From Coromandel to Te Puke, the region has been associated with gold mining for over 130 years. Thames, Karangahake, Waikino, Kuaotunu, and many other areas were the site of gold mines and stamper batteries. Many of the roads in the area started out as pack tracks and mining trails. Today, little is left apart from a few foundations and some rusting machinery on deserted sites, and the displays in museums such as those at Thames, Waihi and Waikino where the Victoria Battery at Waikino was recently opened to the public.
In 1878, however, all this was yet to come, as John McCombie and Robert Lee discovered gold in what was to become one of the great gold mining districts of the world...
- 1852: New Zealand’s first gold discovery. Charles Ring found gold at Kapanga Creek, Coromandel.
- 1878: John McCombie and Robert Lee discovered gold on Pukewa (Martha Hill).
- 1879: William Nicholl pegged a five acre claim over the diggings of McCombie and Lee and named it Martha after a family member. Underground mining commenced at Martha Hill.
- 1882: First stamper battery in operation, located near No.4 shaft & Junction Road
- 1890: Waihi Gold Mining Company Limited of London purchased the Martha Mine.
- 1894: The Waihi Gold Mining Company adopted the cyanide process for gold extraction, which was first trialled at Karangahake.
- 1897: Construction of Victoria Battery at Waikino commenced. Waihi School of Mines established and located in School Lane, Waihi.
- 1904: Cornish Pumphouse construction commenced at Martha Mine.
The Rake Line surrounded by mullock. The 'new' Cornish Pumphouse in the background 1910.
- 1912: Miners’ strike from May to November.
- 1913: The Waikato River’s first hydro electric power station was built by the Waihi Gold Mining Company at Horahora to supply power to the Victoria Battery and the Martha Mine. This structure is now beneath Lake Karapiro.
- 1947: Waihi School of Mines closed.
- 1952: Mine closure: during its life the Martha Mine produced 174,160 kg (5.6 million oz) of gold and 1,193,180 kg (38.4 million oz) of silver from 11,932,000 tonnes of ore. For 70 years the Martha was mined, employing a work force averaging 600 people. The underground workings extended to a depth of approximately 600m. At the completion of mining, dewatering also ceased and consequently the groundwater returned to its pre-mining water level.
- 1961: An area of land on Martha Hill subsided into early underground workings associated with the Royal Lode, leaving a crater approximately 40m in diameter. In later years the Waihi Borough Council filled the crater with various items including old car bodies.
The Modern Martha Mine
In the 1970s the gold price was relatively high. This sparked renewed interest in gold at Waihi. In contrast to the early mining on Martha Hill, environmental considerations were, and remain, a primary consideration in the planning and operation of mining projects.
- 1976: Waihi Mining and Development (Mineral Resources and Green & McCahill) obtained a Prospecting Licence on Martha Hill.
- 1979: Prospecting commenced on Martha Hill under a joint venture comprising Waihi Mining and Development, and Amax Exploration (New Zealand) Inc.
- 1985: The joint venture participants, now joined by Goodman Mining and United Gold Mines, submitted a Mining Licence Application and Environmental Impact Report.
- 1986: Water Rights applied for in January and Hearing held in August / September.
- 1987: Mining Licence Hearing commenced 26th January and concluded 27th March. Mining Licence granted 16th July and Water Rights issued 24th July. Construction activities commenced on 18th July and the present Waihi Gold Mining Company was formed. Work began to establish Gilmour Lake to replace Mine Lake which formed during the 1960s over a section of the old workings known as the Milking Cow.
- 1988: 15th May – First gold pour. 15th June – Official opening of the new Martha Mine. By December 26th the first tonne of bullion had been poured.
- 1989: Mine dewatering began in October.
- 1991: First grazing of cattle on rehabilitated Waste Rock Embankment.
- 1993: January – Gilmour Lake handed over to the Hauraki District Council.
- 1994: January – First Martha Mine Open Day.
- 1995: January – Martha Mine Open Day. February – Consultation commenced on the Extended Project proposals, continued throughout the permitting process, and is ongoing. April – H.E.L.P the Habitat Enhancement and Landcare Partnership implemented.
