The Muddy Terraces 19th century gold mining workings discovered in IFS Growth's Waikaia forestry block in November 2017.

Nineteenth-Century Gold Mine Found in New Zealand

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Nineteenth-Century Gold Mine Found in New Zealand:

The Muddy Terraces 19th century gold mining workings discovered in IFS Growth's Waikaia forestry block in November 2017.
The Muddy Terraces 19th-century gold mining workings discovered in IFS Growth’s Waikaia forestry block in November 2017.

Rediscovered gold workings near Waikaia have been described as “significant” in scale.

The 136-year-old Muddy Terraces site, believed to contain remnants of water races, iron flumes, dams, reservoirs and miner’s huts, came to light as Southland District Council forestry company IFS Growth prepared to harvest its Waikaia block to the northwest of the town late last year.

In line with company policy, IFS checked on pre-existing archaeology at the site with Alexandra firm Kopuwai Consulting before starting the harvest.

No archaeology was thought to exist in the block until Kopuwai director Matthew Sole dug out some vintage aerial shots telling a different story.”To everyone’s surprise, we could see an extensive and largely intact gold mining complex consisting of water races, reservoirs, sluice workings, and sludge channels.

Accompanying early plans also showed hut sites,” he said. Further research both online and on the ground revealed additional details.”What was unusual about the site was that there wasn’t much in the way of local knowledge about its existence, but archival newspapers from 1895 and 1897 gave a bit more history, and the names Scrubby and Muddy Terraces.

“The Mataura Ensign of August 3, 1897, described how the – by then 25-year-old – the site was acquired by a Mr. R Whittingham, with up to £11,000 originally raised through a London stock floatation to build necessary infrastructure, including a 12-mile race with an 80-foot drop.

As much as 42oz of gold was yielded from the “prosperous” workings during one five-week period in early 1897.

IFS chief executive James Treadwell said despite the discovery delaying harvest at the site, the company was excited to be playing its part in preserving local heritage.

“There’s a real buzz around the office, and we’re all pleased to have the opportunity to add to our historical record.”He said smaller scale archaeological and environmental discoveries were relatively common in forestry, with IFS careful to “preserve and protect” as much as possible.

Sole said although much of Muddy Terraces’ archaeology was now under heavy scrub, steps would be taken to catalogue and conserve what remained.”What’s critical now is to accurately mark out and buffer the archaeology we find, and allow harvesting to continue as quickly and efficiently as possible around it.”


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Jessica Saraceni has been a part of Histecho Since 2018, drawn to the site for its quirky character and through Articles about the Mysteries of earth and human behavior. previously, she was an assistant editor and Research fellow at Archaeology magazine, where she gained an appreciation for the field work. A master's degree in biogeochemistry and environmental science from the Center for Archaeological Research, the University of Texas at San Antonio. She enjoys all forms of exercise; reading works by her favorite author, Haruki Murakami; and playing with her sons.

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