Page:History of West Australia.djvu/269

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217
WEST AUSTRALIA.


Tarra mines, all containing carbonates, sulphurets, and oxides. The Wanerenooka turned out up to 1869 about 1,450 tons of copper ore, which realised about £20,000 in England. The Wheel Fortune yielded rich copper and lead ores, while the other mines were more or less proved.

The export of copper increased until these insuperable drawbacks compelled suspension. The returns of export speak for themselves:—in 1861, 409 tons valued at £6,339; in 1862, 783 tons, £12,536; in 1863, 763 tons, £12,208; in 1864, 1,076 tons, £17,216; in 1865, 886 tons, £13,290; in 1866, 557 tons, £8,362; in 1867, 337 tons, £5,055; and in 1868, 83 tons, valued at £1,245. A gradual falling off is observed from 1864, when the highest record was reached.

The Geraldine lead mine continued to have the greatest output. It is recorded (W. H. Knight) that this mine yielded extraordinarily rich ore—ninety per cent. of lead—in various lodes. While there was a falling off in copper export there was an increase in lead. The figures were:—1861, 79 tons, valued at £790; 1862, 9 tons, £90; 1863, 230 tons, £2,300; 1864, 80 tons, £800; 1865, 703 tons, £8,436; 1866, 273 tons, £3,282; 1867, 902 tons, £10,824; and 1868, 1,100 tons, £13,206.

Messrs. Dempster, Harper, and Clarkson in their explorations easterly, in 1861, reported the discovery of a bituminous fluid. Mr. Harper conveyed specimens of the matter to Perth. Mr Lefroy in his trip, though he searched for it, found no indication of bitumen in 1863. In May, 1866, however, two small fragments of rock found east of Mount Stirling were taken to Perth and declared to be impregnated with the mineral in its soft, almost liquid state. Specimens were said to have been seen in several localities east of Mount Stirling. Later in the year a similar substance was found on the rocks at Port Walcott and Butchers Inlet (north-west). Mr. Cowle in his journey from Roebuck Bay to Nickol Bay found in one of the valleys off the Radii Hills, which he named, a native well containing what seemed a mixture of kerosene and water. Colonists agreed that the north-west district was rich in bitumen or petroleum. A specimen of the substance found by the Dempster party in the eastern plains was sent to the Rev. W. Clarke, an experienced geologist of Sydney, and he proclaimed it to be bitumen on granite. He suggested that a bore be put down in the locality.

The search for gold was intermittently conducted on the Darling Ranges and in the eastern districts. Private and semi-official parties were formed to prospect, and indications were discovered. In 1861 several parties wandered over the Darling Ranges, and a policeman found at Guildford some quartz showing gold. On 18th November Mr. Panter left Northam and scanned the remote parts of the district. He returned on 7th December with specimens. A meeting was held at Northam in November, when it was decided to collect subscriptions; by 22nd January, 1862, £2,500 was obtained; the Government contributed an equal sum. The Government offered by proclamation £5,000 to the discoverer of a workable goldfield within a radius of 150 miles of the Perth Post Office. The reward was to be paid for the first 5,000 ounces obtained from quartz or alluvial, and shipped to Great Britain before 1st July, 1863. Quartz showing free gold was found just before this time about twenty-five or thirty miles from Northam, but singular to say the discoverers could not again locate the place.

Mr. E. H. Hargraves, the noted New South Wales prospector, now wrote the Colonial Secretary, Mr. Barlee, offering to search in every settled portion of Western Australia for six months, or longer if necessary, in consideration of the Government paying him £500 and reasonable travelling expenses. The letter was laid before the Legislative Council on 3rd June, 1862, and the offer was accepted. Mr. Hargraves arrived in the colony later in the year, and examined the country from Albany to Northam and the Darling Ranges. He reported unfavourably, and termed Western Australia a trap country where gold could only exist in small quantities. He expressed, however, a high opinion of the lead and copper mines. On 11th January, 1864, he contributed a paper to the Royal Geographical Society in London "On the Non-Auriferous character of the Rocks of Western Australia." He affirmed that while the colony was rich in copper and iron it contained very little gold. A sample of local quartz, assayed at the Sydney mint in 1864, gave 5 dwts. 17 grains of gold to the ton.

Meanwhile, from the north-west at Camden Harbour and from the east at Hampton Plains reports were circulated of the presence of gold-bearing stone. We have already seen with what hope a search for gold was made at Camden Harbor, at the instigation of a convict. The specimens gathered by Mr. Hunt at Hampton Plains were submitted to the Rev. Clarke, of Sydney, in 1866. In a long and elaborate report he says no word of gold, but describes one specimen as "cavernous quartz, part of a vein, probably from granite." Undoubtedly this specimen was obtained within the area of the present eastern goldfields. Had Mr. Hunt but chanced upon certain glistening outcrops only a few miles from his track—as subsequent travellers did—the consequences to Western Australia would have been inestimable.

The Victorian Goldfields attracted large numbers of people from the colony in 1861-8. The intercolonial boats, and particularly the mail steamers, demanded certificates of freedom from every applicant for a passage, so as not to be prosecuted under the restrictive acts cf the eastern colonies. In 1864 the emigration was very serious, and it was suggested as a remedy that forced labour should not be allowed to compete with free, or that inducements in the form of small cheap blocks should be offered every free labourer. Nothing was done, and in some instances during this year agents of departing vessels had insufficient room to accommodate all the applicants. The total population of Western Australia in 1861 was 15,691, and in 1868, 22,733, made up of 14,539 males and 8,194 females.

The administration of Governor Hampton is significant for an important change—the inauguration of a semi-elective form of government. When it became known that the transportation of convicts was to cease, colonists considered that they were justified in asking to be allowed to elect representatives to the Legislative Council. They now averred that for some years such a change had been incompatible with the contingencies of transportation, under which the Governor must have dominant and sole control over public affairs and over dwellers in the colony. It would have been invidious to seek control where the Imperial Government had been so closely interested. But now that no more convicts were to be introduced it was conceived as opportune to ask for the favour which had been refused them for so many years. Local affairs had obtained such a momentum that the public deemed it only just that they should obtain at least a limited system of autonomy when the sister colonies were in possession of the boon. It was sometimes esteemed a slight that they as Britishers were not allowed to govern themselves, which was as much, indeed, as to say that they were not capable of doing so.