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Volume 4 (2011)

Battery Sites on the Lucky Hit Creek,

Karaka Valley, Thames Special Area.


by David Wilton

Introduction

The original Lucky Hit claim was recorded in 1868, and is located on the creek that bears the same name, approximately 2.3 km up the Karaka Valley track, from the Karaka Road end. The junction of the Lucky Hit and Karaka Streams also denoted the railhead of the tramway, build by the Auckland Provincial government, up the Karaka Valley in 1870 (Bullock 1964, SRF T12/725). Like many moderately profitable claims, the Lucky Hit had a somewhat chequered history; changing names and boundaries several times, and was mined, although not continuously, until about 1913. A visit to the area on 21st August 2010, guided by Mr Merv Grafton of Waiomu, revealed two separate battery sites, on opposite sides of the Lucky Hit creek. Significant concrete foundations and structures remain, but all the transportable battery machinery appears to have been removed.

Only one battery was noted in recent histories of the area, and this was generally called Dougall's Battery. For example, Moore and Ritchie (1996 p.61) state: 'Dougall's battery site is about an hours walk from the Karaka road bridge'. Neville Ritchie thought that the source of the name was as recorded by local historian Alistair Isdale (Ritchie 2010); however, locals such as Merv Grafton believed it originated from bricks found at the site that bear the inscription Dougall. Historical research has revealed a more likely source of the name.

History

According to Downey (1935, reprinted 2002):
'The original claim of this name consisted of ten men's ground (1/3 of an acre per man) taken up in February 1868, situated on Lucky Hit Creek, a branch of the Karaka Creek. It was worked under this name till 1879, during which time the available records show that 85 tons of quartz were mined from it, for a return of 122oz of bullion, value 335.'
The location of the claim, and a battery that was built at the site are shown on several maps, including Adams and Fraser (1909), Wayte (1868) and NZ Map 4266 (Unknown cartographer Unknown date, prob. c.1870).

Figure 1: NZ Map 4266 extract showing Lucky Hit claim and the battery site, on the true left bank of Lucky Hit creek
Click to enlarge the photo.

Figure 2: Extract from Adams and Fraser (1909) map
Click to enlarge the photo.

The Daily Southern Cross (DSC) of 3rd March 1869 noted: ('The machinery ordered for the Lucky Hit Gold Mining Company from Melbourne has) arrived in Auckland and may be expected here (Thames) in a few days, to be erected on the Company's claim, at the head of the Karaka. The machinery is on the newest principle.' A return of batteries in the Thames area in the DSC of 29th September 1869, lists the Lucky Hit battery, with 20 stamps.

By this time, the name Lucky Hit was also being used as a geographical location, with the stream and surrounding spurs often used to describe other claims and mines. The DSC of 19 October 1869 notes: 'We are glad to note the Halcyon machine (approx 1km downstream of the junction of the Lucky Hit and Karaka streams) at work on several lots of quartz taken out of the Golden Bar claim, Lucky Hit Spur' and: 'The reports to hand from the Star of Fermanagh, Lucky Hit Spur, are most favourable.' The article finally went on to note: 'In conjunction with the adjoining Adelaide Company, the Lucky Hit Company has constructed a road and tramway along which to convey quartz to the Lucky Hit machine.'

Not all was going well, however. The DSC of 25 March 1870 reported:
'It is a noticeable fact that the neighbourhood of the Lucky Hit, which at one time was the centre of vigorous mining operations, is now almost deserted, and that many of the works that cost hundreds of pounds to carry out are allowed to remain idle and become so damaged from water and other causes that if not taken in time, they will become utterly useless for future mining operations. The Lucky Hit turned out some stone that would have done no discredit to the Long Drive as specimens in the depth of winter (1869) a powerful engine and a splendid battery of 20 stampers from Langland Foundry, Melbourne, were erected. It is true that the returns from the lots crushed were not very remunerative or encouraging, but the mine is as yet wholly undeveloped, and in fact has never been tested.'
The DSC of 30 July 1874 reported on the Annual Meeting of shareholders of the Thames GMC, at which it was stated:
'The past year has been one of great depression on the Thames goldfields, but your Directors hope that a time of greater prosperity is at hand. The Lucky Hit battery, which has so long lain unproductive, has recently been removed to Coromandel, and is now being erected on the Plutus mine. Your directors purchased one-half of that mine, or 3,250 shares in the company, and gave in payment thereof the Lucky Hit battery, which is to be erected on the mine, and handed over to the Plutus Company. The cost of erecting the battery will be about 1,000, and reckoning the value of the machine at what it cost the company (825), and taking into account the cost of erecting tramways, etc, the entire cost of the company's interest in the Plutus Goldmining Company, will be about 3,000.'
The Thames Star of 4th May 1889 reported that the Lucky Hit was being worked by tributers: 'Bell and party, tributers, have finished a crushing of 30lbs of picked stone for the return of 15ozs 16dwts melted gold.' Tributing was the financial management model usually adopted when mining companies weren't in good financial shape: 'Tributers assumed all the risks, did all the work and kept most of the product' (Lankton 1991).

