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
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
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
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
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
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.