Evidence given by William Beauclerc Otway at the Gold Fields Commission of Enquiry

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Transcription of evidence given by William Beauclerc Otway at the Gold Fields Commission of Enquiry on 23 December 1854[1]

William Beauclerk Ottway, Esq., M.D., examined.
1412. Have you been long on the Gold Fields? -- On the Ballaarat Gold Fields since the 16th January, 1854; in Victoria, since December, 1853.
1413. Have you been engaged in mining all the time? -- All the time.
1414. Are you mining by machinery? --Yes.
1415. What kind of machinery? -- The improved Chilian mill for crushing quartz.
1416. Do you find the gold in the quartz a sufficient inducement to crush it? -- Yes.
1417. Is there any other individual or company on these Gold Fields crushing quartz? -- None other on the Ballaarat Gold Fields.
1418. Is yours the only machine of the kind that is in the Colony, so far as you know? -- There are others introduced at Bendigo; whether in operation or not I do not know; this is the only one on the Gold Fields at Ballaarat.
1419. What is the power of your machinery? -- Ten-horse power.
1420. In crushing quartz with a machine of ten-horse power, what number of men do you employ? -- It depends altogether upon the crushing machinery made use of, not the horse power. We may move one crushing machine with an engine of ten-horse power, or we may test it to its utmost capacity, and move six mills. We should require thirty-six men for six Chilian mills.
1421. And how many would you require for one? -- Six men.
1422. You have only one of these mills at present? -- I have two at present; my house is calculated for six. I have but two at present.
1423. You have but two in the Colony? -- I have but two at present in Ballaarat.
1424. Are they at work now? -- No; they will be in the course of a week probably.
1425. Have you commenced work yet? -- No; I have only experimented as to the richness of the leads.
1426. Do you find any system of leads going through the masses of the solid quartz rock? -- I propose to crush indiscriminately all the dykes or layers of quartz which I find on the Black Hill. Quartz is in some instances found on Ballaarat in dykes varying from three to fifteen feet, and running down in some cases to from three to six inches in thickness, and lying at an angle of 23° to 25° with the horizon; it is that quartz alone that I work.
1427. That is what you call the lead? – I call the auriferous quartz the lead; it is different from that in the diluvial area, which has been disintegrated from the quartz.
1428. You do not attempt to crush the quartz rock that is all about the country, you confine yourself to those dykes? -- Yes; for want of water and fuel, or otherwise I should crush the quartz indiscriminately; I confine myself to the veins.
1429. Do you suppose that those veins are richer than the quartz rock generally? -- No, I do not; but I mean to assert that it is easier for me to get this quartz from the vein than to collect it from the diggings.
1430. Which do you think is most productive? -- One is equally as rich as the other.
1431. Have you experimented upon it? -- Yes.
1432. What is the quantity of gold per ton you have obtained? -- Not less than three and not more than fifty-seven ounces per ton.
1433. Is not that a very large proportion? -- The largest in the world. It gives the pre-eminence to our Gold Fields.
1434. What is the quantity usual in California? -- The largest yield that I have known in California has not been more than sixteen ounces per ton, as near as I can recollect at present.
1435. In California, where they have experience and machinery, what is the smallest quantity per ton that they find they can work with profit? -- Half an ounce to the ton, but in working for half an ounce per ton it requires more capital than where the quartz is richer, for you have to put a greater amount of machinery on.
1436. What is your opinion as to the extent of the quartz veins from your observations in this part of the country? -- My observation is very limited here; probably ten miles radius would comprise my observation; but I have found in that extent quartz veins that would pay extremely well. I have traversed for about five miles, and found good quartz veins, but an absence of water.
1437. Do you think there is an unlimited supply? -- I do.
1438. And the difficulty of the want of water might be overcome? -- Yes; by damming the mouths of the ravines, and forming natural lakes, which would irrigate the country also.
1439. Have you designed any scheme for that? -- It will be found that near the mountain region we are probably 2000 feet above the level of the sea, and it is all in little spurs jutting out, and by damming the ravine across between the spurs you can make an inland lake; we are in the centre of a very great volcanic basin, whose area is probably some twenty or forty miles, and by damming up the ravines here you would irrigate all the agricultural lands round about.
