The arrival of the NSW Department of Mines in 1875, was a major response on the part of the Government to the many repeated calls for it to take a far more scientific and strategic approach to the development of the state’s mineral wealth.

“This was not the end of cavalier, ad hoc mining operations in NSW, it was not even the beginning of the end. It was however the end of the beginning.” [quote modified with apologies to W. Churchill].

Looking back on it from our perspective today, 1875 definitely marked the point at which things get much less dramatic in relation to the overall gold story in NSW. With almost every step forward now needing considered application of capital and regulatory supervision, the days of the wild ride where Government struggled to play catchup with events unfolding on the fields was definitely over.

Left: Mines Department Annual Report 1875. Image and content presented here from this report reproduced courtesy of NSW Trade & Resources, Minerals & Energy
“The yield of gold in 1875 being 230,882 ounces , shows a decrease of 39940 ounces, as compared with the quantity for the year 1874 and a decrease of 111006 ounces as compared with the average annual yield since the gold discovery in 1851.”

“This extraordinary difference may be, and probably is, due to the fact that during the past year hopes were entertained by many that the export duty would be removed from gold; the Bill introduced for the purpose of effecting that object not having been rejected till the early part of February of this year” …

Inroductory overview to the report

In opening summary of the Annual Report, Harrie Wood looks at the possible reasons behind gold’s very poor performance in the year then passed.

Specific detailed comment is also paid to how much gold departmental investigations found in the tailings from crusher plants and how this would be the difference between successful operation and going broke for most mines.

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Bathurst District Warden’s Report

The warden’s reports included in the Annual Report provide a detailed snapshot of all the goldmining centres across the region.

First up were the relatively minor gold mining regions of Oberon, Orange, Hockley, Bathurst, Carcoar. These were followed by the legendary Ophir and thence Back Creek, Mullion, Carr’s Creek, and Four-Mile Creek.

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With all eyes on the Hawkins Hill fields, the section of the report which deals with that and the adjoining fields was doubtless eagerly read by many in 1875.

Warden Sharpe from Hill End did not disappoint and his account makes for concise and invaluable reading.

“Hawkins’ Hill – to which the mining world seem to look as the beacon which must be 1ighted up before we can have brighter days – does not appear to be in a prosperous condition.

“Yery few of these mines are paying more than working expenses at the present time, and what is wanted, in the opinion of practical miners, is “amalgamation,” in order that this hill, from which marvellous quantities of gold have been won, may be thoroughly proved.

“The areas of most of the leases, which have been very productive, are small, and have been worked, comparatively speaking, to very shallow depths, but to such depths the mines appear to be exhausted, and as each company’s parcel of land is very small it is not worth while, on account of expense (sinking, it must be remembered, in this locality, costs about £10 a foot), to follow the veins down to a great depth, where possibly a second run of gold would be discovered.”

Tambaroora and Turon District

Warden Sharpe goes on to note that …

“Until amalgamation is an accomplished fact, the vast army of managers, legal and mining, directors, and all the paraphernalia which go to swell the expenses of these mines, will most effectually prevent the thorough exploration and proving of Hawkins’ Hill; whereas, under a proper system, much of this expense would be saved.”

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Gulgong – when all else fails

How though were things faring with that mainstay of gold production in troubled times – the alluvial fields of Gulgong?

Well not so good as it happens, though a very protracted dry spell was largely to blame with much washdirt being stockpiled for future puddling when there was water to process it.

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Billabong and Forbes report (mostly)

The rich new Billabong Goldfield east of Parkes in the foothills of the Goobang Range was one of the state’s most productive fields – if only the weather would let up and allow the miners to process that stockpiled washdirt.

Footnoting a very (very!) detailed account of this field is also an update from the much older workings around Forbes.

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Do read this – it’s really interesting!

There wasn’t much good gold news to report from this sector, so Mr Robinson had room to record some invaluable social dynamics of life in transition from a gold centred economy to one with a more diverse base – fascinating stuff!

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When there’s nothing to say – say nothing!

As for news from the south covering Kiandra, Tumut and Adelong – well it appears there wasn’t any!

It must be noted though that this report seems a little odd as the following year progress at Adelong was to give a special place amongst the NSW mines with the first shaft sunk to prospect deeper levels below 800 feet.

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Other mining centres including Northern Region and Braidwood

Alongside the dominant centres of the Western and Southern goldfields accounts of the other major workings around Braidwood and also of those from the Northern Division were presented.

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