In March 1875, a fine parcel from the nearby Alma mine of 290 ounces was received in Adelaide, only a month after a similar amount had been brought in. It was now thought beyond doubt that the reef was both large and rich and returns like these spoke volumes for the value of the property. The company now looked at expanding the mining area and William Lawes Ware advertised that it intended to apply for additional leases and claims near its mine.
The Alma leases were surveyed on 9 June 1876 by Harold Mayo Addison and countersigned by Biggs on 21 August. Addison was so impressed with the possibilities of the field that he took out a gold claim himself. Other properties were also surveyed, claimed and worked for shorter or longer times. The Sebastopol Gold MC, started in December 1881 with EJ Green, H Strother and HT Phillips as directors hoped to do well from the investment in 30-acre-section 436.
During January it employed a number of men to sink a shaft on the reef, which was 'strong and well defined'. In March the mine manager started building huts for the miners who were sinking the shaft, but also complained about the lack of water, which made it difficult to test any of the stone in a practical manner.
Apart from all the public servants who were kept busy with the paper work, and printers with printing prospectuses, mining also provided continuous work for both government and private surveyors. All spent a large part of their working life on the mining fields, surveying and resurveying claims, leases, amalgamated leases, roads, towns, dams, machinery sites and boundaries, to name just a few.
Among those surveying at Waukaringa were George Warren, who surveyed sections 431 and 432 for the Victoria Gold MC, on behalf of Henry Dawson, John Drew and William Henry Rosman on 26 June 1879. Henry Thomas Melville, surveyed lease 483 for HA Wood on 14 October and number 485 for William John Brook on 2 November 1881. Six years later he was again working at Waukaringa when he surveyed forfeited leases 435 and 437 for T Denny and WL Ware and also leases for A Wilkinson, JW Colton and WH Craigie during August 1887. J Packhard, was at Jackson's Reef near Mannahill surveying gold claims 525-528 in December 1881.
Alex McLellan McCatman did some survey work for John Linton, JB and HJ Carr, WJ Moore and Robert Griffin at Blackfellow's Reef in December 1881 and for the Mid Alma Gold MC in January 1882. Matthew Seaver was busy surveying for E Radcliff on section 509 in October and for WJ Brook and Godfrey Egremont on their gold sections 473 and 477 in November 1881.
Other surveyors who worked at Waukaringa during these years were Alfred Thomas Woods, William Cummings, HA Lloyd, Frederic Alfred Howell, AH Smith, Thomas Evans, partner in the firm Evans & Evans of Gresham Chambers, Adelaide and W Waham Glease and George H Bellingham, of Barnes & Bellingham.
There were many diggers, and even some surveyors who were convinced that they were on the road to El Dorado and staked claims or applied for leases, just like the Balaklava. Unfortunately, the Balaklava did not turn out to be a field of gold nor did it last very long. The company went into liquidation in 1877. The Supreme Court ordered all its machinery to be sold and appointed William Smallpeice Whitington as liquidator.
It was reworked at different times but after nearly two years of idleness the Alma and Victoria United Gold MC took up the Balaklava lease. South Australians slowly learned, regardless of what the Cornish miners believed, that perhaps gold was not always where you found it.
Henry Marshall of Melbourne but previously of Penrice, South Australia, thought it time that South Australians devoted a little more energy towards developing their gold mines as he was convinced that there was plenty of gold in South Australia. The large quantity of South Australian gold now in Melbourne had perfectly astonished some of the leading mineralogists, he said, for nothing has been seen of such an extraordinary character, especially those from the Lady Alice.
The reefs at Waukaringa contained visible gold and he had no hesitation in saying that the gold mines of South Australia were as rich, if not richer, than those of Victoria. There were also a few things, which he could not understand. To think, he said, that South Australia, the richest mineral country in the world, still has not had a proper geological survey and an institution for collecting specimens and data is a disgrace.
Last but not least Marshall stressed that South Australians should endeavour to pass an Act for working minerals on private land. However, it would take many years before either geological survey or Act became a reality. John Baptist Austin had lost nothing of his faith in South Australia or its mines. In April 1875 he went on record saying that 'the fact which I have steadily maintained for the past twelve years that payable gold reefs existed in South Australia has been satisfactorily proved in the Barossa District and at present in the neighbourhood of Waukaringa'.
He believed that mines should be tested at a much greater depth than had been done so far, even below water level. Others agreed with him and were pleased to see that the development of South Australian gold reefs was progressing, even though it was a little slow.
