The discovery of a long-forgotten gold mining site in the midst of a Southland forest has delayed harvesting while the area is surveyed and plans drawn up for its preservation.


The Southland Times reports that the discovery was made in the Waikaia Forest block to the north of Gore, just as forest manager IFS Growth was preparing to cut the mature Radiata Pines.


Gold mining took place in the Waikaia area in the 19th century so IFS Growth checked with archaeology consultants, Kopuwai Consulting, to see if there were records of any historic mines as part of its harvesting preparations. None were shown, so IFS Growth continued with its plans, until Kopuwai director, Matthew Sole, followed a hunch and discovered vintage aerial shots that pointed to prolific gold mining activities going back 136 years.


The forested area was found to be on part of Muddy Terraces, which was a prolific gold producing site around 1897, and is believed to contain remnants of water races, iron flumes, dams, reservoirs and miner's huts.


Mr Sole told the Southland Times: "To everyone's surprise, we could see an extensive and largely intact gold mining complex consisting of water races, reservoirs, sluice workings and sludge channels. Accompanying early plans also showed hut sites


"What was unusual about the site was that there wasn't much in the way of local knowledge about its existence, but archival newspapers from 1895 and 1897 gave a bit more history, and the names Scrubby and Muddy Terraces."


The Mataura Ensign of August 3, 1897, described how the – by then 25-year-old – site was acquired by a Mr R Whittingham, with up to £11,000 originally raised through a London stock floatation to build necessary infrastructure, including a 12-mile race with an 80-foot drop.


As much as 42oz of gold was yielded from the "prosperous" workings during one five-week period in early 1897.


IFS chief executive James Treadwell says that despite the discovery delaying harvest at the site, the company is excited to be playing its part in preserving local heritage.


"There's a real buzz around the office, and we're all pleased to have the opportunity to add to our historical record," he says, adding that smaller scale archaeological and environmental discoveries were relatively common in forestry, with IFS careful to "preserve and protect" as much as possible.


While much of Muddy Terraces' archaeology was now under heavy scrub, steps are being taken to catalogue and conserve what remained.


"What's critical now is to accurately mark out and buffer the archaeology we find and allow harvesting to continue as quickly and efficiently as possible around it."

Posted on Thursday 12th April 2018

Gold mine discovery delays forest harvest

Remains of the old Muddy Terraces gold mining site discovered in Waikaia Forest.

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