History of West Australia/Frank Bissenberger

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READERS will probably be particularly interested in the biographies of those men who take an active part in the mining industry. They will want to know what sort of men are most prominent, and what are their recommendations. Distance or business demands may prevent their discovering these things for themselves.

Frank Bissenberger HOFWA.jpg
Photo by
Greenham & Evans.

This work includes sketches of the careers of the principal prospectors and experts. It is highly necessary, in the interests of the future of gold mining in Western Australia, that men of large mining experience should be at the helm of the different fields. Indifferent knowledge of geology and practical mining are of no avail. Men are required who have devoted long years of mining enterprise, and who are experienced in its following in other countries. Such men are the most likely to attract capital. And the capitalist has a right to demand, before he invests, the credentials of those who administer his money.

Captain Frank Bissenberger was born in Hungary in 1852, and as a youth studied geology and mining and served an apprenticeship in engineering. An Austrian subject, he was required to spend a period in the military service, and for five years he was in the Sappers and Mining Engineers corps. Thus he became acquainted with the theoretical and practical part of engineering, and gained an excellent grounding in mining.. Moreover, in after years he learnt much of practical mining. In 1875 he left Austria, and settled in Adelaide, South Australia. For two years he followed the occupation of an engineer, whereupon he went to the Gawler Ranges, north-west of Adelaide, and prospected for copper. At that time it was believed that copper deposits, almost as famous as those at the Burra Burra, existed in the Gawler Ranges, but, though Captain Bissenberger found indications, nothing of any importance eventuated from his work. Next at Ulooloo, near Mount Bryan, he followed gold mining in the alluvial for some months. This goldfield, like nearly all those in the sister colony, is tantalising, for while the prospects are excellent, the realisation is seldom above mediocrity. However, Captain Bissenberger was able to pay his way, and to invest in quartz mining on the same field. Then came the rumour of silver finds at Silverton, and Captain Bissenberger went to them. He spent some five years working among the silver and tin mines on the Barrier Ranges, and increased his money. At last he tired of mining, and looked with envy on the quiet homes of the settlers at Mildura. He went down to that Garden of the Murray, purchased a farm from Chaffey Bros., and worked it. Subsequently he combined this work with an appointment which he obtained from Chaffey Bros.—that of engineering inspector.

But this secluded life soon palled, and after a few months Captain Bissenberger left Mildura, and turned again to mining. The Teetulpa Goldfields were then creating excitement throughout South Australia, and hopes were entertained that a payable goldfield was at last discovered. Captain Bissenberger spent six months at Teetulpa, when, recognising that there was little future before it, he returned to Adelaide. He was not there long before he was appointed manager of the Countess of Jersey Mine at Wadnaminga, in the north. Twelve months later he relinquished the position to work the Earl of Kintore Mine on tribute. He did fairly well out of this venture, and placed his money in the banks. It would have been just as well had he left the gold in the earth's storehouse, for the financial crisis and the closing and subsequent reconstruction of the banks absorbed his money.

At Adelaide Captain Bissenberger now organised a syndicate, and in 1893 came to Western Australia to endeavour to secure some good mines. He made his way to Coolgardie, whence after a few days he went to Hannan's. In neither of these places did he see just what he required. He journeyed to White Feather, and took up four leases of twelve acres each. His first experiences there were not of the pleasantest. He arrived on a terribly hot and thirsty day, and water cost 4s. 6d. a gallon. But these leases formed the nucleus of his useful connection with the goldfields of Western Australia. At first the four were worked separately, one named the Bissenberger Mine, and the other the White Feather Reef. They are now amalgamated, under the title of the White Feather Main Reef Company, and give promise of a lucrative career.

Since then Captain Bissenberger has been busy. He became connected as expert with the Henry Parsons' Syndicate, a very strong Perth body. He purchased for them, at a low figure, the Robinson Gold Mine, which, with an adjoining property, has since been floated. In connection with Mr. H. D. Parsons, Captain Bissenberger has acted as advisor, or expert, for a number of mines, and with Mr. J. S. Reed and others has assisted in the flotation of a large number of companies. He last year visited London on mining business; altogether, he has floated on the London market mining ventures representing 1,400 acres. He is general manager of the Easter Gift Proprietary Gold Mining Company, and consulting engineer to the English Exploration Company. His confidence in the future of the Western Australian goldfields is great.

Captain Bissenberger has, therefore, had a fairly extensive experience of mining. He is considered a practical miner, and his opinion is esteemed as worth having. There is every likelihood of his greatly extending his connection with the local gold mines. A student of geology and a practical man in one should be cordially welcomed by local goldfield's people and by capitalists elsewhere.