When early gold miners 1st found Tungsten (the metallic element of scheelite) it was known to them as "white Maori" as was considered more of a nuisance! Its great weight meant it chocked up riffles in the sluice-boxes and it was difficult to separate in the final wash up.
Glenorchy community depended on this one mineral in wartime it was of strategic importance! Enhanced demand caused higher price and a booming industry. Tungsten steel was used in barrels of large-calibre guns possessed special properties - hard and tough as nails (resilience to explosive shock). Also it has a high melting point and is very flexible.
In the 1880's 'Sheelite' (the mineral that houses Tungsten) was found at Mt Judah above Glenorchy, causing an influx of prospectors...and no wonder...one month of intensive work could produce one tonne of Sheelite, which was worth 60 pounds back in the day. That's equivalent to $70,000 today for 4 weeks work....WOW!
The Sheelite was sitting high on Mt Judah and was tough to extract. The original miners used very basic tools (think picks, shovels and crowbars) and blasted tunnels to get further into the rock. Mines sprung up all over the mountain, personally named by the miners who started them.
Tunnelling into the rock required blasting with gelignite explosives, and rails were built to push hand trucks filled with debris out to the entrance.
These were tipped over the edge of the mountain causing big "tipping piles" that still scar the landscape today.
STILL CURIOUS? There's a lovely documentary on this topic called "Sheelite Mining - Glenorchy District, New Zealand. A History of Mining for the Mineral Sheelite"
Now Glenorchy thrives on Tourism, Glenorchy and its surrounds makes it easy to let the imagination run riot and segue into realms of fantasy which worked wondered for Peter Jackson LOTR movies. Everything about the place has a feeling of being pristine, primeval and unspoiled. Enter this Gateway to Paradise and you too will experience pure inspiration!
Thanks for reading, if you'd like to explore the Glenorchy District further we'd be happy to take you on a tour and share local tales, history and immerse you in the incredible beauty of the area.
Have you got a great story to tell? Add your own article