1440. Have you formed any conclusion as to the expense of that scheme; is it feasible? -- It is so.
1441. Having regard to the resources we possess in this country, is it feasible? -- Decidedly it is; a dozen men could build a dam sixty feet long, thirty feet wide at the base, ten feet wide at the summit, and eighteen feet high, and you could dam up nearly half a mile of a lake by that.
1442. What would be the probable expense of that? -- I could do it for about £40; the Government could do it for £500, I suppose.
1443. How many of those would you require on a given area here; are there many of those ravines not far off? -- Yes, a great number of them; that plan is better than having Artesian wells, for it is uncertain whether you would get water by sinking.
1444. Are you allowed any quantity of land where you are? -- My claim is in for four acres, but I am in a glorious state of uncertainty about it.
1445. If you got a lead would you not like to have so much of the length of the lead by a sufficient width? -- That plan will not answer in quartz leads. The quartz leads on the Black Hill lie in very small laminae, not more than six to eight inches diameter, consequently if you were to give me a quartz lead, if I drive a line vertically it will cut through probably some twenty layers of quartz, varying from six to eighteen inches in diameter. Now I am 147 feet beneath the summit of the Black Hill; the next quartz lead to me would probably be ten feet over my head. I put in a drive in this lead five by four, and if the gentleman over my head put in another drive precisely over me, what would be the result if we both worked out the vein? I consider that quartz veins should be leased in blocks, the same as the diluvial old worked-out diggings.
1446. By acres? -- By acres.
1447. Have you got no answer to your application from the Government? -- Yes, that it was in the hands of His Excellency, and when decided on I should receive my answer.
1448. Do you fear any loss; is there anything which prevents your going on and crushing the quartz just now; do you apprehend any interference from any one? -- Yes.
1449. On what footing would they interfere with you? -- I think I am in error in saying I do apprehend it, because I have sufficient confidence in the gentleman at the head of affairs here to think that he would not see me suffer wrong here. I am going on still with my labors, and though some men are daily working in my claim, I find no fault with them; they are for the surface, I am for the veins.
1450. You do not interfere with one another? -- They are spoiling my drives, but it makes very little difference. I cannot say that I fear for the result, for that would shew a want of confidence in the Government.
1451. You are exposed to the diggers coming and turning up the surface and disturbing your approaches? -- Yes.
1452. Had you any promise as to the extent of your claim when you settled down? -- No.
1453. None whatever? -- Only that as far as the Commissioner was concerned I should be protected until such time as I received my answer from Melbourne. I made application under the Mining Act, which specified that such and such a claim would be put up at auction, and it has not been answered. It is in the hands of His Excellency.
1454. Should you think that whilst you are in possession it would be injurious to you to have it put up to auction? -- Yes; to the extent of several thousand pounds.
1455. Are there several persons in your neighbourhood following the same object that would like to compete for your land? -- There is another to the westward, but he cannot interfere with me; there is room enough for us all.
1456. You think competition would do you an injury if the claim were offered at auction? -- Yes.
1457. Do you feel that if you had not sat down upon it persons would not attach the same value to it? -- I do; it would have been neglected.
1458. Is there any other point you would like to speak upon? -- Any question you wish to put to me, with the exception of politics and religion, I would be glad to answer.
1459. What would you think a fair extent of land for a quartz company? -- Not more than four acres and not less than one; you could not risk capital on less than that.
1460. Could you suggest any mode by which those claims could be marked out without interfering with the individual rights of the diggers? -- Commencing where the quartz commences, and giving on each side of that the amount fixed.