Mining below water level at that time was still a major problem and very expensive as it often required pumps to be installed and engines to keep them running 24 hours a day, something beyond the financial resources of most syndicates and smaller companies. It was also claimed again that the original Waukaringa had been wound up too hastily as the claims would have turned out payable under better management.
In an effort to promote the Waukaringa goldfield and the Alma mine in particular, an ingot of about 250 ounces from the Alma was displayed at Benda's tobacconist in King William Street and a few months later another ingot of 287 ounces at Jackson's restaurant in the same street.
Batteries to crush ore had become more common and although still expensive, more and more companies bought their own five, ten or even 20 head stampers. The Waukaringa field would eventually have three battery sites, one at the Alma Gold MC's site, one at the Alma Extended and the third at Battery Creek. With the improved stamper batteries, ore was fed into the feeders at the back and into the boxes of each set of five-head stamps.
Powered by a steam engine, a horizontal drive shaft operated a series of five cams in each stamp. The cams were offset and as each turned, they engaged projections in the vertical shafts, fitted with heavy feet or stampers which dropped as the cam disengaged and crushed the ore. The crushed ore was then discharged through a screen that regulated the size of the material, or slimes. The slimes, generally a slurry, then fell onto a copper covered amalgamation table with mercury rubbed onto it.
As the slurry was washed over the surface, any traces of gold combined with the mercury to form an amalgam. The amalgam was then twisted in a chamois to separate the mercury from the gold, leaving an amalgam ball of gold for retorting. Retorting was the final process before pouring the gold ingot. The amalgam ball was placed in a cast iron pot and heated until any remaining mercury vaporised. The vapour entered a pipe, which went into a container of cold water where the condensed mercury vapour cooled and returned to its solid form for re-use. The particles of gold left behind in the pot were smelted and poured into moulds to form ingots.
By the middle of July 1875, news from the Waukaringa field had become very encouraging with several new discoveries and an improved outlook from some of the claims already worked. The battery, which had been erected on the Alma mine, had yielded 236 ounces of gold from its first crushings. This gave hope that there was now every prospect of a rich goldfield being opened up.
Several parties had been working the reef for some considerable time with success, which had prompted them to stay much longer than would have been the case if they had struck a duffer. It also resulted in the Alma shares being quoted at nearly five pounds each.
However, the lack of water and machinery was still a great drawback. By September the mine had produced 750 ounces, which realised just over 3,000 pounds. With a total expenditure on the mine of nearly 5,000 pounds it was considered 'a splendid result'. A month later another ingot of 321 ounces from the Alma was displayed in Adelaide and the total value of its gold production had now reached in excess of 5,000 pounds.
As with any other goldfield, business people were quick to establish themselves on the field hoping to cash in on the activity and the wealth it would hopefully bring with it. Most did if the field lasted and several did far better than most of the miners. JL Williams kept a hotel and John Jackson & Co ran coaches twice weekly between Burra and the Alma mine.
With all the coming and going, A Schunke lost his horse and promised a reward of two pounds for the safe return of his bay mare to Grunthal or to Charles Schunke at the Waukaringa goldfield. With the influx of more and more miners, a police station was soon in operation. Police Trooper Edward Napoleon Buonaparte Catchlove had taken up residence in one of the new buildings of the as yet unproclaimed township.
The other half of the police building had been let to a baker and butcher for two shilling and sixpence a week. Catchlove proved to be the right man for this important job. Not only was he a seasoned trooper, he also had experience in gold mining. In January 1882, Catchlove asked his superiors for a Justice of the Peace to be appointed at Waukaringa. Prisoners had to be taken more than 80 miles to the nearest JP who could be absent when he arrived with them. He recommended Edward Poynton Evans, manager of the Mid Alma, for the position.
His request was supported by the Acting Commissioner who added 'that a mining population is generally a rowdy one and I think that although the number of cases have not as yet been very large, it would be as well to have the means of dealing with them on the spot'. Luckily Waukaringa did not turn out like the Beechworth goldfields in Victoria, which had 15 murders within the first six months.
In October 1875 the Alma obtained 180 ounces from nine days crushing and matters were getting decidedly better as time went by. For most of 1876 news from the Alma was very encouraging. At its shareholders meeting the 20 gentlemen present were informed that more than 1,000 ounces of gold had been produced during the last six months. They were also told that the purser, HW Gawen, had been appointed general manager. Several improvements above ground had been made, included sleeping room for 12 men, a kitchen, dining room, blacksmith shop, office and machinery for condensing water.
