“Mr. Hargraves states as the result of his observations, that from the foot of the Big Hill to a considerable distance below Wellington, on the Macquarie, is one vast gold field, that he has actually discovered the precious metal in numberless places, and that indications of its existence are to be seen in every direction.”

When Edward Hargaves announced news of his discovery of a vast goldfield across central west NSW in 1851, few would have guessed that he had massively underestimated the true extent of the gold bearing region.

By 1868, it was becoming apparent that the whole of south west NSW along the Lachlan Fold Belt was in effect a massive goldfield. It was during this year that the impetus provided by the major investments in the Grenfell field spread outwards as new reef gold mining operations sprang up across the region.

That there was gold in abundance was clear beyond measure. The only problem was that sometimes there was a bit too much rock mixed in with it.

The thing about reef gold is that it is the most erratic and unpredictable of resources to go in search of.

To begin to understand why this is so, imagine a row of tubs of molten gold with an explosive charge under them. When the blast detonates, the gold explodes outwards – some as very fine particles, others pieces as molten globular masses. Some of this hits the ceiling, more is forced up along cracks blown outwards in the explosion.

Now imagine coming across the chaotic remains of this explosion millions of years later and finding one of the large globular gold masses – a miraculous find that puts you amongst the lucky ranks of lottery winners.

Pocketing this good fortune you then dig deeper in search of more of the same. The only problem is that every new day in search of uber-rich gold deposits is another lottery draw.

For investors seeking a more secure return, the real issue is the daily grind – what’s the minimum amount of gold you need per ton of ore crushed to make the operation pay? This in turn has two aspects. One is how rich the ore is in the first place, the second is how good you are at getting the gold out of it.

22nd April 1868

“We have auriferous reefs spread like a net work over the face of the country, and all that we require to make them handsomely remunerative is not enterprise, for of that we have abundance, but complete machinery, that shall work easily, well, and quickly, and that shall save everything of the precious metal which is contained in the stone.”

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23rd July 1868

“The Grenfell reefs, are spreading the benefits of their practical knowledge and their capital over a very extensive area.

“The new mining districts of Cowra and Canowindra, of Murrumburrah and the Lovells, owe their development to the Grenfell reefs, while capital from this place has been drawn freely for the proper trial of the reefs near Young, as well as for those of Junee, Chambers’s Creek, the Burnt Yards, and several other places.”

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12th August 1868

Nor were the newer fields around Grenfell the only locales to excite attention as reef mining transformed the mining landscapes of NSW. Even the old warhorse Ophir was still capable of generating attention.

“Sydney has been startled by one or two announcements of rich finds on the old Ophir Diggings. About six weeks ago came the intelligence that 40 lbs. weight of gold had been sold by three miners, obtained by them out of the rich vein of a quartz reef.”

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27th October 1868

And indeed, the diversity of mining activity across the south west at this time was something to behold after so many lean years leading up to the quartz mining revival.

New ground was being worked and reported on and shares were trading hands in the process.

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