According to Downey:
'In 1886, the (Lucky Hit) ground appears to have been held as part of the Auckland claim, which was worked by a small Auckland syndicate until 1888, during which time a considerable amount of work was done (including a 600ft drive). In 1889, the claim was amalgamated with another small adjoining claim, the Enterprise, and was renamed the Lucky Hit. It worked under that name until 1896 The ground then became part of the Gloucester claim, and passed to the ownership of an English company, which also secured the Lincoln claim immediately to the east. In 1902, the area was taken up as the New Gloucester or Gloucester Extended by the Arrindell Syndicate, of Glasgow. This syndicate did a certain amount work on the claims up until 1908, and erected an up-to-date battery, but it was no more successful than its predecessor. Being unable to raise further capital, the syndicate abandoned the ground about 1910. The total output of the claim (1868-1910) can be set down as 511 tons of quartz, which yielded 1170 oz of bullion, valued at 3317.'
Amplifying information about the latter phases of the Lucky Hit claim is provided by newspapers of the day. The Thames Star of 4th July 1896 reported:
'GLOUCESTER COMPANY
(Regarding) the prospectus which has been issued in London in connection with the above company, it may be of interest to our readers to learn that the property is situated at the head of the Karaka Creek and comprises the following claims: Lucky Hit, Hon Kong (sic), Enterprise, Last Chance, all of which surround the celebrated Little Willie claim. A large amount of gold has been obtained from the ground in the early days, but the developments at that time were merely of a prospective nature.'
The Thames Stars of 11th and 12th August 1897 reported verbatim a considerable volume of correspondence on the Gloucester Company operation, including criticisms of site(s) selected for mining, and rebuttals thereof. These include comments in support of the company by noted Thames mining engineer E.F. Adams.

The Thames Stars of 10th December 1910, 26th August 1912 and 17th March 1913 report that the last company to take possession of the Lucky Hit area was, in fact, known as Karaka Mines Ltd, and whose superintendent was a Mr G. Dougall. The Company was formed in 1910, with a capital of 175,000, in 1 shares; and was financed by the Arrindell and Glasgow Financial Syndicates (probably leading to the name 'Arrindell' on the claim on the Adams and Fraser (1909) map, and as reported by Downey above). It is probable that the superintendent was the source of the name Dougall's Battery, and that the presence of bricks on the site bearing the same name (witnessed by the author) was a strange coincidence.

The 17th March 1913 article advised that:
'While important mine development was being undertaken, the battery, which consisted of five stamps, was added to and improved. Now it can easily be transformed into a ten stamp battery and has been thoroughly equipped with all the latest improvements and aids to successful ore treatment. A tube mill has been installed; also complete cyanide plant, together with one of the Hendryx agitators, the first to be installed in New Zealand. It was used successfully in the Transvaal and Rhodesia and with a six hour treatment has given an extraction of 99 percent.'
Despite the glowing optimism, the Thames Star of 30 December 1913, reported:
'The property and plant of the Karaka Mines Ltd, which are situated up the Karaka Valley, the property including the old Gloucester, McIsaacs, and other well known mines, are to be disposed of. This, after the erection of what was said to be one of the best equipped reduction plants in the district, and the development of the mine to what was claimed to be a regular ore production capacity, is somewhat remarkable, and naturally has occasioned considerable comment. To be candid, the whole business is to be regretted, for it is anything but a good advertisement for the Thames. There is, however, the consolation in the knowledge that the district itself cannot altogether be blamed for the lack of success and the unsatisfactory position that evolved, and we hope that those associated with the syndicate or company will have better success in their next mining undertaking - if there ever will be a 'next'.'
With an average return of about 2oz of bullion per ton of quartz, the Lucky Hit can be regarded as a reasonably productive claim (one oz per ton was normally regarded as the target for profitable operation). However, the failure of several companies over many years to make a consistent profit is probably due to poor management and/or mining decisions. For example, between 1868 and 1879, the original Lucky Hit Company produced 85 tons of quartz, for a return of 122oz of bullion, value 335. This compares unfavourably with the original Una GM & QC Coy, which, during roughly the same period, mined 20,381 tons of quartz, for 18,123 oz of bullion, worth 47,727 (an average return of less than 1oz of bullion per ton of quartz, but nevertheless, a much greater monetary return).

