-gold-bearing. I do not say they are payable, but, carrying good stone, they are worthy of development.
The Prince mine is north-east of the Enterprise; it has a shaft 104 ft. deep in three compartments. At the 98 ft. level the are drives east and west. The 150 ft. is a soft clay slate formation. The above drives have been following a seam of iron-stone and quartz grit about 3 ft. wide, I have been informed that this seam carries gold, and I have no doubt of it. This shaft should be sunk 250 ft., and drives driven for 200 ft. each way. By doing this lodes would be intersected. Some say the Enterprise lode would be cut. This I am not sure of. I believe the Enterprise lode traverses the western blocks, and I think by crosscutting at a depth many lodes will be met with equal to the Enterprise, because south of this mine there is a large east-and-west ironstone dyke, which is the backbone of the field, and is the feeder of all the north-and-south lodes for a distance of eight miles.
Adjoining the Enterprise on the west is the Tarcoola North. There has been a great deal of a certain kind of work done here. I have faith in the properly, as I know there are lodes traversing it.
Two miles west of the above is the Royal May. Here there are large deposits of quartz good looking stone and upon the property are sunk three pits, some distance apart. The manager seems to think it is one mass of lode formation for over 100 ft. wide. The three pits which have been sunk would not aggregate 30 ft. in depth. There is not sufficient work done to prove the width of the lode, neither are the pits deep enough to get into settled country. It is a gold bearing stone and is a very good show.
Adjoining on the west is the Royal George. This is a well-defined lode running north and south; it is from 2 to 3 ft. wide at 38 ft. from the surface. I am sure it is a valuable property. There are two parallel lodes carrying payable gold. In my opinion this is one of the best shows upon the field, and should be worked in a vigorous manner, with the expectation of having a dividend paying mine in the near future.
About four miles west of the Royal George is the Dark Hill. Here I was surprised to see so much work done for so little money. Three or four shafts have been sunk. In one they have just struck fresh water at about 70 ft. Here there is a small lode, carrying gold. The main shaft is down 104 ft. They have driven 40 ft., and they struck the lode on the day I inspected the mine. The lode is 4 ft. 6 in. wide containing good looking stone, which give a good prospect in dollying. I believe before long this will be a payable mine. The lode has, a granite footwall and a slate hanging wall, and should be a true fissure lode.
Situated about eight miles west of the Curdnatto there are six parallel lodes, not including the Blocks, carrying payable gold. They are opened up, and worked upon at the present time. There are many more, which have been exposed by small pits, and several others will be found as soon as the great number of leases are resumed and thrown open to the prospector.
Tarcoola is not an easy country to prospect, for the following reasons. The only assistance one has is the large quartzite and ironstone dykes that traverse the country east and west for miles. They are the backbones from which all the north and south lodes yet discovered proceed. In many places the lodes do not show at the surface and the only indication one has are a few loose stones of quartz and ironstone lying about. By looking carefully a little seam of stone will be found, and by following this a bed of limestone or conglomerate is come upon. A soft rubbly seam will lead through the conglomerate to the cap of the lode or seam of stone.
In a few instances, such as were furnished at the Blocks, where the lodes were showing at the surface, prospecting becomes easy. The Blocks have many lodes, and most of them show at the surface, and all of them are gold-bearing and payable, as the crushing has proved. It is a pity, however, to have worked the mine at such a cost. I have no doubt the mine will be on the dividend list as soon as the water difficulty is overcome. I believe as depth is attained there will be plenty of water, as in every case on sinking to 100 ft., water is found, except where the shafts are on high ground. In some places water has been got at 150 ft. from the high ground. No one yet has gone to a sufficient depth to prove the quantity. I congratulate the company upon such a splendid site for the battery. As soon as the main shaft is sunk and connected with the numerous levels and lodes the ore will be trucked from the face or stopes into the mill, and from the mill into cyanide vats without handling. In fact they have a fall for their tailings for 20 years.
I do not wish to find fault with any man's work, but there has been a great waste of money upon the mines adjoining, or near the Blocks. If the money had been wisely spent, the mines would be working on good lodes today, instead of lying idle. The Government has done well to put a battery upon the field. It is a great boon to the prospector. I saw it working upon the stone from the Government mine, and was more than pleased to see the result in the papers. Mr. Grundy has done his work thoroughly, and it reflects great credit on his judgment. Everything about the mill was working smoothly. I saw the ore from the Government mine carted to the mill. There was no picking or dressing about it, but as it was raised so it went to the mill. The result of that crushing is more than satisfactory.
I look ahead for great things from Tarcoola. Everything on the field goes to prove that it ought to be a permanent gold country that will last for generations to come. The formation of the country is granite, with silicious and agillaceous slate, sandstone, and diorite. Scattered over the red sandy soil, broken quartz and quartzite, diorite, ironstone, felspar, and fragments of many other rocks may be seen. Much of the loose rubble has the appearance of being water worn. I do not think this is the case, but believe the rounding and smoothing are caused by the atmosphere. The sun and the rain are the agents which knock off the angles of the stones, and the winds and the red gritty sands do the polishing. No one could travel over this part of South Australia without wishing to prospect for gold.
I left Tarcoola by the coach on Friday morning, and breakfasted at Wilgena, after which I started for the Enterprise mine, Earea Dam. I was surprised to see so much work dome. There is a well defined lode fully 3 ft. wide, carrying payable gold. If this mine was in West Australia there would have been a winding and pumping engine, and a 10-head battery there long ago. There is every reason to believe the mine would more than pay all working expenses, besides paying for further development. I consider this a very good property. The managers told me that the lode was larger at the bottom of the shaft than above the water level, and richer for gold. I did not see the bottom of the shaft, because there is more-than 50 ft. of water in it.
The country is well grassed from Tarcoola to Oakden Hills. Too much in praise of the proprietors of the above station cannot be said. They make you feel as if you were doing them a favour to spend a little time with them. As for Mr. John Beviss, he is an excellent fellow.
From this station to Port Augusta, the country is very poor for feed. Accommodation on the road between Coward Springs and Tarcoola there is none, but on the road between the goldfields and Port Augusta there is good accommodation. I prefer the Port Augusta route to that via Coward. If Mr. Richardson could do the journey in four days instead of five, no one would go by the Coward. I am sure if the Government paid a little more to carry the mail he would be able to do the journey from Port Augusta in three days, which would be a great boon to the field.
In my opinion, the Government would, be doing a right thing by commencing a railway at once, starting from Port Augusta by Mount Gunson, thence through the tin fields at Earea Dam to Tarcoola. If this were done the Mount Gunson copper mines would soon be in full work, giving employment to hundreds of men, while the Earea Dam gold and tin field would support hundreds of families, and the golden district of Tarcoola would eventually become a, city, because the population would be more than 20,000 in less than 10 years. We, should wake up to the fact that we have one of the best gold and mining districts in the whole of Australia. The railway to West Australia for the first 300 miles from Port Augusta, would pass through three mining centres that would support tens of thousands of people. I believe it would settle the pastoral question, and we should see hundreds of thousands of acres taken up and stocked, employing thousands of hands, as there would be a market for all stock, either in Adelaide or Perth. I believe this line would more than pay the working expenses and interest upon the cost of construction. It is to the interest of the Commonwealth to see the work started at once, as all Australia would benefit by it."
Captain George Prout Page.
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