The visitor to Victoria’s goldfields has a number of opportunities to get underground. The most authentic has to be Carman’s Tunnel. There is no tourist hype, there’s not even any electricity which could be why there is no EFTPOS. The $7.50 for adults and $2.50 for children will need to handed over as real money. Excellent value.
The mine is located at the end of Perkins Reef Road in Maldon. It’s just opposite the North British Mine site, the famous quartz kilns and the ruins of Oswald’s Workshops.
Currently tours run on Saturdays, Sundays, Public Holidays and School Holidays (closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and Good Friday) at 1:30pm, 2:30pm, and 3:30pm. Each tour takes 30 – 40 minutes. You can check for changes <HERE>.
Maldon was a very gold rich area and the concept of tunneling through extremely hard rock until you hit a reef was sufficiently attractive to induce investors to part with their money. The Great International Quartz Mining Company was formed in 1882 and drilled 600 metres of tunnel over a period of two years and two months. Reports of the yield vary from nothing to next to nothing and the project was abandoned.
Initially the mining proceeded by one man swinging a sledge hammer at a drill held by a second man. They changed places from time to time. Each was given two candles per day to last their 10 hour shift. If they broke a candle they could get a replacement with the cost deducted from their wages. Be careful with the candle.
At the end of the week the holes would be filled with powder and the rock would be blasted. Be very careful with the candle.
Progress was about a metre a week. Across the road at the North British Mine Robert Dent Oswald was pioneering and manufacturing compressed air drills. Progress picked up considerably once these were adopted. If the miners welcomed the new regime their enthusiasm would soon be extinguished by the silicosis that cut short their lives.
A couple of Oswald’s Compressed Air Drills remain in the mine …
While the Great International Quartz Mining Company was throwing money into a hole in the ground The North British, just a stone’s throw away, was hauling money out. It was one of the last of Maldon’s mines to close, by 1926 it had yielded more than 242,000 ounces of gold.
Carman’s Tunnel is well worth a visit. The temperature inside is very mild no matter what the day is doing outside. The floor is pretty level. Where else can you get a tour by candlelight?
The North British Mine site is also fascinating. Kilns were used to roast the quartz making it easier to crush before it went into the cyanide pits for gold extraction. The kilns and pits are well preserved and there is sufficient interpretive signage to make sense of the rest of the ruins. Entry is free. Learn more <HERE>.