Crown mines. Karangahake Gorge.
I don't know a lot about gold mining or any mining at all. I just know that it was quite popular and dangerous job couple decades ago. Turns out it was also happening in New Zealand. The Karangahake Gorge lies at the southern end of the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand's North Island. A sharply winding canyon was formed by the Ohinemuri River.
I know that a lot of historical data is not the most interesting thing, but this time let's get into it a little bit, to get more understanding about this place.
Gold was first discovered in New Zealand near Coromandel in 1852. Over the next thirty years New Zealand’s gold rushes attracted huge numbers in search of instant wealth. Mining of Mount Karangahake and at Waihi began in 1875.
Maori in the region were opposed to the mining of their lands.There had to be a negotiating peace with the Hauraki tribes so various unscrupulous methods were used to persuade Maori to sign away their mining rights. At least 600 men raced into the area to peg claims on Karangahake Mountain. However, they were soon disappointed because gold was difficult to extract from the reefs using old methods. Therefore, most of the prospectors left within two months.
However, mining pushed forward in the last decade of the 19th century after the development of a new extraction process. In 1889 new process was introduced and the new Crown Battery soon became the world’s first field test of the cyanide process for the recovery of gold. This process was very quickly adopted by mining companies all over the region. Gold extraction was environmentally very damaging. Timber was used for props in mines and as fuel for boilers, so it was not long before the surrounding countryside was deforested.
Local rivers also suffered. The mining waste was dumped into the nearest river, and the silting and cyanide waste destroyed Maori fisheries. In 1895 the government declared the Ohinemuri and Waihou Rivers to be sludge canals, which meant that mining companies were allowed to continue to discharge their waste into these waterways. In 1909 the Silting Committee asked the government to revoke the sludge canal proclamation.
The East Coast Main Trunk Railway used to run through the gorge until it was bypassed by the Kaimai Deviation. The Karangahake Gorge section of the line, including a 1100-metre tunnel (that looks a lot shorter than it is), is now a combined walkway and cycleway, part of the Hauraki Rail Trail, and together with the natural sights of the gorge, makes it into a well-visited local tourist attraction.
One of the most spectacular walks in the area is the "Windows Walk". That leads through the old gold mining tunnels of the Talisman Mine, crosses the Waitawheta River over a suspension bridge, and joins the Crown Tramway Track back along the cliffs.
The path follows the route of a bush tramway and passes by "windows" in the cliff face at the end of mining tunnels. We also walked two of the mining tunnels, which end abruptly after about 50 meters. We saw some glowworms as well, so turn off that flashlight for a moment to see them.
The area has a strong connection to mining even in the 2010s, a number of companies have been prospecting and mining the area, though with much less visible and invasive methods that were used historically.
Although the effect on the environment was very damaging, it is nice to see that the land has recovered from all the devastation. Valley is green and the river is beautiful and clean. I definitely suggest visiting this place and walk the miner tracks.