Mobile Unit. Gold and Scheelite mining
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Miners Cecil Paulin and John Wylie are interviewed about their experience in mining gold and scheelite in the Lake Wakatipu region.
Mr Paulin was born in Queenstown and has lived in the region his entire life. His father came to the area in the 1860s. He managed sheep stations then started a butchery in Queenstown. The business thrived until the West Coast gold rush when demand went down as the miners disappeared from the area. He then moved to Glenorchy, where he had a few different occupations. In later years he was involved in the scheelite industry. Mr Paulin would have been about four years old when they first came to Glenorchy.
He says he has seen a lot come and go from Glenorchy. In the early days the only communication was by boat, about twice a week. He travelled on the famous Antrim many times.
He worked with horses for a few years, then went into quartz mining. He travelled to the West Coast as well, but has done most of his mining in Glenorchy. He says there is gold in the area, but he was never successful finding it. There was more gold found in the early days on the Shotover side.
Mr Paulin has mostly been involved in quartz and scheelite mining. The interviewer asks him what scheelite is; he says it is a heavy grey mineral composed of tungstate acid and lime and used for hardening and tamping of steel. There is a good market for it and the Glenorchy field is the biggest deposit of it in New Zealand. Unfortunately the state owns the mine now and it has closed down. Many people made money out of it though, including the Wylie brothers. He made a reasonable amount in his day.
He describes the mining processes used to extract scheelite. He says all mining can be hard or easy depending on how you go about it. He says it's a simple process to extract it, and is better to get it out without too much crushing.
The interviewer asks about his schooling in Glenorchy. Mr Paulin says all of his education was at the school there. He and his brothers had to walk about four miles to school. There weren't many people in the area so you knew everybody; there weren't even many tourists in those days.
Mr Wylie was also a scheelite miner. The interviewer asks him the difference between gold mining and scheelite mining. He says they are similar in that both are found in a reef, but with gold you can isolate it and see if it will be payable. A scheelite wreath is more patchy and may take more time to find the next one. Scheelite is mixed up with quartz, very little exists in its pure form.
They work quite high up. It's expensive to cart the ore so they try to break it up on-site. The mine is about eight miles from Glenorchy. They used to sledge it out, but now they have rigged up an aerial. Two wire ropes with buckets; the mine is up high so the one coming down with the scheelite brings the empty bucket up. The mine is at about 4,500ft elevation so there is a 1,600ft drop. There was snow recently which prevented them from working.
They have a battery at the bottom of the hill to process it, so they only ship the pure concentrates to the boat. There is a road straight to the boat, where it is shipped to Queenstown and then on to Bluff.
There have been a few good rises of scheelite, but no fortunes made in the same way as gold. Enough to start businesses, but it takes more time to strike it rich than with gold as the processing takes longer. Mr Wylie says if you're lucky it's possible to make a few thousand pounds in a season.
They have the longest aerial conveyor in New Zealand, and possibly in the Southern Hemisphere. It took six months to rig it up, with no production at that time. He says in the long run it has been worth it as it used to take a day to cart down a tonne of ore, but now it only takes a few minutes. In addition, it is much easier to send timber and other items up, which was previously very difficult. There are four of them working there; he has been working there for about 11 years.