A few kilometres south of the Love Shack is a little town called Waihi, population around 6,600. It lies at the foot of the Coromandel Peninsula and has an average rainfall of 84 inches, which is only about twenty inches less than the wettest place in Oregon.
We paid a visit to Waihi a few days before my stay ended. The town grew up around the gold-mining industry in the late 1800's. A fact I didn't know: the Coromandel Peninsula was one of the great gold-mining districts of the world. The first prospectors discovered gold in 1878, but their samples were analysed and deemed to be not worthwhile, so they abandoned their claim. The claim was taken over by William Nicholl a year later and was soon prospering. He named his mine Martha, after a family member, and soon the Martha Mine was one of the most important gold and silver mines in the world.
Waihi was a centre of union unrest in the early Twentieth Century. One of the unionists was killed in the miners' strike of 1912 and, according to Wikipedia, this fact still causes some resentment in the town.
By the time the mighty Martha Mine closed in 1952, almost twelve million tonnes of ore had produced 5.6 million ounces of gold and 38.4 million ounces of silver. About 100 miles of tunnels had been driven into Martha Hill by this time. It closed, not because the gold had run out, but because of fixed gold prices, lack of manpower, and increasing costs.
An influx of hippies to the town in the 1970's brought in cottage industries that helped to supplement the economy of the town. It also brought in alternative festivals, which must have made life interesting!
Mining was resumed in the late 1980's, but now as an open pit over the top of the old underground mines. Several houses in the town had to be condemned and roads closed in the late 1990's as a result of damage caused by the collapse of underground tunnels. Many more properties were condemned and bought by the mine when they were identified as risks of collapse. The mining company, which drives 25-30% of the local economy, has instituted rigorous environmental procedures and shown a commitment to helping those harmed by the tunnel collapses. Nevertheless, I would say that investing in property in the town of Waihi is a dodgy business at best.
The mining equipment is humongous!
Go get your favourite little boy (or big man) and show him this gigantic dump truck.
To give you an idea of the scale of the pit, those little tiny vehicles on the left of the photo are similar to the dump truck above.
We left Waihi for more mining adventures, but I'll save those for another day.
Warning: you may be subjected to random cute baby pictures for a while.
Here is little Victoria, in her glorious chubbiness.
That is all.