Difference between revisions of "Union Hill Waihi"

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Union Hill, Waihi


Union Hill, a bush covered hill in the centre of Waihi, owned by Newmont Waihi Gold Ltd, is part of the historic goldmining landscape of the 19th – 20th century exploitation of the Coromandel and Hauraki gold fields. It played a significant role in the history of gold mining in New Zealand, particularly because it was part of a large operation involving the famous Martha Mine; was instrumental in bringing in large capital investment from abroad and was also at the forefront of many innovations in the industry. The industrial remains vary considerably in both condition and significance. Some of the elements, such as the cyanide tanks, are rare and are registered by the Historic Places Trust and scheduled by the Hauraki District Council. Many, such as the kilns and drives are good, but often not the best examples of features located elsewhere in the district. Other remains, particularly around the Waihi Battery site have been considerably damaged by operations in the 1970s

Material from:
Rod Clough, Simon Best, Ray Hooker, Eric Lens, 2004. Union Hill Historic Remains: A Heritage Assessment. Unpublished report for Newmont Waihi Gold.


Waihi, New Zealand

Unionhill1.jpg <googlemap lat="-37.383833" lon="175.844121" zoom="15" height="300">-37.39141, 175.840348, Union Hill, Waihi, Waikato, New Zealand</googlemap>


Union Hill is part of the historic gold mining precinct on the northeastern edge of Waihi Township and less than a kilometre to the east of the renowned Martha Mine. Waihi Township, in common with many other settlements around the Coromandel and Hauraki, was founded on gold mining during the latter half of the 19th century. The hill’s bush cover disguises the fact that it was once the site of the Waihi Battery and a major industrial mining site in Waihi with significant historical associations. The hill still contains extensive remains of this historic industry, largely dating between 1878 and 1954, which are predominantly located on the land owned by Newmont Waihi Gold, although some mining remains are also found on parts of the hill within the LINZ and DOC estates. The Ohinemuri River which meanders its way past the south of Waihi Town was once part of the critical water supply that provided power for the industry (Figure 1). The site has several notable associations:

  • At one time it was the largest gold and silver processing mill in the country and the ore roasting kilns were the first to be constructed on the Hauraki goldfield. The group of 10 that have survived are in excellent condition.
  • The impressive tall concrete cylinders of the pneumatic (air agitation) tanks are possibly the only air-agitation tanks built of concrete and still in existence today in NZ.
  • The Waihi Battery, at 60 stamps and also later at 90 stamps, was the largest in New Zealand at the time and foundations of the stamps, stamper buildings, engine house and other structures still exist.
  • The Smelthouse and Refinery operated for the life of the Waihi Battery and the Victoria Battery. Most of the bullion production of the Waihi district passed through this facility.

The cyanide tanks were registered as a Category 1 Historic Place by the NZ Historic Places Trust in 1990.

1848 Gold discovered in America, in the Sacremento Valley, California Buranelli 1979:38
1851 Gold discovered in Australia, at Bathurst, New South Wales Buranelli 1979:72
1852 Gold discovered in New Zealand, at Driving Creek, Coromandel Salmon 1963:26
1853 Gold discovered in South Africa, in the Transvaal Buranelli 1979:89
1867 Thames district officially declared a goldfield on 30 July by Daniel Pollen, Colonial Secretary and Acting Premier of New Zealand Downey 1935
1868 Ohinemuri land ceded to the Crown ’for gold mining purposes’ by the Ngati Tamatera tribe. Deed signed 19 December, and a deposit of £1500 paid by James Mackay, Civil Commissioner Consensus among chiefs however was not reached for another seven years Turton 1877:534,35
  Some prospecting may have taken place at Waihi this time Isdale 1978
1875 Final agreement signed by Maori on 18 February (Acting Premier, Dr Daniel Pollen DSC 1875?
  A canvas-town (Mackaytown) develops with 300 hopeful miners Rainer 1976
  Ohinemuri district officially declared a goldfield on March 3 APGG 1875
1876 Rosemont-Silverton hills prospected by Leahy and O’Neill, and Corbett and Merriman [Rosemont the first name for the hill containing the Amaranth, Union and Rosemont claims] McAra 1988:28
1878 First Waihi lode mined [possibly the first drive in Waihi], on the hill later called Martha, by McCombie and Lee Rainer 1976
1879 Waihi field opened in 1879 by Government aid for prospecting Mines Statement AJHR 1884
1879 William Nicholl proves and names the Martha reef McAra 1988:41-3
1880 Official recognition of the Martha reef, and the start of the Waihi settlement: a boarding house and three stores were under construction AJHR 1881
  Other claims on the Waihi hills show payable gold AJHR 1881
1881 A small township laid out, with a substantial hotel Rainer 1976
1882 ’The Rosemont claim on the opposite side of the swamp was spoken highly of ’ Isdale 1978
  First Waihi battery opened at the Martha (15 stamps), another at Ohinemuri (20 stamps). McAra 1988:40
1883 Martha battery moves to and combines with the Ohinemuri Site where there is better water supply – called Martha Battery. Rainer 1976
1885 First mention of Union claim worked by Union Gold Mining Co. ’One shaft has been sunk to a depth of 76ft., and open cutting has been made, and 15 tons of first-class ore taken therefrom...’ [Possibly the first shaft in Waihi]. AJHR 1886a Mines Statement
  A new find on Rosemont Hill called the Pride of Waihi, consisting of a four-foot and a two-foot reef. [This should not be confused with the later claim of the same name, some 500m to the north] Lens 2003:7, see McAra 1988:295
  ’ ... some very rich reefs and leaders have been discovered and opened up in the Silverton, Union, Rosemont, and other claims’ AJHR 1886b
1886 The Union Company ’... have driven about 200ft. on the reef, and have broken out one stope for 60ft in length’ AJHR 1887
  Union and Rosemont mines sending ore to La Monte furnace at Thames (and abroad) – not a successful venture, though ore very rich Isdale 1978


