Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway...

Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway

Karangahake Gorge

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Details

24 Rankers Reviews

24 Face-to-Face

443 Walking

16 Waihi

Maps

Photos

One of the old rail tunnels
Old Victoria Battery remains

Information

7 km one-way | 2 hours one-way

The Karangahake Gorge Walkway starts from the Waikino Visitor Centre and follows the southern bank of the Ohinemuri River to the carpark opposite the remains of the Crown Battery.

The track follows the route of the old Paeroa to Waihi railway line, which linked the main mining centres of the Karangahake Gorge. The area is rich in goldmining history and many of the relics are well preserved and accessible.

Some of the finest remains of New Zealand’s goldmining legacy are displayed in the rusting ruins around Karangahake.

Access

The Karangahake Gorge Walkway starts from the Waikino Visitor Centre and follows the southern bank of the Ohinemuri River to the carpark opposite the remains of the Crown Battery.

The track follows the route of the old Paeroa to Waihi railway line, which linked the main mining centres of the Karangahake Gorge. The area is rich in goldmining history and many of the relics are well preserved and accessible. The impressive foundations and structures of this goldmining infrastructure are still in evidence. All are linked by the Karangahake Gorge Walkway.

The walkway is serviced by four carparks located at the Waikino Visitor Centre, Waitawheta Road (Owharoa), Karangahake Reserve (opposite the Talisman Tearooms) and Crown Hill Road (Karangahake). Toilet facilities are available at the Waikino Visitor Centre, Karangahake Reserve and the Crown Hill Road carpark.

Karangahake Reserve is the main entrance to the track network near the remains of the Woodstock and Talisman Batteries. A comprehensive map of the tracks is posted by the information kiosk.

Track

This description starts from Waikino.

After passing through the Victoria Battery site, the wide metalled path follows the old railway line. This section is suitable for wheelchairs. To reach the Owharoa Falls, cross the Waitawheta Road and turn left. The falls are approximately 3 minutes further up the road on the right.

From Owharoa Falls the path continues to follow the railway line. The surface is metalled and even. One hour from Owharoa, you can pass through the old railway tunnel (1km long and illuminated). Alternatively, continue past the Woodstock and Talisman Batteries via a winding concrete path to the Crown Battery. A footbridge takes you to the carpark opposite.

Geology

The Owharoa Falls empty into a bubbling swimming hole.

European History

Gold was first mined from the Karangahake area in 1875 and continued until the closure of the Victoria Battery at Waikino in 1955. At peak production in 1909, the Karangahake goldfields accounted for nearly two-thirds of all gold produced in New Zealand.

In 1889, the McArthur-Forrest cyanide process was first trialed at Karangahake. This substantially increased the efficiency of gold recovery from low-grade ores in the region.

During the 1890s, the Crown, Talisman and Woodstock Batteries were constructed. These processed the ore mined from Karangahake Mountain. The Victoria Battery serviced the Martha Mine at Waikino.

The impressive foundations and structures of this goldmining infrastructure are still in evidence. All are linked by the Karangahake Gorge Walkway.

Feature

Goldmining at Karangahake:

The frighteningly sheer canyon walls of the Ohinemuri and Waitawheta Rivers now form spectacular backdrops to the network of tracks accessing some of the most complete and impressive remains of Coromandel’s goldmining legacy. But to the engineers of the goldmining companies, they presented daunting constructional barriers. The Crown, Talisman and Woodstock Batteries that later occupied the slopes were the first in the world to introduce the cyanide process, a treatment method that had the effect of opening up Karangahake’s goldfields.

Following the glimmer of gold in 1875, many claims were pegged in the Karangahake area with the usual unfounded optimism. A number of companies, including the Hauraki, Maria, Hidden Treasure and Monastery were formed, but most fell into control of the three most successful companies, the New Zealand Crown Mines Ltd, the Talisman Consolidated Ltd and the Woodstock.

The main problem encountered by the early companies was the nature of the ore around Karangahake. The low grade refractory ore was unable to be treated with the metallurgical knowledge and plant available at the time. Only 45% of the gold was generally recovered (and even less of the silver). Moreover, the rugged terrain and high cost of transporting ore to the batteries made operations uneconomic.

The traditional means of treating ore in the Coromandel goldfields, such as those at Thames and Coromandel, involved crushing and processing quartz to extract the bullion. Lumps of ore were put through jaw crushers and conveyed to batteries of stamps. These pulverised the rock with repeated blows and reduced the size of the particles to sand. Ball or tube mills were later employed to further reduce the particle size and increase the efficiency of recovery.

