The History & Archaeology of Cadia Valley


Historical Timeline

Random Notes by A Wandering Reporter, 16 Sept 1865

The Sydney Mail of Saturday, 16 September 1865, described the activities at Cadia in great detail (spelling as in original text):

Having given you now some idea of the capabilities of Orange as a gold-producing district, I shall proceed to consider it in reference to its wealth of copper. Copper ore is very largely diffused throughout the whole of the Orange district, and has been traced by experienced miners from the Canoblas range in a N.N.E. direction for twenty-five or thirty miles. The old Canoblas copper mine was worked many years ago, but for some years past the working has been given up, the Cadiangalong Mining Company having thrown the former company completely into the shade.

The Cadiangalong mines are now being worked on a much more extensive scale than is generally imagined; and I must confess that, much as I knew and had heard about them, I was surprised to see the large establishments maintained. They are situated upon the southern watershed of the Canoblas, the creeks emptying themselves into the Belabula River, a tributary of the Lachlan; while the northern fall of waters go to make up the beautiful stream of the Summerhill Creek, one of the affluents of the Macquarie. The shafts are sunk upon secondary spurs of the Canoblas range, the mountains of that name lying away about N.W., and some miles distant. The country is heavy, mountainous, and broken, cut up by numerous creeks and watercourses, which are sometimes hemmed in on either side by steep banks of schistone rocks; at other times they open out into beautiful level flats, or gently undulating rises that blend gradually with the ranges that tower above them. It is on such a piece of gently undulating land, having a broad flat at one extremity, that the mining settlement has been formed. A fine creek of bright and sparkling water, fresh from the springs of the giant hills above, winds its way through the spot, dividing the settlement into two parts. On either side of the stream, the huts of the miners are scattered about in all directions, now nestling down in the dip between two hills, now perched up on some bold rise, or again rising soberly from the level area. Stores and shops, in different lines of business, are ranged in something approaching to a row, whilst trades of various descriptions – the butcher, the baker, the shoemaker, the tailor – are carried on actively as if the work was not being done in a mountain fastness. The snort of the steam, the clang of the engine, and the roar of the furnace mingle with the hum of human voices, and give a stranger impression than that conveyed by a newly opened gold field, for above all and pervading all there is an unmistakable sulphury odour, somewhat irritating at first to persons of delicately sensitive olfactory nerves.

The original workings were carried out upon an outcrop of blue and green carbonate found on the eastern bank of the creek; but when the then company merged into the one at present conducting the operations, the work was carried off to the opposite side of the creek, and on to the face of two large hills that hem in the valley to the westward. These are known as the South Section and the North Section.

On the South Section, a powerful engine of 48-horse power is in course of erection. This will be employed in pumping the workings dry, in raising the ore, and also in crushing it. For the latter purpose powerful rollers are being fitted to it, with a self-feeding and regulating apparatus attached, by which ore will be returned to the rollers, until broken sufficiently fine to pass through the regulated gauge. On this section, taking the engine as a starting point, the first shaft is the Engine shaft, with a depth of 17 fathoms. Next to that west is Lawson’s shaft, 25 fathoms down, and beyond that again west is Want’s shaft, also 25 fathoms down. There is a drive on the course of the lode, that connects these three shafts, and is 64 fathoms in length. East of the Engine shaft are Martin’s, Baker’s, Clarke’s, and three other shafts, the deepest of which is 15 fathoms down. A drive connects the first two of these shafts at the 15-fathom level.

On the North Section, there are already two engines at work, one of 10-horse power and the other of 8-horse power, employed in pumping and raising ore. At the eastern extremity of the section, where the larger of these engines is placed, there is first Trevanna’s shaft, 18 fathoms down. Going up west we come to the shaft where the smaller engine is at work, known as the Engine shaft, and down 25 fathoms. The next is Jones’s shaft, 17 fathoms down. In this shaft there are two lodes that have been followed out by drives. Going west there are still four other shafts, from 10 to 15 fathoms down, and sunk upon the lode. There is an adit to the North Section opening out to the gully that divides the hill now being sunk upon from another that joins it higher up, and is part of the same spur. This adit has been driven upon the level upon the lode for a distance of 50 fathoms, and is within 24 fathoms of the nearest shaft.

The ores procured on the present workings are yellow sulphurets, and, though not particularly rich, are, from the nature of their component parts, admirably suited for mixing with the higher percentaged ores that the company pass through their furnaces, as the furruginous and siliceous matters contained in the sulphurets act as a flux not only upon the sulpurets themselves, but upon the higher classed ores.

