Shale Mine.

Murrurundi and Quirindi Times. 
Friday July 12. 1907.

The Shale Mine.

With the object of gaining experience and giving the children an insight into how shale was obtained, Sir. W. S. Goard took a detachment of Public School pupils to the shale mine last week. Thinking that it would induce the children to take more observant notice of the visit, we offered a prize to the boy or girl who would write the best description of the trip and matters concerning the mine. The contingent went well prepared with pencils, notebooks, etc., and nothing seemed to be missed on the way in or out. If nothing else, they have the honour of giving the first cheers at the mine. However, every child did his or her best, and among the large number sent us to judge there were some very creditable compositions for children of tender years. The whole of the compositions were numbered when delivered to us, and it was not until selecting the best by the number, and inquiring from the head-master, that we knew the name of the winner. Some of the remarks of the juveniles were most amusing, one in particular being that the miners never see daylight until it is night, and so forth. Our decision is that No. 9 is by far the best composition, and most instructive on the shale mine. We have, therefore, much pleasure in awarding Master Ray Goard the prize. It is our intention to publish a few of the best in different issues. The following is the winning contribution.

A VISIT TO THE MURRURONDI SHALE MINE. We, the children of the fourth and fifth classes of the Murrurundi Public School, numbering 38 (23 boys and 15 girls), started from the school in charge of the headmaster, at 9.30 p.m., on an excursion to the Murrurundi Shale Mine. After starting, we had some pretty hard climbing up the hills. We went round on top of some ridges, and, after following up tracks, we reached the top. We had several good views of the town. When we got near the top of the mountain we made a sketch of the horizon opposite us. The day was nice and warm, and suitable for the day's outing. There was hardly a cloud in the sky to be seen. We were on the look out for birds, but we scarcer-saw or heard any. We got on top and made our way down the other side on a track for about two miles. The climb down was a rather rough bridle track, but not so steep as the climb up from Murrurundi.

First we saw the miners' huts. There
were four bark huts and two tents. They were on the bank of a fresh water creek. Soon after we got there we were introduced to Mr. McDonald. Then we boiled our billies. Each child had his dinner with him. Then dinner being over we went but a short distance to the mine. It is a little tunnel with a slabbed roof and wall for a short distance in. It has a narrow trolly-line leading into it. A pony draws this trolly in, and out again full of shale, where it is thrown out by hand ou a heap of shale.

The shale when pressed and rubbed a good deal, that is in the ground, looks like marble on the sides, but in the middle it is like a mass of slate. The shale is good, but the poorest shale will produce at least 30 to 40 gals, of oil to the ton. The richest produces 130 gals, to the ton. A short distance in the mine is a furnace, but it looks only like an ordinary fire. It is to make a draught and send it round the mine. The mine is about one-fifth of a mile in length. When you get level with the furnace the mine gradually slopes down to a shaft.

Twelve hands are employed at the mine, under the management of Mr. McDonald, to whom we were introduced, and he devoted the rest of the day to showing us round and explaining. When the children were taken in they were divided into three batches, and each hatch taken in separately. When the miners want the shale, instead of always using picks, they bore a hole with a borer called a ' ratchet drill ' in the shale about 134 inches in diameter
and 2ft. 3in. deep. Then they put in a charge of rack-a-rock,' to which a cap and fuse are fixed. Then they put some earth in and light the fuse. Then, this done, the stuff explodes, breaking off pieces of shale.

First-class shale contains 80 per cent, of hydro-carbons, and yields from 110 to 120 gallons per ton of petrolium oil. Very likely first-class shale will be retorted here, and the other sent away tor treatment 900 acres of ground, freehold, and 11,000 acres leasehold, for respecting, have been bought by the company, of which 50 acres on the level land at the junction of two creeks is reserved for workmen's cottages. This reserve is about half-a-mile below the mine. Fire tunnels have been driven for prospecting by the new manager, and very satisfactory results have been obtained. The main heading, or drive, runs from 12 to 15 chains into the heart of the mountain with a downward slope. The seam slopes to the north aud west. The manager states that from results as tested, he finds that the black soil, intermixed with basaltic rocks, overlies a layer 25 to 60 feet of Carboniferous shale, which is a second class product. Below this is the firstquality seam of shale, which is from 5 to 6 feet in depth, and still lower appears Carboniferous shale and sandstone, 25ft., resting 0n another layer of basalt. The retorts for treating the shale will most likely be erected at the foot of the mountain lying to the north west of the town of Murrurundi, and quite adjacent to the town.