  • Anon? ??? 1887. The Handbook of New Zealand Mines. Wellington
  • Banks. E..G. 1911. Milling and Treatment at the Waihi Mine, New Zealand. Paper No. 221
  • presented at the Australasian Institute of Mining Engineers, Thames New Zealand.
  • Barr, C. 1997. Archaeological Assessment, Proposed Extension Area, Waihi Gold Waste Disposal Area. Report prepared for Waihi Gold Mining Company Ltd.
  • A Paper on Barry’s Honeycomb Tube-Mill Linings,
  • Barry, H.P. 1908. A Paper on Barry’s Honeycomb Tube Mill Linings. M.Inst.M.M. (Superintendent Waihi Gold-mining Company (Limited)).
  • Barabarich, J>P> 1976. Scavenging for Gold. Managing Director Mineral Resources (NZ) Ltd
  • Buranelli, V. 1979. Gold. An Illustrated History. Dembner Enterprises, USA.
  • Clennell, J. E. 1915. The Cyanide Handbook.
  • Downey, F. 1935. Gold – Mines Of The Hauraki District, New Zealand. G.B. Loney, Government Printer
  • Hooker, R. 1997. Report on Archaeological/Historical Survey of Martha Mine Extended Project. Report for Waihi Gold Mining Company Ltd.
  • Hooker, R. 2003a. Report on History of No.5 Shaft and Associated Remains (T13/301 & 302). Prepared for Newmont Waihi Operations.
  • Hooker, R. 2003b. Report on Ohinemuri-Waihi Low-Level Water Race (Site T13/817). Report prepared for Welcome Gold Mines Ltd & AUAG Resources Ltd.
  • Johnson, J.C.F. 1905. Getting Gold: A Gold-mining Handbook for Practical Men.
  • Lands and Survey Dept. 1983. Historical Report for Dept of Lands and Survey. Ref. 3/2851/2/8
  • Lens, E. 2003. Historic Features of Union Hill, Waihi. Research by Eric Lens 2003-4. Report produced for Newmont Waihi Gold.
  • Lockwood, 2003. The Autobiography of William Nicholl, Prospector. (Typed by A. Isdale.
  • McAra, J.B. 1988. Gold mining at Waihi 1878–1952, Martha Press, Doreen McLeod, Waihi, NZ.
  • Mackintosh Bell, J., and C.Fraser. 1912. The Geology of the Waihi-Tairua Subdivision, Hauraki Division. New Zealand Department of Mines. Geological Survey Branch Bulletin No. 15 (New Series).
  • Moore, P. and N. Ritchie. 1986. In-ground Ore Roasting Kilns on the Hauraki Goldfield, Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand. ??
  • Rainer, P. 1976. Company Town: An industrial history of the Waihi Gold Mining Company, Limited, 1887-1912. Pub?
  • Pierce, J. 1985. Waihi Gold Company Tailings Valley Archaeological Survey. Report for Waihi Gold Company.
  • Salmon, J.H.M. 1963. A History of Gold Mining in New Zealand. Wellington.
  • Salmond Reed Architects. November 2003. Martha Mine Pumphouse, No. 5 Shaft Waihi. A Conservation Plan. Prepared for Newmont Waihi.
  • Turton, H.H. 1877. Plans of Land Purchases in North Island of NZ. Government Printer.
  • Wright, P. 1997. Waihi Battery Ruins (at base of Union Hill). Report for Waihi Gold Company Ltd.