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In this “Outlook” I wish to draw the attention of readers to exactly why it is that so much of the fourth largest goldfield in Victoria – Allendale – has remained unexplored for so long.
The photo below is of a location in the north Central Goldfields, Victoria. Narrow zones of gold-bearing material sitting on the ancient bedrock, buried by the products of erosion over millions of years, could be exploited by pot-holes like those seen in this photo. The point to be made is this – outside the band of pot-holes, the bedrock surface is not explored.
If ground like this be covered with one, two or more layers of lava, then the hidden gold is more difficult to locate (until new tools to do so emerge).
The finding of blind mineral deposits is sometimes triggered by events due to abrupt change in the price for a mineral. Here is an example (from USA) which clearly illustrates not only that circumstance, but helps us today to appreciate that the “rush” of a field still applied right through the lifetimes of those prospectors working in the period 1850 to 1914 – whether in USA, Victoria, or elsewhere.
In the Colorado example, the market event which triggered change was that, in July 1893, the mints in India were closed and the world silver market collapsed. (see T.A. Rickard, Mining and Scientific Press 11 April 1896). The graph below confirms the collapse of silver production in the USA after July 1893, as well as how other countries subsequently responded to this major commercial event (Mexico by increasing production).
In USA, when mines of silver collapsed, mines for gold became attractive.
In February of 1891 prospectors had made the first recorded claim application at Cripple Creek over some small gold-bearing veins.
By 1893, Cripple Creek had begun to yield a small steady gold production, enough to bring a rush of former silver miners looking for a new living. In the photos below we see them arriving in 1894 and 1895………
These developments in Colorado have aspects of interest to me – in the Cripple Creek field there is a notable absence of outcrops. The rush of men to this field after July 1893 provided the means and impetus to dig the thousands of prospect holes which uncovered this blind field. Rickard describes this work…… “holes put down everywhere and anywhere…” the outcome being that by 1895 Cripple Creek headed the list of gold producing locations in USA at that time.
We learn …. “owing to their position, on a hillsides almost bare of trees and at an altitude of 9500 feet above sea level, the rocks themselves, mostly of a fissile structure, had been altered by frost to such an extent as to cover the solid formation with a thickness of debris to which the hardy grass had given a kind of coverage. Hence the infrequent rock exposures.
In other words – the bedrock is blind, in the same way lava often blinds bedrock in Central Victoria.
It is also recorded that the first prospectors at Cripple Creek failed to recognise any resemblance to the conventional vein systems (so went away). Later prospectors demonstrated the fallacy of the common belief that all (types of) gold deposits in a country are known.
Enough of Colorado:
Sometime between August 1851 and March 1852 prospectors opened up the district which became the Creswick goldfield. By 1874 this local area of essentially surface or deep lead gravels had produced over 1 million ounces of gold. These workings came to define the drainage lines of an erosion zone south of Broomfield. The gold discovered at Broomfield (in 1872) then to the east and north after 1874, formed the upper section of the famous Madame Berry system of deep leads – with no surface workings.
In the commemorative reference “Ballarat and Vicinity, 1901” these latter locations are described by the established mining reporter William Bradford, as –
Very few houses or buildings remain around Allendale, to show where 30 years of productive gold mining took place. The same commemorative reference includes this photo to explain “why?” In the days before motor vehicles, the miner did not drive to the job – he physically moved his house near to the work, so walking to work was sensible.
Some land titles today, when searched, show evidence of deals done by landowners to gain the royalty money noted by William Bradford. See illustration of such a title endorsement – for Lot 21, Parish of Spring Hill, and the Hawkin’s Gold Mining Company of that time. The Directors of Mount Rommel take the view that the key to resolving the character or position of the mineralised environs east of Broomfield is likely to come about when geophysical tools appear which give good, clear penetration of the lava cover. We believe appropriate tools are now available.
Around Broomfield and Allendale the small private holdings were the result of land sales by the Crown after May 1855. No person attending those land sales could have had any concept that an entire goldfield was being sold by the Crown. This field turned out to be lava-covered, and thus hidden from view. Unlike the early digger’s pot-holes of the first photo (this “Outlook”) or of the multitudes at Cripple Creek, the miners who came to the Allendale area after 1873 found farming landowners wanting both royalty payments and compensation for surface damage. As a direct result, the area of any workings was limited to space around one, sometimes two, shafts in each 80 acre private land allotment. Today, the remnants are visible on any air photo
The shafts through the basalt lava allowed opening up narrow gravel channels, which were worked for gold. The very wide spaces between old workings remained untested until Mount Rommel began to investigate north and south of Stag Road. Work has confirmed indications of extensive buried prospective zones.
Mount Rommel Mining Ltd is the 100% holder of the sole Exploration Licence (No.3821) covering this prospective ground. These rights extend over about 16 square kms, and on 12 April 2012 were renewed to expire 26 February 2014.
Currently, Mount Rommel is awaiting compiled results of geophysical surveys, which entered five (5) of those 1855 eighty-acre allotments. To my knowledge, this is the first ever comprehensive geophysical program of this type (CSAMT) within any of this private land. The program has had two stages, the first three lines in December 2010 and nine lines recently completed. The results of this new survey involves compilation of data collected from over 300 data points and may take some time to conclude.
In closing, the photo below is a reminder of times past. Here we see the interior of part of the lobby of the original Palace Hotel at Cripple Creek circa 1895. We might wonder what these fellows would have done were they at Allendale in the same year.