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Volume 1 (2008)

RAILEY'S BATTERY, WAITAWHETA GORGE


by David Wilton

Introduction


The battery was originally established by a Mr Railey approx. 1888; it later belonged to the Crown Company, during which time it was the first in NZ to be converted to the cyanide extraction process. As the only battery (initially) using cyanide, it was in demand from mines in the area, but was too small and access too difficult to handle a large volume of ore. A larger Crown battery was established further down the Waitawheta in 1893.

The site is located in the gorge of the Waitawheta River, a tributary of the Ohinemuri River. From SH2 between Paeroa and Waihi, cross the road bridge to Crown Hill Rd. Take a left fork and head to the end of the road, to a car park at NZMG 27508 64161. Follow the track around the north side of Karangahake Mountain to NZMG 27518 64153 (WP 333). Turn off downhill on a trail that is reasonably well marked with home-made markers (painted strips of venetian blind) until the battery site is reached (WP 332). This trail is very steep and great care should be taken when the ground is wet. Note that the actual battery site is approx 700m downstream from the location originally recorded as T13/298.

The grid reference is: NZMS 260, Sheet T13, Paeroa, Easting 2751908 Northing 6415579 (GPS Waypoint 332 - see Figure 1 for Map).


Figure 1 Access map showing Raileys
battery site (WP 332) and turnoff
from main track (WP 333).
The location originally recorded for
T13/298 is also shown.
Click to enlarge the photograph.


History

The first company to work the Crown claim was registered in 1883 but like other companies working the reefs in the Karangahake area, it had great difficulty profitably treating the ore to extract gold and silver, prior to the advent of the cyanide treatment process. In 1888, Crown Mines acquired the claim and initiated a vigorous development programme which included the erection of a battery. This battery was erected on the site of an earlier 10-stamp battery known as Railey's battery, which the Crown Co. originally used.

To convey ore to their battery, the company constructed an incline tramway from the mine (approx 500 ft above the river) to the battery site. In 1889, the Crown Co introduced the MacArthur-Forrest cyanide extraction process, which had never previously been used on a commercial scale. The Cassell Co, owners of the patent, established a plant in the vicinity of the battery and this was used until 1893, when a larger, more reliable, plant was opened further downstream.

The site has considerable historical significance, as the site of the first commercial use of the cyanide extraction process, which was later used to good effect throughout the Ohinemuri, and other, goldfields (Downey 2002, Ritchie 1990).

Survey

Merv Grafton, a resident of Waiomu, Thames Coast, has visited the site many times, and cleared & marked the trail to it from the Karangahake Mountain side. He led a site visit on 1 Sep 2007, which pinpointed the site using GPS, and established & photographed what remains there. Photos of the remnants & some historical photos supplied by Merv are in the next section.

There are several levels; the crusher plant being the lowest, which is still approx 30m above the main river level. The site was apparently powered by a water race from a dam approx 400m upstream. The output from the water race dropped into a shaft (shown in next section) and powered a Pelton wheel at the bottom, which then fed a pulley arrangement back up the hill to the battery site. The Pelton wheel was not visited on 1 Sept due to difficulties getting down to the river level, but Merv Grafton has seen the remnants at the bottom of the shaft.

A considerable quantity of fire bricks were found at the site, some bearing the inscription 'CARDOWAN'. A Google search revealed the following details of origin:
Company: Heathfield and Cardowan Fire Clay Co.
Location: Heathfield and Cardowan, Scotland.
Years: 1852-1970
Type: Fire brick.
Reference



Photos


Figure 2: Crusher plant area showing concrete slab.
Click to enlarge the photograph.



Figure 3: Bricks & miscellaneous metal items.
Click to enlarge the photograph.



Figure 4: Bricks showing inscription "Cardowan".
Click to enlarge the photograph.



Figure 5: Double-skinned furnace.
Click to enlarge the photograph.



Figure 6: Vertical structure of rocks concreted together.
Click to enlarge the photograph.



Figure 7: Shaft into which water race emptied, leading to Pelton wheel below.
Click to enlarge the photograph.



Figure 8: Raileys Battery viewed from upstream and opposite bank (water race visible).
Click to enlarge the photograph.



Figure 9: Raileys Battery viewed from downstream & opposite bank, showing suspension bridge.
Click to enlarge the photograph.



Figure 10: Raileys Battery dam & water race, approx 400m upstream from battery site.
Click to enlarge the photograph.


References:

Downey, J. F. (2002). Gold-Mines of the Hauraki District, Cadsonbury Publications, Christchurch.
Ritchie, N. (1990). A Survey of Historic Mining Sites in the Thames and Ohinemuri Areas of the Hauraki Goldfield, Dept of Conservation, Hamilton.






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