There is a vast amount to be done with the copper ore first before it is made fit for the furnace, and next before the furnace brings it to that state of purity that gives the metal its value. The miner, who works under ground at a depth of 100 feet, blasting out the rock that contains the lode, does only a small proportion of the work. When this rough ore reaches the surface it is mixed usually with something like three times its own weight of rocky particles. It has, therefore, to be broken up into small pieces, after the refuse has been roughly cleared out from it. It is then jigged, that is, put into a broad shallow trough with a pierced bottom, so as to allow the admission of water into it, when it is submerged in another and larger trough, in which the process of jigging is performed. A long handle or lever passes through a framework connected with the perforated trough, and this, catching on a block as it is worked up and down by a boy, gives a jerk or shake to the trough. Thus, when the trough is charged with broken ore, it is partially submerged in the larger trough, the lever is set to work, and the jigging or shaking under water causes the heavier pieces to fall to the bottom of the trough, whilst the lighter pieces of rock, containing little or no metal, come to the surface, from which they are scraped off and are thrown away. The ore, thus partially cleared, is then hand-picked by children, who sort it, and reject any refuse that may remain. It undergoes some further manipulation beyond this, according as its quality is finer or baser, before it is ultimately sent down as fit for the furnace. When however, it leaves the hands of Mr. Holman, who is captain of the mines, it comes into those of Mr. Christoe, the company’s assayer, who has charge of the smelting works.

These works are situated on the eastern side of the creek, and at the southern end of the settlement. These consist of six furnaces at present at work, one in course of building, and an eighth shortly to be commenced. They are what are known as draught furnaces, the draught being furnished by the flues of the furnace being connected with a tunnel about sixty yards long, ending in a tall stack or chimney. When the whole of the six furnaces are at work, the draught that this long flue causes, is very much greater than would generally be believed. In fact, so much so, that recently in clearing out the tunnel, the residuum of sulphur, &c., that hung upon the walls, gave in smelting a very large per-centage of copper, showing that even by this modification some of the metal was volatised and carried off in vapour.

The first process to which ore is submitted is that of calcining, by which the water and some of the earthy particles are removed. The second is smelting the calcined ores, by which a large portion of the silicous matter is taken out, the remainder forming with the iron into a slag that has been found to be a valuable flux for the richer ores. The third process is the melting of the results of No. 2, which gives a regulus of about 45 per cent., with the best carbonate of oxide ores, containing themselves a per-centage of from 25 to 30 of copper. This brings on the metal to about 60 to 65 per cent., and it then undergoes the fourth process by being charged into the wasting furnace, by which it is brought up to about 80 per cent. By the fifth process it is returned in blocks to the roasting furnace, where it is roasted into copper of about 98 per cent. The sixth and last process is charging the process of No. 5 into the roasting furnace, where it is converted into pure copper of standard quality. In this last instance, the charge is usually about eight tons, and the process occupies twenty-four hours. In the calcining furnace about 40 to 60 tons a week are roasted and prepared for the subsequent operations, the quantity of course decreasing as the various operations are gone through. The quantity of ore smelted is usually about 200 tons per month, and this gives a monthly yield of about thirty tons of pure copper, being at the rate of from 15 to 16 per cent. The smelting is all done with wood for fuel, and for the above quantity of ore no less than 1200 tons of firewood are consumed. The number of men, boys, and girls employed on the works, when they are in full swing, is about 250. About 220 altogether were on the wages list at the time of my visit. The miners, or men engaged underground get 40s. per week wages; labourers from 30s. to 35s.; boys and girls, from 8s. to 15s.; engine drivers and firemen, from 45s. to 50s.; and smelters, from 60s. to 65s. Nearly the whole of the buildings on the ground belong to the Company, and they are let to the men at very moderate rents. For an ordinary slab cottage, sufficient for a married man and his family, 4s. per month are charged; whilst single men who lodge together are charged Is. per month. Stores, shops, and places of business are rented by agreement, and at different rates, according to the conveniences required. A township has been laid out on the more level land to the north of the settlement, but as yet no allotments have been sold. There is some little difficulty in the way of getting carriage for the metal from Cadiangullong to Orange, but when once it has reached there all impediment ceases, as there are plenty of means of conveyance, and carriers are only too glad to get back loading to Sydney. The metal is cast into bricks and tiles, which stow away easily in the bed of a dray or van, and form excellent ballast or dead weight for any lighter loading that may have to be carried. A post-office has been established on the settlement, the name having very wisely been abbreviated into Cadia, a title that no doubt causes some of our Sydney residents who see it in the Post-office list, to wonder where on earth the place can be, since the name, although gradually getting into use in the immediate district, is utterly unknown beyond it…