Gold Mining in St Bathans
Gold at St Bathans is contained in alluvial gravels (gravels deposited by the
action of water or ice).
Water was a critical part of the mining process, needed not only to separate the
gold from the dirt but to carry away the dirt (tailings) once the gold has been
Initially the best paying claims were higher on the spurs with nearby water in
short supply, so the gravels either had to be carried to the water or the water
conveyed to the site.
Large companies were formed to enable the cutting of lengthy water races.
The cutting of a race was usually more expensive than most miners could
afford so they purchased water from the large companies.
The water races carried water to St Bathans from the Manuherikia River, and
by 1865-66 the miners were dependant on the water companies for water.
Sludge channels, or tail races, were dug to carry away the tailings. As the
miners worked deeper into the ground deeper tail races had to be dug to carry
away the waste gravel. The tailings had a profound effect on the rivers into
which they flowed, raising the beds many feet.
The mining methods at St Bathans included ground sluicing, hydraulic sluicing
and hydraulic elevating.
St Bathans originally lay in a gully at the foot of Kildare Hill, in a gully known as
Peymans Gully. Following the discovery of gold, the 120m high hill was flattened
after only ten years of mining using water jets to remove the gold bearing gravels.
Mining continued below the level of the town and the gravels were then lifted to
the surface by Hydraulic Elevating, and by around 1873 the area was being
referred to as Kildare Basin.
Mining ceased in 1934 after it was feared that the main street and buildings
were in danger of falling into the hole.
The 60m deep hole, known as ‘The Glory Hole’, eventually filled naturally with
mineral charged waters to form The Blue Lake.