This was a very busy year for the expansion of quartz reef mining in NSW. All the existing fields were ticking along nicely and Victorian company interests were starting to cross the border to seek out new opportunities.

These company interests were more focussed on developing new fields as most of the existing reefing areas were held by small syndicates and a company could not easily buy into enough ground to make the investments needed in machinery and ore processing worthwhile.

Starting afresh in a new field and taking out a lease over a large area of ground was a much preferred option and this saw some significant new ground opened up at Trunkey Creek thanks to “speculators in NSW being loath to see all the ground taken up by their Melbourne prototypes.”

The year actually started out rather badly for goldmining as the old enemy - drought - ensured that the essential water needed to process the mineral ore was in very short supply.

Some fields were more affected than others, but in general it was a time of growing stockpiles as all eyes looked for some break in the weather.

2nd February 1869

Water was crucial to the crushing process in order to wash the pulverised ore mixture out of the stamp battery housing and across the mercury coated plates.

It also was the essential fuel used in the steam engine that drove the flywheel operating the camshaft that in turn lifted and dropped the stamper feet.

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13th February 1869

But then it finally rained, and all the good work and capital investment in Grenfell’s dam network paid off as a flooding storm replenished the town’s supplies in a day.

Crushing operations could instantly get back into full swing and business could prosper as people finally got some much needed cash in their pockets.

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2nd March 1869

Alongside news of the welcome rains that brought relief to many of the western and southern goldfields, news of another familiar kind of water problem was heard.

This was the problem of the workings filling up with water as they dropped through the water table and the need to set up pumping equipment to dry them out. This offered yet another example of how indispensable capital was to the long term development of any reef mine.

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With investment the byword for success in NSW's revitalised gold mining industry, eyes also turned to established fields like Adelong to question why companies weren't a part of this major field's operations.

As one article commented, “This seems all the more singular as it is well known how well small parties with very limited funds often (indeed, depending upon storekeepers for their supplies) have succeeded.”

23rd March 1869

Adelong it seems had come very close to recording a win for company shareholders in the past, only for a stroke of bad luck result in the operation missing the main line of the reef and fail as a result.

It was subsequently left to syndicates to pick up where they left off and strike the right line to prosperity.

Also of interest in this report is a major account of a new field at Dubbo.

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24th March 1869

Alongside accounts of Dubbo emerging as a new goldfields player, Junee also was establishing itself, with the owners of a small start up venture turning down an offer from a Victorian investor to sell up for £5000

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1st June 1869

Three months later and it looked like Brown and Borgen’s faith in the value of holding onto their claim was rewarded when intial crushing s of “the worst” stone gave promising returns.

Nearby at Narrandera “Other reefs have been discovered,and sanguine expectations are entertained that ere long the country concerned will hold out many inducements for enterprising men.”

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21st April 1869

All in all there was an extraordinary sense of optimism in the air about everything to do with the gold mining propsects across the southern and western districts at that time.

Reorganisation and investment was underway, with a major example being the formation of a new company to buy and operate the Lucknow goldfield which was located on the private lands of the Wentworth property in order to work in in a very thorough and systematic manner.

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The arrival of company interest in the state's gold mining ventures was a much welcomed and long overdue event that fuelled a hectic year of mining expansion across central and south west NSW.

Prior to this time most of the reef ground was worked by small syndicates of miners and the system for allocating portions of the frontage along a reef catered to the needs of these groups.

To ensure that both miners rights and a newly expanded system of leasing ground to companies could effectively co-exist, a complete new set of mining regulations was introduced to help this process and also ensure people couldn’t go around taking up ground speculatively without actually working it.

29th September 1869

These regulations make for an invaluable reference source for anyone curious as to the exact management of the goldfields.

Of particular interest is the way they required miners to have a very good reason not to be present on their claims – so serious were they about closing down the practice of shepherding off claims as speculative investments.

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6th August 1869

The inequities of the system that the new regulations came in to replace were detailed in some length at a public meeting in Forbes prior to the changes being announced one month later.

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8th September 1869

A general call of the card of mining across the board in NSW in mid 1869, speaks very much to the urgency of these regulatory reforms to meet the needs of the expanding gold industry.

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8th October 1869

And the good news continued. One month later and the “Gold and Other Mining Report” was still able to report on a thriving and expanding industry looking forward to a prosperous decade ahead.

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In this environment of general diversity and optimism, of expanding investment and general confidence in the long term future of gold mining, the last thing NSW needed was any untoward developments to complicate matters.

Take Victoria for example. By this time it had been through its boom days, its times of rags to riches stories and settled into a long term productive pattern of goldfields development where investment supported communities and held out the prospect of the mining’s long term development.

In the process they had become a centre of excellence for research into gold recovery techniques whereby they could operate profitably on lower grade ores than NSW could at that time.

Nearly 20 years on from the first gold discoveries, the evidence was in that speculation and investor frenzy were no friends of the long term development of a regions’ mining industry.

Hence – what does NSW manage to do just at the point at which it’s gold industry is starting to prosper? Sadly yes – come up with the speculation and investor frenzy to beat them all – the golden treasure chest that was Hawkins Hill, Hill End.

10th August 1869

Located just 10km up the road from Tambaroora, it’s not surprising that originally the Hawkins Hill claims were reported under the banner of that well known goldfield – especially as the ore from its mines would have at first been carried down to Tambaroora for processing.

The first glimmer of something remarkable happening on the hill came in late winter with a couple of lines in the Sydney media. This was not quite the same as putting a very large gold nugget through a crushing battery – but it was about as close as reef gold got to this.

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18th October 1869

Then several months later, another stop press moment emerges from what would later become an iconic claim on the hill. The mine was actually that of Pullen and Rawsthornes, but Porter and Hawthorne was close enough at that time.

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3rd December 1869

By years end, the “Gold and other Mining Report” was moved to comment on the claims emerging from Hawkins Hill.

As they said “Amongst the items of intelligence, perhaps the most important is the unparalleled yield of a crushing of stone from the Hawkins’ Hill”.

Little could they have guessed the import of these words or what the golden discoveries prefaced for the start of the decade to come.

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