Phil Moore and Neville Ritchie in their book Coromandel Gold, continue the description of the process. “In the early years, crushed ore from the stampers was washed over amalgamating tables covered with copper or Muntz metal (60 percent copper, 40 percent zinc alloy) plates. These had a thin film of mercury on the surface, which trapped a portion of the gold and silver, forming a putty like amalgam. Periodically the plates would be scraped and the amalgam retorted in a furnace to recover the mercury for reuse, while the remaining spongy brown bullion would be melted into bars. A good deal of the metallic mineral fraction, however, passed over the tables and was caught in riffles, or heavy felt ‘blankets’, which were regularly washed to remove the sludge. This was then transferred to berdans.”

These inclined steel bowls acted like a pestle and mortar and further reduced the particle size , freeing up smaller gold particles and allowing for greater recovery of bullion by amalgamation. Despite this process, it was a known fact that almost half of the gold (and silver) was lost in the tailings, the slurry like material of waste rock, discarded after treatment.

At Karangahake, the gold was of a very fine consistency and mixed with sulphides. The technology simply wasn’t efficient enough to extract sufficient gold from the ore to make mining profitable.

The La Monte furnace and smelting process proved unsuccessful, as procuring suitable fluxes was uneconomic. A reverberatory furnace was then designed to treat ores, but again the high cost of fluxes cased the method to loose favour. Dry crushing, occasionally in partnership with ore roasting in massive subterranean kilns, was still deemed unprofitable. Pan amalgamation on J. Railey’s plant only recovered small quantities of gold like the tradition battery process.

It was not until 1889 that advancements in the recovery process occurred. The Cassell Cyanide Company starting experimenting with methods of extracting gold by solution with potassium cyanide and then precipitating it with granulated zinc. Although there were many minor variations on the process, designed to marry with a mix of ore grades in different mines, at Karangahake the process essentially followed this description.

After roasting, the ore was dry crushed and loaded onto railed trucks leading to platforms above the vats. The hand traversing gearing allowed an operator to top the load in a desired direction, reducing the amount of handling and increasing the ability of the ore sand to percolate freely.

After depositing onto a platform, the sand was sprayed in a shower onto the base of the vat to a thickness of two feet. The vats were around 22 foot 6 inches in diameter, four feet deep with a five inch filter on the bottom. This consisted of a wooden grating and a taught hessian cloth stretched over the rounded corners.

A strong potassium or sodium cyanide solution (0.4-0.7%) was then fed from the bottom under pressure through a filter cloth until it reached two inches above the level of the sand. The ‘pregnant’ cyanide solution below the filter cloth, loaded with dissolved gold and silver, was siphoned off and the remaining mixture allowed to percolate freely for 24 hours.

After the strong solution was drained, a weaker makeup (0.25%) was added to a depth of 6.5 inches and vacuum cylinders activated for 30 hours. The final procedure was to pour 10 inches of water from the top to complete the percolation and remove the gold bearing slurry.

Sludge doors at the base of the vat opened and the slurry was sluiced out via a hose. The bullion precipitated as a black sludge and the cyanide was reused. The zinc solution was then refined with the addition of an acid, which removed the zinc, allowing the bullion to be recovered, melted and poured into bars. A later advancement in the method used compressed air to agitate the solution and a finer crushing of the ore also increased reclamation. The government later bought the rights to the process, to ensure steady production continued.

The process was particularly beneficial in the Karangahake goldfield, as the ores were of low grade. The process allowed a recovery rate of 92%. However, as the Cassell Company asked for a royalty of 7-8% of recovered gold, the process was only adopted slowly.

Despite the many claims pegged around Mount Karangahake, the Woodstock, Crown and Talisman Claims proved to be the most profitable. Most were centred on Mount Karangahake, that rises knife like from the confluence of the Waitawheta and Ohinemuri Rivers. These have incised deep gorges with sheer walls leaving little flat land on their banks. The trials of extracting ore were thus further compounded by finding suitable sites to locate the stamper batteries and other processing equipment.

By far the most productive reef system embedded within the bowels of Mount Karangahake, was the Maria quartz reef, which was eventually excavated over 700 vertical metres on 16 main levels. The system of tunnels, adits and shafts formed a labyrinth and the lowest level was nearly 150 metres below sea level. The reef averaged two-three metres wide, and possessed four distinct ore shoots within its makeup, the Woodstock, Talisman, Bonanza and Dubbo.

