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Sunday, 7 September 2014

WEBB’S SILVER MINE NEAR EMMAVILLE, NSW AUSTRALIA



Please take note: Practically all localities mentioned in these Blogs are on private property, under a mining lease or both. No-one should enter without permission from the landowner or lessee as appropriate.
The mine is marked "Silver" 7 (upper left)
I became aware of the existence of Webb’s Silver Mine (also known as Collison’s (NOT Collisions)) while I was still at school as a result of numerous visits to the late and much lamented Geological and Mining Museum in Sydney. This would have been in the mid 1950’s. The photos and specimens really piqued my interest in geology and mineralogy in particular.
It wasn’t until October 1988 that I made my one and only visit to the site when I rode my pushbike out there. The mine is reached by traveling 9-10 km after leaving The Gulf road, not far out of Emmaville, and then following a track to the right for a further 2.5 km. The mine site is usually described as being on Little Plant Creek, which runs into the Beardy River not far to the north. The map illustrated is the Grafton 1:250000 geological sheet.
My notes made that day mention a steel poppet head over a well-preserved shaft, numerous derelict sheds and ruins, 2X5 head stamper batteries, one in reasonable condition, piles of drill cores and specimens of galena, sphalerite and arsenopyrite on the dumps.
Photo by Wwoofa, Australian Lapidary Forum
Photo  by Wwoofa
Since then, several fossicking trips have be organised to Webb’s during the Emmaville Gemfest. The area is held under lease by Silver Mines Ltd; you can read their summary of the future prospects of the site here. I quote from this source: “Highest grade undeveloped silver project in Australia”, “a JORC compliant resource of over 12Moz of silver”, “From 1884 to1901 approximately 55,000t were mined at an average grade of at least 23oz/t”, “The current resources at a 70ppm Ag cut-off are approximately 1.49Mt @ 245ppm Ag, 0.27% Cu, 0.71% Pb and 1.56% Zn”.
The silver price is somewhat depressed at the moment (September 2014) which no doubt is quite depressing for the company, which is sitting on a great resource waiting for the right time to begin extracting it profitably.
Taken from Mole Tableland map DIGS R00041396
The classic reference to the geology of the Emmaville/Torrington area is TWE David’s “Geology of the Vegetable Creek Tin-Mining Field”, 1887. (DIGS reference R00031676, if you wish to download a copy.) The relevant pages are 156/9. David tells us that the vein was discovered by Mr L Webb, that it can be traced for several miles, that the metalliferous part of the vein is nowhere more than 3 feet wide and that the ore minerals present are galena, copper pyrites, mispickel and “a variety of grey copper containing silver and a trace of gold (silver fahlerz)”. We know copper pyrites as chalcopyrite, mispickel as arsenopyrite and fahlerz as “fahlore”, a complex mineral of the tennantite-tetrahedrite family, containing at least 5 metals (iron, copper, zinc, silver and antimony) as well as arsenic and sulfur.
Another reference, written around the time when mining was at its peak, is “The Mineral Resources of NSW” (DIGS reference R00051137) compiled by EF Pittman in 1901. If you want to read what mining was like at that time, start at page 111. The photo of the mine is taken from this source. This is definitely a book that readers of this Blog should download.
From Pittman circa 1901
The comprehensive reference “The Mineral Deposits of NSW (Markham and Basden, 1975, DIGS Reference R00037944) has a lot of information on the mine, commencing on page 379 in the section dealing with the Mole Granite. We learn that the main shaft is 203m deep, with 7 major levels, that 3 separate ore shoots were mined, the main one yielding over 40 000t of ore containing 760-920 g/t of silver as well as significant quantities of the other metals.
The various documents available from the Web which have been uploaded by Silver Mines Ltd will give you a summary of their prospecting and that of their predecessors, which has been quite extensive since mining was active. Here are several:
From DIGS: Review of Environmental Factors (Exploration Activities at Webb’s Silver Mine) 2012 (R00070524). This is a report prepared by Geolink Pty Ltd for Silver Mines Ltd.
Report for Silver Mines Ltd 2010. Here. This is a good summary of the geology and potential of the mineral deposit.
My You Tube Gem fossicking playlist may be found here. I have three other playlists - the Blue Mountains, Glen Innes and New Zealand.
 

2 comments:

  1. Nice summary of Webb's mine John. Went out there years ago with the Emmaville show. Got some nice specimens of silver/galena from there one of which is now in the Emmaville Museum. Even if you peel a prickly pear fruit you can find on the way to the mine please do not eat it as they still manage to retain plenty of prickles.

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  2. Webbs mine is currently off limits. I have been trying to gain access for Minerama & Emmaville Gemfest without any luck. I have done about 3 trips to the area & have some excellent samples found there. With the price of tin rapidly rising to over $23,000/tonne & a new mine opening in 2017 for 10 years at Taronga, the viability of reopening Webbs is now looking good. There is a rumour about a smelter or crusher being built there to make it cheaper to truck out processed ore instead of raw materials. Of course there is a huge quantity of tin that will pay for the rest of the mining.

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