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Mining in the Monaro

The  following transcription was provided by Judy Richards [judy.richards-at-westnet.com.au]

The Sydney Morning Herald Wednesday 8 March 1899

During my travels in tho Manaro district I came across a great many river and creek beds which contain auriferous beach sands, and as considerable attention is being devoted to the suitability of rivers in New South Wales for dredging purposes, consequent upon the success of dredge mining in other colonies, perhaps a brief description of the Snowy River will be read with interest. At Buckley's Crossing, some 30 miles from Cooma, and for many miles above it, the river has been fed with auriferous wash from basaltic hills, ravines, and tributaries. In consequence the bed of the Snowy contains gold in more or less quantities from one end to the other. Just about Buckley's Crossing an immense Silurian belt runs in the direction of portions of Matong and Popong Ranges. In this belt there are several important gold-bearing areas, which apparently have played an important part in feeding the Snowy with its gold contents The river is wide and strong-running, and at many points, by reason of repeated washaways, it has been diverted from its original course, leaving high beach sands and boulder wash. From Buckley's to Ironmungie Crossing a great many diverted courses take place in the river, and at other points the river in flood time has spread its sands for a tremendous distance over low Iying parts. From a point just above Buckley's down to Ironmungie, when the river has been very low, a deal of gold has been recovered by sluicers and fossickers. In the vicinity of the Wild Woman's Range to the south of Popong, I investigated the beach sands, and obtained good results even from the crevices in high bars. There is an immense quantity of boulder wash on the south tide of the river covering many acres, and to a considerable depth. My guides informed me that at favourable seasons a good deal of gold has been won from the river wash, but the methods of gold-saving in vogue were very primitive. A point to be considered in connection with dredging the Snowy River is whether the high bars would not interfere with successful operations. I am aware that there are many classes of dredges, some (of recent build) which the owners claim will suck up crevice gold, and can be worked successfully on bars. This, however, is a point on which I am not quite clear. The Snowy River contains many prominent bars, but in places there are long stretches of beach sands between, and in those parts I see no difficulty in the way of dredging successfully. That the river contains payable wash I have no doubt. The gold is rather coarser than that found in the Macquarie, and seems to have a better body, but a good many of my prospects were very similar to those obtained some time ago in the Macquarie. For much of my data concerning the Snowy River I am indebted to Mr G. F. Litchfield, of Matong station, and other old residents, who have obtained payable results from many parts of the river by means of experimental plants. A short time after my visit to the Snowy I met some Victorian gentlemen bent on looking up dredging areas. They had just come from Buckley's and Ironmungie Crossings, and, although by no means communicative, they expressed the opinion that the river at Buckley's and for some distance down stream could be worked successfully. They had not the advantage of seeing the river lower downstream. Many of the feeders of the Snowy River carry gold notably Stony Creek, west of Matong station so that it is little wonder the sands of the main watercourse also carry gold. Whilst on Stony Creek I tried the sands, and never failed to get a prospect. It is passing strange that never since the occupation of these parts by Europeans has any prospecting of note been done. A few 'farming miners" or fossickers have won gold from this part of the Snowy River, but there never has been a sufficient gold-saving plant erected. However, I think it will not be long before the Snowy River receives the attention it certainly deserves.

So far as reef and lode mining is concerned, there has not been much work done in the district beyond the mere location of some promising prospecting shows. Again I am indebted to Mr Litchfield for showing me over the country. For a number of years he has taken a very great interest in exploring many parts of the Popong Ranges, and as he has a most complete assaying laboratory he has been able to make many tests of auriferous, argentiferous, and cupriferous deposits in the district. His investigations have mainly been directed in a belt of Silurian country starting from the Snowy River and going south to the Victorian border some 12 miles from the Matong homestead. This belt of Silurian country is marked on the geological map of New South Wales, and with the exception of what work Mr Litchfield has done, it is totally unexplored.
 

During the year 1898 Mr Slee, Chief Inspector of Mines, visited some portions of Matong and the Popong Ranges and he spoke in high terms of the probability of a new mining field springing up. Taking as a starting point Matong horse station, I travelled seven miles west to what is called the Litchfield reef. There I found quite a number of small test shafts and surface trenches uncovering a well defined gold-bearing reef from 2ft to 3ft wide. On prospecting this show the results gave an average of lOdwt to loz per ton. I am inclined to the belief that the gold occurs in shoots, although of good length. The country is composed of schistose slate running north and south, whilst the strike of the reef is east and west. The reef is vertical, and has been opened at various places for 30 chains where opened payable prospects were obtained. The reef starts in an eastern direction on the slope of a hill, goes west and crosses a short ravine. There also appears to be a reef running parallel on the north side of the one already described. Several offshoots appear to make from the main reef, but the work of development is of too limited a character to judge their importance. The stone is largely com posed of ironstone, and in many places is much oxidised. The gold is very fine, but is of splendid body. The further development of this property may result in a profitable mine at least the indications are in that direction.

From here I was taken to what is locally known as the "black scrub," and some argentiferous country in the vicinity of the Popong ranges. At a point in these ranges, just after crossing Stoney Creek, making in a westerly direction, an immense silver lead galena outcrop is seen, and is traceable very prominently at the surface for fully a mile. The lode measures some feet across, and is well defined from end to end. Being a complex ore I had no means of making any tests, but was shown a number of assays made by Mr Litchfield. These gave excellent gold quantities, as well as silver, lead, and some copper. The tests were not confined to any particular portion of the lode, but were taken from many places. This is another place that the Chief Inspector for Mines visited, and described as a most promising property. Unfortunately it is too remote from the reducing works of the seaboard; otherwise the ore would certainly be of a payable character. The owner is developing it on his own account, but it is obviously too large a proposition for one man to handle. Intermixed with the ore there are strong bunches of arsenical pyrites, and in others copper sulphides. On the whole the show is a promising one, and well worthy of more vigorous prospecting. A few miles further west the black scrub is reached.

Here a regular and prominent quartz gold-bearing reef occurs in true blue slate country. Its position is from the apex of a high range, which it follows to the base, and rises again in the opposite range. The property as yet is purely a surface prospecting one, but its gold contents are singularly regular, and if it is found to carry its surface grade it is certainly a good show. Some portions of it carry more or less silver and lead, but its main feature lies in its gold contents. I regret not having an opportunity of seeing these formations in a more advanced stage of development. Mr Ditchfield owns both these shows. He is really a pastoralist, but has taken sufficient interest in mining to keep men continually employed prospecting these unknown regions, which, as I before mentioned, no other person has ventured to enter upon. There are still many miles of this Silurian belt unexplored, and from what I saw of it I am of opinion that much of it will be found to be metalliferous. Much lower down Stoney Creek in a southerly direction I came across copper-stained rocks in one place quite a bunch of blue and green carbonate ore also in another place pure lead seams crossing the creek in a spathic material near the junction of the creek with the Snowy River. The country, however, is frightfully rough, and any metals found there would require to be very rich indeed to pay.

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