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Mining - Nimmitabel District

Article by J W Evans from "70 Years of Memories"

Most of the mining was carried on before the turn of the Century, and most of it at the "Kydra" diggings. It was reef gold, and it was a slow process to dolley the ore by hand and wash the gold by dish. Eventually a stamper head was obtained, and John Geldmacher's engine was bought to drive it. The problem then was to get enough water to operate the steam engine and the sluice box.

A dam was built, but only served to catch water during storms. When the plant shut down for lack of water, the miners would stack their ore at the plant ready for treating when the rain came. Some of them even carted their crushed ore to the Langley Creek, where they had made sluice boxes to treat it.

After a big clean up at the diggings and most of the men were in town celebrating, gold was discovered at "Moards Swamp". The plant was moved to the new site and commenced crushing.

When the miners returned to the Kydra diggings they were disgusted to find the battery was gone, and as they were not prepared to revert to the old methods, they Packed up and left, and the diggings were deserted.

The crushing at Moards Swamp did not last long. Apparently gold was not being found in big enough quantities so the plant closed down.

A bush fire went through a few years later, and a shed that sheltered it was burned down.

Some where around 1929 the plant was purchased by Mr. Tob Kirwan. The boiler was brought out by P. O.'Neill's bullock team and the remainder of the plant by horse and cart after it was dismantled. (All information contained in what I have written was obtained from - R. Kirwan, M. Tracey, R. Summerell - all of whom worked at the diggings.)

When Kirwan purchased the plant he had an interest in mining at "Bobundra" also known as "Hurdle Head'', and undoubtedly intended to take the plant out there. His life ended tragically when he was kicked on the head by a horse and killed instantly.

Information below from N. O'Neill:

In the decade around the time Kydra was working, land close to town was being prospected for wolfram, a metal used in the manufacture of steel. Mrs. Val Thistleton's property was heavily prospected, and a shaft was sunk on the hill over the first gulley north of the air-strip. This shaft was about 120. ft. deep and a drive had been put in at the bottom. Evidently payable quantities of wolfram were not found or it would not have closed.

One year when drought had hit the West hard and Monaro had grass, a train load of sheep was sent to Nimitybelle for agistment. On being unloaded it was found that over 20C had died in the trucks. Mr. Jack Thornton was the local carrier at the time and he was called on to remove the carcasses from the trucking yard and dispose of them. With permission they were dumped down the old shaft. An excellent place for the carcasses, no better use for the shaft.

At the beginning of the War in 1914 there was a big demand for wolfram, and good deposits had been found over the river some five miles from "Thoko". A company was formed and mining got moving in a fairly big way. The company was registered as the "Wolfram Wonder".

Two of my brothers-in-law (H. Smith and Bun Summerell) who worked in the mine told me that the directors wondered where the wolfram was, the miners wondered what became of the wolfram they mined, and the manager wondered how to feather his nest without getting caught, and that was why it was called the Wolfram Wonder. While all this wondering was going on the directors decided to wind up the Company.

Most of the machinery was sold to Fulton Fros. and went in to the construction of a sawmill at Reedy Creek at the top of the Tantawangalo Mountain.

On two occasions that I can think of, attempts have been made to burn lime, one at Thoko, the other out past Kybean. Neither achieved much success and in a short time closed down.

P.S. Geldmacher's boiler that saw service in Nimitybelle, at Kydra, and at Moards Swamp, stood for some years on the side of the Kybean Road in front of the Kirwan residence. During the war years when steel for grader blades was unprocurable, it was bought by Monaro Shire Council and cut up for blades. It had
about the right curvature for the job. The same thing happened to the last boiler out of Rayner & Sanson's Mill.

Another man who worked the Bobundara diggings was Mr. Harry Pearce. He had put in a lot of mining machinery and had the business operating well, when he took ill and died suddenly.

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