The three most substantial batteries were the Crown, Talisman and Woodstock, all centred on the confluence of the Waitawheta and Ohinemuri Rivers, which were dammed to provide power. The batteries were constantly remodelled to incorporate the new technologies being employed and at times possessed over 40 heads of stamps each. They contributed to a total production of 3,510,691 ounces of bullion valued at £2,958,013, derived from 687,043 tons of quartz.

The railway tunnel was excavated as part of the Paeroa-Waihi railway line. This was constructed between 1900 and 1905 and aided the transportation of mining machinery and coal.

Victoria Battery:

Construction of the Victoria Battery was started in 1896 by the Waihi Goldmining Company. As the technologies in ore processing changed, the battery was modified to keep up with the improvements.

The turbines were driven by water from the Waitekauri River and the Ohinemuri River Dam. By 1903, 200 stamps had been installed capable of crushing 800 tonnes of ore per day. This made the Victoria Battery the largest facility of its kind in New Zealand.

With the introduction of the cyanide process in the early 1900’s came the construction of hexagonal concrete foundations. These supported 40 cylindrical steel tanks. Each vat was 4.5 metres in diameter and 15 metres high. The crushed ore and cyanide solution was agitated with compressed air to recover the gold and silver. This method increased the efficiency of the recovery process.

The battery was closed in 1955. Many of the building’s foundations are still in existence and accessible via a network of walking tracks. Alternatively there is a tour given by the Victoria Battery Tramway Society. Check at the Old Transformer House, which is now a small museum and information centre.

Details

Feature Value Info

Location

North IslandBay of PlentyWaihi

Categories

  • Walking
  • Free

Contact

Reviews

Showing 13 reviews of 24.

Maddie F's avatar

Maddie F

Ranking: 7/10

Great views but we could enter in only one mine. Others are closed.

Reviewed over 1 year ago

Vic Baughen's avatar

Vic Baughen

New Zealand

Ranking: 9/10

Worth the effort.

Reviewed about 2 years ago and experienced in January 2017

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Patricia's avatar

Patricia

Germany

Ranking: 9/10

It was an exciting walk through mines and tunnels. We had so much fun there, even if it was raining.

Reviewed over 2 years ago and experienced in December 2016

Wendy Steer's avatar

Wendy Steer

England

Ranking: 8/10

A lovely walk along the gorge and up to the old mines.

Reviewed over 2 years ago and experienced in December 2016

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Marc Reuter's avatar

Marc Reuter

Germany

Ranking: 10/10

Beautiful and interesting walk. Not too long and not exhausting. A must do!

Reviewed over 2 years ago and experienced in December 2016

MARK CURPHEY's avatar

MARK CURPHEY

United Kingdom

Ranking: 10/10

Amazing scenery mixed with mining history. Take a head torch, you can explore deep into the mines in the pitch black.

Reviewed over 2 years ago and experienced in October 2016

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Magali Schwantke

Germany

Ranking: 6/10

The track was pretty boring for us - better for cyclists.

Reviewed about 3 years ago and experienced in March 2016

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Kathanina Jasik

Germany

Ranking: 10/10

Beautiful nature, it seems like you are watching Indiana Jones.

Reviewed about 3 years ago and experienced in January 2016

Calum Penn's avatar

Calum Penn

United Kingdom

Ranking: 10/10

Beautiful walks and dramatic gorge with gold mining tunnels and underground tunnels. Signs and direction very informative and easy to navigate. Unspoilt and no recent tourism development which was a bonus.

Reviewed over 3 years ago and experienced in March 2016

Catharina Cuntz's avatar

Catharina Cuntz

Germany

Ranking: 10/10

Stunning landscape, interesting history, easy walks - made a great day for us. We wanted to do the 2.5 hours tunnel loop only and ended up walking the whole territory. Bring a torch if you dare to experience the dark tunnels.

Reviewed over 3 years ago and experienced in January 2016

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Yoomm's avatar

Yoomm

France

Ranking: 8/10

Interesting walk on the old mines path. Bring the flashlight and enjoy the tunnels.

Reviewed over 3 years ago

David Schelensky's avatar

David Schelensky

Germany

Ranking: 9/10

Interesting for history, mines and nature. You can see glowworms in the old mines. Nice two hour walk.

Reviewed over 3 years ago

Erick Meevers's avatar

Erick Meevers

Netherlands

Ranking: 9/10

Stunning walks in between the cliffs, while visiting old gold mines and their associated remains. With cool hanging bridges.

Reviewed over 4 years ago and experienced in December 2014

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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 😍

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Nick Morrison

Rankers owner