Historical information indicates that there were two batteries erected on the Lucky Hit site; the first in 1869 by the original Lucky Hit Company, and the last c. 1910 by Karaka Mines Ltd. (The latter was a modern battery containing a cyanide separation plant.) This is in accordance with the archaeological evidence found during the survey described below.

The Survey

As stated previously, a survey of the Lucky Hit Creek area was undertaken on 21st August 2010. Two sites were found, containing concrete foundations, walls and other features consistent with battery sites, on opposite banks of the creek. Both sites, and the approaches, are now extensively overgrown; however, Merv Grafton has marked trails leading to them, with home-made metallic marker strips wired to trees.

The site on the true right bank looked more modern than that on the left, and the historical information that the original Lucky Hit battery was on the true left bank, leads to a tentative conclusion that the site on the true right bank was that known as Dougalls Battery, while that on the true left was the Lucky Hit. However, that is unconfirmed. The GPS waypoints for the two sites are as follows:

Both sites had remains of extensive concrete foundations, walls and other features; however, no battery machinery or other hardware was found, indicating each battery had probably been removed as a going concern when it closed. At the site on the true right bank, in addition to the concrete features, there was a mine shaft, approx 20m deep, about 20m upstream from the battery site, plus an interesting cavity dug into a bank, and lined with bricks. This was consistent with an explosives store, but was probably too close to the battery to have been such. It may have been a cool store for food.

At the site on the true right bank, there were bricks with the makers' inscription 'Dougall'. An Internet search revealed that these were probably sourced from J. Dougall and Sons, Bonnyside Brickworks, High Bonnybridge, Scotland, which operated 1896-1967.

At the site on the true left bank, the concrete structures were organised into numerous terraces which stretched well up a steep slope, and were not explored in detail, owing to very wet ground and bush conditions. Approx 30m downstream from the main battery site, there was a single concrete pile and a wider concrete structure, whose purpose was not clear.

Features on the true right bank (probably Dougalls Battery):


Figure 3: View of concrete walls
(approx 1.8m high)
Click to enlarge the photo.


Figure 4: Brick-lined storage cavity
(numerous bricks have come loose
and are scattered around the site)
Click to enlarge the photo.

Figure 5 Partial brick with
inscription 'Dougall'
Click to enlarge the photo.


Figure 6 Concrete foundations.
Click to enlarge the photo.

Figure 7: Mine shaft, approx 20m
upstream from battery site.
Click to enlarge the photo.

Features on the true left bank (probably Lucky Hit Battery):


Figure 8: Concrete wall/foundation, with metal overflow pipe
Click to enlarge the photo.


Figure 9: Set of three steps
Click to enlarge the photo.

Figure 10 Stand-alone concrete structure, approx 40m downstream from main battery site.
Click to enlarge the photo.


Figure 11 TUMONZ map showing
waypoints for two battery sites.
Click to enlarge the photo.

References:

Adams, E. F. and Fraser, C. (1909) Topographical and Geological Map of the Special Area of Thames Goldfield, NZ.
Bullock, K. I. (1964). Steam at the Rainbows End, Railway Enthusiasts Society, Auckland.
Downey, J. F. (1935, reprinted 2002). Gold-Mines of the Hauraki District, Cadsonbury Publications, Christchurch.
Lankton, L. (1991). Cradle to Grave: Life, Work and Death at the Lake Superior Copper Mines, Oxford University Press, New York.
Moore, P. and Ritchie, N. (1996). Coromandel Gold: A Guide to the Historic Goldfields of Coromandel Peninsula, Dunmore Press, Palmerston North.
Ritchie, N. (2010). Personal communication, Thames.
Unknown cartographer (Unknown date, prob. c.1870) NZ Map 4266 Hauraki Goldfield.
Wayte, E. P. (1868) Thames Illustrated Mining Map.



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