Victorian Mines. The road to these is the same one for half the distance as that which leads to the Sheba; but instead of turning off and ascending the mountains it continues till the Queen’s River is reached, when it trends round the end of the Sheba range, which is pierced here by the Queen’s River, and forms a gap, through which the road to Delagoa Bay penetrates the mountains.
We followed the course of the river, and about eight miles from Barberton reached the Caledonian.
No place on the fields is better placed for unlimited waterpower, and this is skilfully taken advantage of. The battery is an excellent one, and the manager able; but unfortunately the mine was not working, as the reef had suddenly broken off, and pending the sanction of the shareholders the manager had not incurred expense in following it up. Further up the “Poort,” as this pass is called, we came upon the property of the Victoria Company. This is also on the banks of the Queen’s River, and so commands what is indispensable in quartz-reefing-ample water supply. We were kindly received by the manager, Mr. Osborn, and shown over the mine and works.
Skill, capital, and work have been bestowed on the property with the best results. Good miners, and a large staff of natives, with carpenters and blacksmiths, were hard at it, and gave the place quite a busy air. This was the first company floated in Durban, has had an uninterrupted course of success, and is undoubtedly one of the best-going concerns on these “fields”.
A battery of 10 stampers, manufactured by McNeil, of Durban, was at work, and a second and more powerful one was in course of construction. The latter, with its massive foundations, promises to be a piece of creditable workmanship and is from the Sandycroft Foundry.
The process of crushing is very simple; the quartz in small blocks is run into small iron boxes, in which, working perpendicularly, are the massive hammers or pestles; a stream of water flows continuously through these boxes and carries off the quartz, now reduced to powder, and in the shape of a turbid fluid, through fine wire sieves into shallow grooves or troughs, the sieves intercept some gold the troughs retain more, and the overflowing liquid then passes over broad wooden trays laid at an incline., On these trays are copper plates covered wit h quicksilver, which captures inn its passage over them the fine particles of gold held in suspension by the water. The water continuing its flow passes subsequently over blankets spread over more trays, and these again are intended to detain any particles of the precious metal, which has possibly evaded the quicksilver.
The gold thus deposited, as well as that on the plates, is periodically collected, and being placed in a retort the quicksilver is driven off and the gold left intact. The quicksilver is, however, not lost, but is detained by a mechanical process, and made to do duty for an indefinite period.
The battery here is kept going night and as at most of the mines Sundays excepted.
We now proceeded to inspect the mine, and standing at the mouth of the shaft 120 feet deep, and peering over into its cimmerian darkness, we could see below the faint twinkle of lights, while up the shaft came the sound of the hammer and drill, and the subdued murmur of voices. A small bucket, not much