Gold Mining Reefs and Leads
A gold reef is where the gold is found still deposited in its original rock host. In Ballarat this rock was usually quartz, in what is described as a reef. Alluvial gold was gold that had come loose from its original host, and had been deposited by water action into creeks and rivers. Over time, many of these creeks and rivers were covered over by later geographical changes and became buried below the surface. These buried ancient river courses bearing gold were called leads. The first gold found in Ballarat was alluvial gold found in the Yarrowee Creek. Miners then began digging to uncover the buried leads. By the 1860's miners were mining the quartz reefs to extract the gold.
In the early days of alluvial lead mining, the miner's had no way of knowing where the ancient creek beds were going, and so shafts were sunk as they tried to follow them underground. It is difficult to pinpoint historical locations which are sometimes given as a lead, for example the Black Lead. As miners followed the gold, the locality moved along with it, so over time the locality moved with the mining action, this could be as much as several kilometres. To find a specific locality will also require a knowledge of the mining history and time line.
Thomas Cornish reminisced about the early days of alluvial mining in a Ballarat Star article in 1893:
Alluvial mining was then the principal source of our gold supply, not only from Ballarat, but most other fields. It was then the Eureka, Little Bendigo, Black Hill, the Gravel Pits, the Red Hill, Dalton’s Flat, Canadian, Prince Regent, Sailor’s Gully, and other leads gave forth their riches from leads that took their source of supply of gold from the outcroppings of the quartz lodes in the big amphitheatre east of the Black Hill and the Golden Point range. The concentration of all these alluvial leads culminated in the Gum Tree Flat: its main outlet, the Gravel Pits lead, passed through Bridge street, under the Alfred Hall, thence under the Post-office, crossing Sturt street under the Town Hall, and southward to the corner of Dana street and Lydiard Street, where it functioned with the Golden Point lead, which, although but a tributary to the Gravel Pits lead, became the first in order of registration under the new bylaw known as the frontage system in 1856. When the Gravel Pits lead and others known as the Golden Point, the Nightingale, the Malakoff, the Miner’s Right, the Redan, the Milkmaid, the Woolshed, the Terrible, the Frenchman’s, and others taking their rise from the western side of the Golden Point and White Horse ranges were found to be taking a westerly course under the Ballarat and Sebastopol plateau, the frontage system was introduced with the object of giving to registered owners a right of so many lineal feet on the course of the lead for which they were registered. The consequence was registrations were effected for miles of imaginary leads that had no existence in reality. The main lead, taking a southerly course, picked up the various other leads, which acted as feeders to the main alluvial channel. No sooner did the companies begin to get gold than the fight about titles began.
Later in the same article he discussed the quartz reefs under the goldfields:
The record of over £55,000,000 sterling in gold having been produced from the Ballarat gold yield, chiefly from the alluvial deposits is of itself evidence of the vast resources of the several belts of quartz lodes traversing north and south through the Ballarat goldfield, and for many miles north and south. Since the alluvial deposits became in a measure exhausted more attention has been devoted to the quartz lodes, and in many in stances with good effect. The proved resources of Ballarat are so vast that only those who have given serious attention to the subject can form an idea of what the future of quartz mining on this goldfield will be, and how necessary it is that more intelligent attention should be given to the development of the auriferous wealth contained within the lines of quartz lodes already proved payable in so many places. Taking the main central belt of lodes from the Black Hill along the White Horse ranges to Buninyong, a distance of about nine miles, with the western lines of lodes as worked by the Band and Albion, the Sir Henry Loch, the Star of the East, the Prince of Wales and Bonshaw and other mines now prospecting with good show of success, and the various lines of lodes practically undeveloped eastward as far as the Monte Christo, Little Bendigo, offers a vast field for the profitable investment of capital judiciously expended. The evidence adduced by the highly profitable results of the Band and Albion and Star of the East mines which has proved payable lodes to a depth of nearly 2000 feet, should be enough to encourage the investment of more capital in legitimate quartz mining on those lines of lodes now lying unutilised.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1893 'OUR GOLD RESOURCES IN VICTORIA.', The Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 - 1924), 6 December, p. 4. , viewed 28 Mar 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article209801167