1461. That would be merely the basis of your measurement. What form of application would you make; would you go the same as another man, and peg out your claim, or would you register your application? -- I am very unskilled in forms altogether, but I believe I should come, in the first place, to the Commissioner or the magistrate, and tell him that I had found out a quartz vein in such and such a place, and wished to get it surveyed.
1462. Would it be possible for the Government to lay out those claims equitably by the aid of a mineralogical surveyor? -- If he is a practical mineralogist he would do very well, but a theoretical one only had better keep away from Ballaarat. I would get the place surveyed, and lay it out in regular claims, both the diluvial and the alluvial; in fact, it is all diluvial except the quartz veins; I would lay it out in sections of four acres, and rent them indiscriminately to companies that would put on machinery, and make it incumbent on them to have the machinery on the ground by a certain period, or forfeit the lease; the lease may be for five, ten, or twenty years. Taking 2500 acres of this land to be let to 500 companies, at £20 an acre, that would be £50,000, and for that land the companies would employ 5000 men, and the license fee for those men, at £8 each, would give £40,000, which together would make £90,000, which would be much more than you have got out of all your license fees.
1463. Have you not met with some objection to companies coming on the Gold Fields? -- Not at all, provided the land were subdivided into four-acre lots.
1464. There has been a great objection, supposing that it would hurt the miners, and induce them to be servants of these companies instead of working men themselves; have you thought of that point? -- I do not see how it can injure the miners. We have got several classes of miners; we have the energetic miner, the lazy miner, and the supremely lazy miner; it would take up the supremely lazy miner altogether, and sometimes the lazy miner, and leave the energetic miner to himself.
1465. Would it not be likely to raise the price of labor on the diggings by employing those men? -- Yes; I think it would benefit the Colony also.
1466. Is there anything else you would wish to mention to the Commission? -- Not that I am aware of; I am willing to answer any question that may be asked of me.
1467. Do you think a police on the diggings is necessary? -- Indeed it is.
1468. Would you have the police distributed about the diggings, or all in one Camp? -- I think that if they are all in one place in the Camp they are like a hive of bees. It is very easy to smother them with a blanket. I think it is much better to distribute them about, and have beats and districts, and put a few policemen in each.
1469. Do you think a mounted patrol would be useful? -- I rather object to a mounted police. I think the foot police would find their way among the broken up diggings better than a mounted police. I do not think it would be necessary to have a mounted police, unless it were some ten or twelve to hunt up stolen horses.
1470. Have you seen the working of companies in California? -- Yes; I made a mineralogical and geological survey of California. They have got a singular system there; the miners, on coming down on a river, generally lay out a certain number of claims; I think in 1849 the size of the claim that they laid out was sixteen feet by twenty feet; they elected an alcade or magistrate to adjudicate these claims in case any row arose about them. There was a foreign license in 1849, but the people of California reversed that order themselves. When the foreigners on whom the license fell wished to rise in arms against this law, the Americans said, "No; stand back, the law is ours, and we will reverse it;" and I think they acted properly, and that is the reason why I say no foreigner in Australia has a right to stand up against the laws of the country. A mint has been established in California, and that has turned in a very large revenue to the Government from the gold coined there.
1471. Is it not the case that the gold of California is not nearly so pure as the gold here? -- The gold of California is more impregnated with copper and silver than the gold of Australia.
1472. Is there a system of local administration for settling disputes in California? -- They generally empannel a jury of diggers, and settle the dispute at once.


  1. Victoria. Commission Appointed to Inquire into the Condition of the Gold-fields of Victoria, Carr, C. W., Fawkner, J. P., Hodgson, J., O'Shanassy, J., Strachan, J. F.,... Wright, W. H. (1855). Gold Fields Commission of Enquiry: Report of the Commission Appointed to Enquire into the Condition of the Gold Fields of Victoria, &c. &c. Melbourne: John Ferres, Government Printer.[1]

--Neil Huybregts 13:23, 8 February 2015 (AEDT)

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