Meekatharra - Development in the Mining Technology in the last Century

The Meekatharra Battery operated from March 1901 until February 28th 1987.
During that time it produced 208'219 ounces (5'900 kg) of gold from 290'927 tons of ore.

Like many other throughout Western Australia the battery was established and run by the State government.

The State Battery was a focal point for mining around Meekatharra.
It gave prospectors and individual miners the opportunity to have their hard-won ore crushed, treated and the gold extracted.

Throughout its life it was considered a "prospector's battery" - there for the "little man".
It operated right through the depression, the two World Wars, and the down turn in gold experienced in the 1940s and 50s.

Even when there was not a single large mine operating in the Murchison the "battlers" could still bring ore in to be crushed.
Without the Battery the prospectors and miners could not have stayed - and without the prospectors and miners Meekatharra may not have survived.

The Battery filled an important social role in Meekatharra, as an employee with a work-force of up to twenty men working in three eight hour shifts.

Imagine the air of expectancy when the battery boiler was first fired.
When steam was raised the pistons and connecting rods would begin to slide, turning tile long sickle-shaped cams to lift the heavy stampers and let them come thumping down on the rocky ore piled below.
Now the gathered miners would at last see whether or not their toil would bear fruit ....

As technology and heavy engineering advanced so the method of crushing gold-bearing ore changed.
Gradually a variety of "mills" replaced batteries as the primary means of reducing large lumpy ore to "fines".

By the 1950s ball mills and rod mills were becoming the dominant means of crushing rock.
The ore fed into this cylinder would most likely have already passed through a primary crusher, which would have reduced it to chunks of around 50 mm.
Water was added, too, and as the mill rotated long heavy steel rods (usually 50 - 100 mm diameter) smashed the ore against the sides, reducing it to smaller and smaller pieces.
The "Slurry" formed through this process poured from the mill and was sent to the separation process which ultimately produced the gold.

Rod mills naturally suffered considerable wear-and-tear, despite their heavy-gauge construction.
Many show signs of frequent patching - though this one appears relatively intact.
It may have been used as recently as the 1980s.

The Berdan pan was a reasonably common piece of equipment in the gold-rush days.
The process of amalgamation has been central to gold mining for a very long time.
Some took the place of a battery (in small-scale operations) while others were part of the battery process.
This one operated at the Meekatharra State Battery right up until it closed in 1987.



No liability for timeliness, integrity and correctness of this document is accepted.
Last updated: Friday, 04.06.2010 12:16 PM