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Last Update
6th of July 2017

WATER AND MINING


Ballerstedt's Claim
Private Collection.
The quartz claim of the Ballerstedt's (father and son) on the Victoria reef was one of the earliest to be worked to prove gold at greater depth. It was started as an open cut in 1855.Llater acquired by George Lansell who became a famous Bendigo mining magnate.

Bendigo, then and now, experiences droughts and flooding rains and, when gold was discovered in 1851, Bendigo Creek was the only immediate source of water

. This was quite inadequate for the influx of miners and was soon polluted by gold washing. In 1858 the Bendigo Waterworks Company was formed to dam water locally but only when a competition in 1862 produced a scheme to harness the waters of the Coliban River and bring it via 70 kilometres of tunnels, aqueducts and siphons in 1877 was there a reliable water supply. This remarkable Coliban scheme has been supplemented and is still in use, with the original system having been supplemented by substantial additional storage on the Coliban River and, since 1964, by pumping from Lake Eppalock which dams the Campaspe River.

After the easily obtained gold had been washed from the beds of the creeks, a system of puddling was developed, whereby the topsoil down to bedrock was dug up and carted to puddling machines. By1853, the alluvial gold was increasingly hard to find and some miners turned to crushing the quartz reefs which were standing above the surface, first using hand methods and then crushing machines. The miners followed the quartz reefs below the surface, until, in the 1890s, a few shafts were nearly 1,500 metres deep. Booms in quartz mining occurred in 1859 and 1871; gold production declined gradually as the mines were deepened but there was a revival during the 1890s depression and, in the early 1900s, production was maintained with the cyanide treatment of gold left in the earlier tailings.

The complex history of mining in Bendigo is available, with illustrations, in the book ‘Bendigo’s Gold Story’ ( by Lerk, J. & Birrell, R.).

When the price of gold soared in the 1980’s, exploration to find new reefs worth mining was recommenced and is continuing. The company Bendigo Mining Limited is now developing a decline (sloping tunnel) from Kangaroo Flat to the Deborah Reef right under the city centre in order to explore new reefs below the 900 metre level. The company is optimistic that it will find reefs with sufficient gold to enable it to mine another 10 million ounces at depths between 900 metres and 1500 metres.An instructive continually-running DVD video presentation concerning the gold reefs of Bendigo is available for viewing at the Visitor Information Centre (old Post Office).

The visitor to Bendigo wanting to catch the feeling of the past mining days is encouraged to visit the Central Deborah Mine where, in addition to above-ground displays of equipment and historical artefacts relating to mining, there are realistic tours underground into the actual old crosscuts and drives of the previous underground workings.

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