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Friday, 14 November 2014

WEBB’S CONSOLS AND RELATED MINES, STRATHBOGIE NEAR EMMAVILLE



A group of sulfide ore bodies has been mined or prospected about 15 km south west of Emmaville. I have not visited any of these places; I assume that they are all on private property and under mining leases or covered by exploration licences. If any reader can provide information about accessing these locations, please advise us in the comments area at the end of this blog.
Mine cluster south of Strathbogie
Here is a list of prospects I have come up with – all appear to be in the same general area. Webb’s Consols, Wellingrove Silver Mine, Mt Galena, Matthews Mine, Seaton’s Mine, Munsies Prospect, Lucky Lucy, Castlereagh, Barton’s Quarry and Tangoa. In every case, there appears to be an association with the Webb’s Consols Leucogranite, most often by way of quartz rich veins and pipe-like structures. Some of the ore bodies have actually formed in the Permian volcanic rocks which the leucogranite has intruded. The map from which the extract opposite is taken is included in the downloadable report "Inverell Metallogenic Map 1:250 000" (DIGS reference R00050906).
Minerals recorded include galena, sphalerite, arsenopyrite, chalcopyrite and pyrite. Silver is almost always present in the ore in significant percentages and its presence was the main reason for mining.
The Webb’s Consols mine has been the most productive to date, though one hundred years have passed since profitable mining took place there. At least 19 000 tonnes of ore were extracted (yielding 100 000 ounces of silver), most of this before 1901.
The earliest reference I have found is in the Annual Report of the Department of Mines for 1875, page 111. It reads as follows. “About 14 or 15 miles westward of Glen Innes, in the neighbourhood of Wellingrove, a lode was found which showed on the surface indications of copper, and when sunk upon to a depth of 14 feet a vein of pure galena was met with and worked, but carriage of the ore to the coast being too expensive to allow a profitable return, operations are at present in abeyance.”  This is well before the coming of the railway to Glen Innes, so the ore would have had to be sent to Grafton, a long and expensive process. No doubt the reference is to the Wellingrove Silver Mine.
Share Certificate from an early company
A problem common to all these mines was the difficulty experienced in separating the lead ore (galena) from the zinc (sphalerite). This was the same problem experienced at Broken Hill, where for many years the zinc concentrate was dumped, despite its containing valuable lead and silver. The flotation process, now normal practice in the industry, was unknown when these small mines were active, though to what extent it would have helped is unclear, considering the relatively small quantities of ore available.
Some of these old mines, especially Webb’s Consols, are currently under investigation by Silver Mines Ltd, though the present (November 2014) price of silver is not exactly encouraging.
There are numerous references from which you may gather information, starting with a presentation to Shareholders by Silver Mines Ltd. (here). An interesting newspaper report from 1891 may be found here. There are many references in old Geological Survey reports. Go to DIGS (here) and put in “Webb’s Consols” for location and you will find lots of information. One of the best of these is called “Webb's Consols - Wellingrove and Mount Galena Mines. Extracts of Annual Reports from 1875 to 1954”. The DIGS reference number is R00025719.
Another well-presented report is to be found in EF Pittman’s “The Mineral Resources of New South Wales”, 1901.  The DIGS reference number is R0005137. The section dealing with this group of mines begins on page 112. The photograph of the mine is also found in this book.
My You Tube playlist on gemstones and mining may be found here. I have three other playlists - on the Blue Mountains, Glen Innes and New Zealand.
From the "Horse and Buggy" days, minus the horse

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