During the first few months after the change of managers, nearly 500 ounces had been obtained but in May William Lawes Ware advertised that the company wanted to increase its capital with the issue of a further 8,000 shares of ten shillings each. During its shareholders' meeting in January 1877, Ross T Reid and JM Wendt were appointed directors at 36 pounds per annum. Thomas Frederick Breakell, whose wife and eight children were still living at Glen Osmond, reported that the mine had made a decided improvement and looked to continue that progress.
During the last six months it had produced 527 ounces and employed 31 men, not including the wood carters. In January Captain Gawen recorded a yield of 59 ounces from 77 tons of ore. In April the company made a call of one shilling to pay for the deepening of several shafts and once again was able to report a yield of 96 ounces from 150 tons. A few days later Gawen reported that the reef had increased to about six feet and stoping was continuing.
After all these splendid results at the Alma mine, it was hard to believe that the company went into liquidation only a few months later. It surprised many people including A Beaglehole, late manager of the Great Extended Waukaringa Gold MC. He was convinced that it would yet turn out a splendid mine and the Waukaringa field would become one of the finest goldfields in South Australia.
Since its first crushing the Alma had produced more than 3000 ounces of gold valued at 13,646 pounds. William Lawes Ware, who had been appointed liquidator, was only able to pay its creditors 50 per cent of their outstanding accounts. Even so, there were still a number of people convinced that it was a good mine and could be run profitably. The decision to wind up the company was made on 13 July 1877 at an extraordinary meeting when directors were authorised to reconstruct the company.
In September an effort was made to raise further capital to start the mine afresh and with renewed vigour. It was also reported that some fine specimens had been found which contained many small nuggets, which were on show at Ware's office. A new company to continue the mining at the Alma was formed and named appropriately the New Alma. It was one of the few new gold mining companies that were floated during 1877 and 1878.
Gold mining during the late 1870s had taken a back seat in South Australia and with the closure of both the Kapunda and Burra copper mines, there was little work for secretaries, brokers or even solicitors acting for company liquidators. Most companies, which were wound up did so quietly with a minimum of fuss. Many secretaries had to take on work for other companies. WS Whitington, for instance, became secretary for the Devon Consols MC.
Newspapers too had to look for other news items and soon wrote large reports on the strikes in support of the eight-hour day, the Afghan war, the Chinese question, Ned Kelly's latest robberies, the Zulu war, Red Rust in Wheat and the Railway expansion.
Even share brokers became worried when the government finally attempted to regulate their practices a little and proposed to introduce a licensing system. A meeting was organised at the office of CJ Coates to draw up a petition to be presented to the Legislative Council, praying that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee to take evidence.
Not everyone had lost faith in the Waukaringa field. WH Banks brought some very promising gold specimens from the Aboriginals' claim with him to Burra. Absalom Beaglehole had not lost faith either and was convinced that there was still a great and glorious future before Waukaringa and the North East, including the Alma mine. After all, there were still people who declared Waukaringa to be the best looking and richest gold reef yet found in South Australia. John Drew, Henry Dawson, Isaac Killicoat and John D Cave, all from Kooringa hadn't lost faith either.
They gave notice of their intension to apply for a 14-year lease of 40 acres, immediately adjoining and south of the Alma Mine. Early in 1879 it had been decided to amalgamate the New Alma mine with the Victoria mine giving it an area of 102 acres. Full agreement had been reached by November and in April 1880 the prospectus of the Alma and Victoria United Gold MC was issued.
Apart from the 25,000 pounds it hoped to raise, the prospectus also contained a large and glowing report from Captain John Warren who, among other things, recommended the acquisition of a 40-horsepower engine for pumping and crushing and a 25-horsepower engine for winding purposes all of which could be had for about a quarter of the normal price due to a slump in copper mining.
Warren was convinced that this new venture was 'a genuine speculation and without doubt the best ever put before the public of South Australia, and one that every capitalist and businessman should, in the present depressed state of the working classes, aid in carrying out'.
Unfortunately for the new owners there were not too many capitalists or businessmen willing to support this venture. Only just over 6,000 pounds had been subscribed. In the end the promoters put up their own money to get the mine going, a very rare occurrence, and advertised for a thoroughly competent manager.
