Chapter Three: The Final Phase
The past two weeks of Clutha Leader editions have showcased the historic importance of gold mining in Tuapeka Mouth, courtesy of the assistance of former resident Bill Cowan. This is the final piece in the three-part series.
During 1927 the Leffel turbine was in place and the concrete dam erected across the Tuapeka about a mile upstream.
A large water race measuring about 1.5yd x 1yd and located parallel to the Tuapeka fed the turbine which depended on a large volume of water for its operation rather than high water pressure. A four-stage centrifugal pump threw four heads to a height of 90ft.
The 1928 Mining Statement reported that 137oz of gold valued at £546 had been recovered so far.
Directors of the company, the Tuapeka Mouth Goldmining Co, met only infrequently until 1936 when it underwent an internal reorganisation with W P Hartstonge being appointed secretary and the office shifting to Mosgiel.
A full-time manager, J. Cartwright, was appointed on a £5-per-week salary.
While the Tuapeka Mouth company was getting into its stride, another gold recovery company was being established on Charles Lucas’ property.
This was the Fifty-Five Goldmining Co, which took over a claim on the banks of the Clutha. In 1934 it erected a plant to sluice and elevate material. With no gravity-fed water available, two Tangye producer-gas engines of 65ihp each drove a Mather and Platt pump delivering 1000 gallons per minute and a generator supplying electricity to a Thomson gravel pump. The producer gas was generated using brown coal. This operation suffered from mixed fortunes, closing in 1940 and being sold up soon after.
John McGregor, of Dunedin, was commissioned to provide a report on this producer gas plant to the Tuapeka Mouth company but no further action was taken.
In 1937 the elevator and sluice boxes were set up to work the next paddock but a shortage of water, a perennial problem, halted work.
The company was constantly on the lookout for means of replacing the turbine with a more reliable power plant. Approaches were made to both the Otago Electric Power Board and Southland Electric Power Supply but any connection would have been a costly exercise at more than £4000.
Steam and diesel power options were considered but no definite action was taken. It was considered that 120hp was needed to operate the pressure pumps.
But the plant was still producing results. In 1938 18,100cu yds of sluicing had yielded 360oz of gold valued at £2447. But this year was probably the high point of operations.
Lack of water regularly impeded work and by 1943 winding-up was considered. However, in 1944 a tribute party took over operations until about 1947 with meagre returns.
The final year of any intermittent goldmining activity at Tuapeka Mouth was 1955.
In 1964 the company’s assets were sold off and the company itself removed from the register in 1965.
Today, the dam, the turbine and a drainage tunnel remain as evidence of a fascinating past.