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The Invincible Mine Track is an easy track on a good grade, climbing up through mountain beech forest. Some rusting remains of an old miner’s hut are a prelude to the array of abandoned machinery everywhere at the old mine site.
From Glenorchy follow Glenorchy-Paradise Road 6km and turn right onto Rees Valley Road. After 8.6 km there is a parking area on the left and the start of the track is signposted on the right. Park just before the closed gate before the second ford. The road can be rough and slippery after rain. The road crosses a working station with farm gates. Continue a little further past the gate for the valley floor remains of the tailings works.
This is a steady climb up a wide track formed back in the day. Invincible Creek rushes below and the beech forest occasionally clears in the approach to the mine.
Once in the historic reserve the old machinery and workings are confined to a small area. Interpretation panels tell a few stories.
The Invincible Mine was quite an operation. Following initial discovery of a gold-bearing lode in 1879 by local shepherds, assay samples were sent to Wellington in 1880. With encouraging returns, the Invincible Quartz Mining Company was formed later that year. By 1882 a 10-stamper battery, powered by an overshot water wheel, had been installed. Gold concentrates recovered from a blanket table were then ground through berdans (inclined bowls with rotating crushers).
Much gold was wasted in the tailings, as high concentrations of iron pyrites (fools gold) were contaminating the extracted quartz. So in 1882 the Invincible Quartz Mine Company contracted another operation, which established significant infrastructure on the valley floor to recover this lost gold.
To transport the tailings down from the mine, a 2,200 ft-long flume was constructed, which fed the pulverised rock dust into a series of machines whose names could come from a steampunk display - classifiers, pyramidal boxes, jiggers and a rotating convex table. Over 60 people lived in the valley according to the 1891 census.
Much of this machinery, including the rotating convex table, is still in good nick on the valley floor a little up the road from the parking area.
By 1886 more efficient recovery processes increased the yields, but in 1887 the reef was lost. This was the start in a chain of bad luck for the mining venture and despite later attempts, the infrastructure was progressively abandoned and left to the elements.
The camshaft, berdans, water wheel, stamp mill and stone revetments from the tramway were still in evidence, while pulleys and other rusting detritus were strewn about the regenerating tea tree and tussock. The berdans are especially significant, as this is the largest remaining set left in New Zealand.
South Island ▷ Queenstown Region ▷ Glenorchy
Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