George M Newman, after producing several first-class genuine testimonials, second to none in Victoria, and having previously managed mines in the Northern Territory, was selected from numerous applicants. He inspected the mine and was astounded to find that as much as 13,000 pounds worth of gold had been taken from such a small portion of the reef. He was requested to exercise the strictest economy and not to push matters too vigorously, as there were still a large number of shares unsold.
He recommended that six men be hired to deepen several shafts and extend a number of drives to connect the Alma and Victoria workings. In his report he stated that the machinery and tools that were still on site were in good condition, as was the horse whim above the Alma shaft and the 14 miner's huts on the mine and battery sites. The one thing needed most and urgently was a water reservoir, as large amounts of water were still needed to crush, puddle or wash the ore.
He advised that all work should be done by contract labour 'as it was painful to witness the departure of numbers of men, tramping their way towards Mount Poole and elsewhere and passing by what promises to become a great goldfield'. To pay for all the work the directors instructed Ware to make a call of one shilling on 25 February and another one on 29 March 1881. In April Ware invited tenders for the sinking of a shaft and the construction of a water reservoir.
Specifications could be viewed at the office of S Drew at Kooringa or at the office of the mine manager at Waukaringa. In an effort to increase its capital the company resorted to a different approach. It tried to sell 'a limited number of shares at four shilling each, which was the amount paid so far on the original shares. This had the desired effect and they were pleased to report that by the closing date as many as 15,000 additional shares had been taken up.
A few months later Newman was able to report that the shaft had reached a depth of over 100 yards. Payable gold had been washed from the country rock taken out and more miners would be employed to open up the mine. The boiler for the winding gear and the poppet heads were also completed. After the mine had been opened up properly, he planned to install skids in the lower portion of the shaft to guide the cages and trucks.
Additional to these improvements, the foundation for a winding and crushing plant, which had been relocated to the actual mining site, had been put in place and the chimney stack was progressing well. When completed, it would excel any plant of a similar nature in South Australia and would bear favourable comparison to the best in Victoria.
Newman had major trouble trying to fit and utilize old machinery with new, especially in an out of the way district like Waukaringa. However, he promised that he would use his utmost skill and endeavour to make it a first-class plant and the cheapest ever erected in South Australia. By the end of September, he further reported that three boilers had been built in, a 16,000-gallon tank finished, and that 20 substantial iron miner's huts were ready for occupation.
A large kitchen, storeroom, smith shop and manager's office had also been completed. Finally, the directors decided to invest in one of the new National Rock Borers and Compressors, which were found to be such a success in other mines.
To make it possible for all developmental work to continue, the company was forced to make as many as seven calls on its shareholders for additional money. Even so, the results had been good. So far the company had crushed 3,729 tons, which had yielded 3,261 ounces, amounting to a value of 13,046.11.1 pounds. The one remaining problem though was still a shortage of water. Heat, dust and flies there were aplenty but water was scarce and Newman was quite adamant that without the presence of drinking water for man and beast this great mining district could not be developed.
By the end of November everything was completed and soon the tank would be filled with water from the deepened shafts, when the sound of 20 stampers would be heard all over the Valley of Waukaringa. By the end of the year the whole mine was thoroughly ventilated and everything working well. In fact, the ventilation was at times so strong that it was necessary to install canvas doors to slow down the current of air passing between the Victoria and Alma shafts. The only things which remained to be completed were the under and above ground tramways.
When prospects and progress remained good at the Alma and Victoria United Gold mine, several other mines, previously abandoned, were reopened and new companies floated. The Upsala Gold MC bought lease 437, next to the Alma and Victoria United Gold mine, from HA Grainger in September 1881. It proposed a capital of 20,000 pounds but only half of that was earmarked for the mine's development. The other half would be going to the promoters.
According to Captain RH Davison it would turn out second to none on the Waukaringa lease. In its prospectus Captain Newman stated that from what he had seen of the surface indications within a radius of five miles, it held the most promising inducements for legitimate investment of capital and labour. The Waukaringa District, he said, would become a great goldfield and add to the prosperity of South Australia.
By the end of January 1882, the Upsala men had sunk a shaft to a depth of nearly 60 feet, while at the Balaklava, Captain Davison had solved the lack of ventilation and the heat by installing a fan to drive fresh air down the shaft. Regardless of the cooler temperatures down below, and the high number of unemployed in South Australia, he still found it difficult to obtain extra men.