- 1996: January – Martha Mine Open Day, $50,000 donated to the planned Waihi Events Centre. Waihi Gold Mining Company announced Extended Project proposals.
- 1997: July – Extended Project Description completed. Applications lodged with Waikato Regional Council, Hauraki District Council, and Ministry of Commerce. These were accompanied by an Assessment of Environmental Effects and approximately thirty technical reports describing various aspects of the project in detail. August to September – The Resource Management Act applications were publicly notified and the public made submissions on the project. November – A Joint Hearing (involving both the Waikato Regional Council and Hauraki District Council) commenced. The Company presented evidence and members of the public also made submissions to the Hearings Committee.
- 1998: January – Martha Mine Open Day. March – The decision from the Joint Hearing was received. This was followed by a period of time in which all parties could appeal the decision and/or the conditions proposed for the Extended Project. The appeal period to the Environment Court for the RMA applications ended 31 March. August – September. Hearing of the RMA appeals, and the variation of the Mining Licence applications by the Environment Court. December – Decision of the Environment Court received. Resource Consents granted to extend mine life to 2007.
- 1999: January – Work on the Extended Project commenced. February – Subsidence and collapse of an area 40 metres in diameter occurred above the old Royal Workings. It involved the same mechanism, and was in the same area, as the 1961 collapse. July – Martha Mine Education Centre building completed. December – Extended Project infrastructure in place.
- 2000: Upgraded crushing, conveying, processing, and Water Treatment Plant commissioned. June – Martha Mine Education Centre opened. October – The one millionth ounce of gold was poured.
- 2001: Barry Road subsidence occurred above old workings on the Royal Lode.
- 2002: Newmont Mining Corporation took over ownership of Waihi Gold Mining Company.
- 2003: May – Waihi Community Consultative Committee (WCCC) formed as a community liaison forum. August – Golden Legacy Centre opened to provide information to the community about Favona, exploration and ‘Golden Legacy’ rehabilitation concepts.
- 2004: June – Company name changed to Newmont Waihi Gold Limited. August – Favona underground mine permitting process was completed. November – Ceremony held to mark the opening of the Favona portal.
- 2005: January – Construction began on Stage One of the Favona decline tunnel. January – 1.5 millionth ounce of gold was poured. February – Martha Mine Open Day.
- 2006: January – Cornish Pumphouse relocation project strengthening and earthworks began. September – Open pit stability cutback began, mining in open pit extended to 2010. November – Cornish Pumphouse relocation complete. Favona ore extraction commenced.
- 2007: Exploration drilling focused on west and east of open pit as well as continued exploration drilling in the regionDecember – Opening of new mine interpretation centre ‘Waihi’s Gold Story’ downstairs at the Waihi Visitor Centre
- 2008: January – Eighth Martha Mine Open DayMay – 20th anniversary of the first gold pour and 5th anniversary of Waihi Community Vision (formerly WCCC)
- 2010: January – ninth Martha Mine Open DayApril – Martha East Layback project began, mining in open pit extended to 2014June – Grand Junction Refinery building relocated to a site adjacent to the Pit Rim WalkwayDecember – Public Hearing on Land Use application to Hauraki District Council for Trio Mine Project
- 2011: January – Trio Consents granted, subject to appeals
- 2012: Trio production begins, Golden Link/Correnso application
- 2013: Golden Link/Correnso hearings
- 2014: Correnso production begins
- 2015: On 15 October 2015, the Overseas Investment Office announced its approval of the sale of Waihi Gold Company Ltd to Oceana Gold Corporation.
- 2016: June – Waihi Gold Company subsequently agreed to sell its Waihi mining operations to OceanaGold (New Zealand) Limited (OGNZL) with the handover date being 1 June 2016. April – Rock fall on the North wall of the open pit.
- 2018: May – Celebration of 30 years modern gold mining in Waihi. November – Project Martha hearings. December – Consents granted for Project Martha.
- 2019: May – Applied for mining permit at Wharekirauponga.
- 2020: July – Project Quattro announced.
- 2021: June – The Waihi North Project and the Martha Open Pit Project announced, superseding Project Quattro.
- 2022: June – Applications lodged with Waikato Regional Council and Hauraki District Council for the Waihi North Project.