A feature of the rise in importance of reef gold mining was to highlight the need for support industries on the goldfields.

Just as stores and blacksmiths were needed as a common resource, so too were quartz crushing plants.

While major company operations might look to establish their own plants, small scale miners working in syndicates needed to outsource this process. Likewise some relied on carriers to transport the ore from their mines to a crushing plant which was often some distance away.

Throughout 1859, the role of investing in support industries and also in roads and other social infrastructure increasingly featured as crucial to the next stage of goldfields development.

Left: Quartz crushing machine, Ballarat, S.T. Gill 1855.
Reproduced courtesy National Library of Australia nla-pic.an:6055919

One thing the presence of the Chinese miners on the field had shown clearly was the value of organising a large labour force when it came to efficient gold mining.

In the case of the Chinese miners and their dominant focus on alluvial gold mining, this saw them invest significant energy in things like building dams and water races to get precious water to their operations. This in turn allowed them to rework ground other miners had discarded.

It also focussed a spotlight on how investment of both labour and capital was essential to make mining work once the easy pickings of the alluvial fields had been plundered.

27th January 1859

But first – a stocktake to start the year.

Just where were things at in the overall health of the NSW goldfields at start of 1859? Well not too shabby actually – thanks for asking.

Especially cheering was the increase in the labour force on the fields and as a result a 72% increase in the amount of gold sent down in 1858 in comparison to the previous year.

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17th March 1859

One aspect of the goldfields that generally escaped popular attention is that of the alluvial fields once their hey day was done.

What – and who – was left behind when the human tide of fortune seekers moved on to greener pastures?

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18th April 1859

So just what did a working day involve for the fortune seekers on the diggings? What saw them forsake the sun to risk life and limb where “in that small hole, twenty feet deep, a human being toils from morning until night, in half the space of a man made grave, going down, down, still down.”?

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And speaking of alluvial diggers and old goldfields - just what had happened with those original fields at Ophir and Summerhill Creek?

How had they fared over the previous few years following the realisation that the hills around the famous creekbeds were actually a much better gold prospect than the valley bottoms?

21st July 1859

And indeed – Ophir did present a sorry state of affairs when a correspondent for the paper visited it in the middle of winter.

Still – some at least still had confidence in the ground for “I subsequently met a man camped on a roadside, after having rambled through all the Southern Goldfields without having improved his fortune … and he, was now returning to where he said he knew gold could be had for the seeking.”

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26th July 1859

Leaving Summerhill Creek our dedicated correspondent then headed across the Mullion Range to Orange.

Looking beyond from there he noted somewhat presciently that “the Western Goldfields will probably be connected with the Southern Goldfields at some future period by a chain of discoveries tracing the auriferous formations from King’s Plains through the wild and broken country that extends to Adelong, and even beyond to the Murray.”

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3rd August 1859

Sometimes though – the story is not about gold. As the correspondent wanders across the countryside he can but comment on the nature of the landscape and the farming commuities that call it home.

Onwards to Carcoar and then into Cowra.

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26th August 1859

And so – with the destination of Adelong on the distant horizon the travels continue south to Gundagai.

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This made it of particular interest to potential investors in the reef mining process who sought to understand the complexities and variables of just what was involved irrespective of the location. As such the very detailed account of this field's operations delivered by this correspondent in spring 1859 can be seen as contributing to a gradual return of investors into mining in the wake of the early corporate failures.
Adelong was not just another goldfield in late 1859. Rather it was the first pace in NSW where “quartz crushing has been carried to a successful conclusion”.

5th September 1859

“On the opposite bank you arrive at Roache’s Inn, lately purchased by Mr. Williams, a successful quartz reefer and the proprietor of a crushing mill” … and with this our reporter enters into the Adelong workings via the all important gateway of a crushing plant located close by a water source.

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19th September 1859

A feature of the correspondent’s report is the detail into which he goes about both the geology and the gold recovery process.

This was no travel magazine article he was writing, but rather a serious account that people with serious intent of involving themselves in the goldfields would have read closely.

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28th September 1859

“It is in such case as this that the operative miner feels himself crippled by the absence of capital, without which all his energies are unavailing; the exhaustion of his resources but too frequently compels him to relinquish undertakings which he knows perseverance would ultimately crown with success … the formation of copartners between operative miners and capitalists might reasonably be expected to promote the interests of all concerned, and would certainly direct a greater amount of energy and mining experience to the development of our mineral resources”

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29th September 1859

But wait – there’s more to come in this exhaustive account of the workings and geology of Adelong. If ever there was an indication of the significance of this field at that time, surely this vast narrative provides it in spades.

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Well clearly things were ticking along quite nicely at NSW's first payable reef gold mining centre as the decade of the 1850s drew to a close.

What though of the rest of the state and the overall prosepcts for gold mining in the coming decade?

Just look at the changes that the decade just gone had brought with it. At the start of the 1850s, NSW was still recovering from the great depression that had scoured it in the first half of the 1840s and the continuing need to unlock capital investment allied to land reform were pressing issues that the gold rush did much to influence.

Over the decade then past, Victoria and Queensland had both set up as independent states and transportation of convicts to NSW wound up just before gold was discovered in 1851.

These were still tumultuous days for the fledgling colony. While the chaos of the intial gold rushes had subsided, longer term social structural issues like good roads safe from predation by bushrangers had been brought very much to the fore and of course both pastoral land reforms and immigration policy were very much works in progress.

Roll on the 1860s!

6th January 1859

But first – what was the actual scale of gold mining at this time and what contribution was it making to the state’s economy?

What also did having full employment mean for the overall health of the state’s social order?

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12th November 1859

“Every one that goes to the goldfields makes it easier for those he leaves behind to find employment, and, indeed helps to create employment for them.”

“And in a colony where the demand for labour fluctuates greatly, according to the amount of capital available for its hire, and the prospects of profitable investment, and where it is impossible always to maintain that perfect balance between the two so that there should never be any surplus of either, it is a great advantage that there should be such a standing resource for the working man as the gold-fields afford.”

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9th January 1860

Lest all this sounds somewhat too congratulatory however, let the final word on the decade be with an article that dissected the lost opportunities the government had let slip in its management of the goldfields…

“The occupation of the miner has fallen into unskilled hands, and our rich gold-fields have not been worked, but rooted over and injured by a vast concourse of men who have earned a mere subsistence by their misdirected labour”… clearly an end of year report card in the “could do better” category!

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