Recently small samples were sent home to England for testing, but it is intended to send home 100 tons in the near future. The hewing rate of shale would
vary from 3/6 to 37/6 per ton according to convenience. In places it has been found that the levels of the seam have been interrupted, probably due to volcanic action, the continuation of the seam being higher or lower. These breaks in the seam make it rather difficult to work. We were shown another mine which was started. It was not very long, and instead of a trolly, a wheelbarrow was used. It goes in level for a few yards and then slopes on to a hill with a chimney for the furnace.

There is a stable for horses, and a little blacksmith's shop. In the shop is a pair of hand bellows, an anvil, tools, iron, and some benches. The mines were dark, so we used some little miners' safety lamps which they hook on to their caps. When we had seen these we returned to the camp. After thanking the manager, we gave him three cheers and left at 4.4 p.m. When we were coming home, we took the same track, and got to the town at 5.30 p.m. While in conversation with the manager a few days ago, he informed us that there are now 13 hands employed at the mine, some being put on this week. The company have been at a disadvantage in not having a vehicular road to the mine, but
several hands are now engaged making one.

Mr. McDonald is very confident that a big company will soon be successfully formed. About 50 acres of level land have been secured for a township, and when word is received, arrangements will be made for the erection of 25 cottages. The shale will be carried over the mountain by an endless tramway, and put in the trucks at Temple Court. The miners are now engaged getting out 60 tons of first-class shale, and 60 tons of second grade, which is to be sent to Glasgow for assay. Let us hope that the results will most successful.

4th July 1914.
The Maitland weekly Mercury.

Murrurundi Shale Mine.


It is expected that oil will be produced at the British-Australian Oil Company's works at, Murrurundi, within two months. The shale in this locality is very rich. The average yield at present in Scotland is between 20 and 30 gallons per ton, but the shale in Australia is very much richer in quality. At Murrurundi first-class shale yields as much as 112 gallons of crude oil per ton, so that the prospects of the industry are highly satisfactory. This. of course, is odvious, as notwithstanding the low yield of Scotch shales, the industry is still a profitable one, but capable management must have been responsible for the excellent results which have been obtained. Now a great deal can be said on the question of management generally in the oil industry. Not a few concerns with large capitals have failed to justify the reports upon which they obtained their capital from the public, and if an inquiry were instituted in those cases probably most of the failures or partial failures would be attributable to inexperienced management. 


For the oil industry generally considerable experience is necessary to obtain successful results, but in the shale oil branch of the industry more than average experience and knowledge are requisite. There is no more striking exemplification of this fact than is evidenced by the present position of the shale properties at Murrurundi, which are owned by the British-Australiao Oil Company, Limited. This company, it is interesting to recall, came into existence in March, 1910, and, according to the statements which were made in the prospectus at the time of issue, from eighteen months to two years was the time specified to erect the necessary plant aud machinery for the development of the property. As a matyer of fact, the-system of organisation has been so excellently planned and carried out that the works will be completed several months earlier than was specified. Prospectuses so often err on the wrong side but it is refreshing to find them erring on the right side — from the public point of view. And the same thing applies to the capital expenditure. The usual practice is co exceed the amount specified, but in the case of the British-Australian Oil Company, Ltd., the amount expended is considerably less than the original estimate, so that the company will start their trading operations with increased working capital.


In the short 'space of time which has elapsed since the company was formed, it is apparent that not a moment's delay can have taken place in arranging the erection of the plant — which is all nearly completed. Then, the plant will be capable of manufacturing 3'ooo,ooo' gallons of crude oil per annum. An aerial railway is being constructed to convey the shale to the crude oil works, which are situated on tbe other side 01 the adjacent hill, the top of which rises to an altitude of 1700ft. The carrying capacity of the railway is 1000 tons per 24 hours. The company have also built a railway on their property, and the time occupied in its construction was only three months, although a bridge 100ft in length had to be erected on the route. They also make their own bricks and likewise provided their timber supplies from the clay and trees on their own property. The crude oil will not be refined at Murrurundi, but at Newcastle, N S.W., about 125 miles distant. The refinery property is 20 acres in extent, and from the economic aspect it is admirably situated, as Newcastle, is one of tbe principal ports in New South Wales, and is a good market for oil. As the present annual consumption of oil in Australia is over 23,000,000 gallons, the shale industry should prove a considerable boon to the State, and greatly aid its wealth production.

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12.06 | 20:33

What a wonderful story, enjoyed it very much.

06.06 | 22:53

What great history that now seems to be forgotton. ⚓🦉🐉🦂💙👑

10.05 | 15:31

Takes me back to wonderful childhood days visiting "Merrieton" and "Towarri". At about age 12, I thought Tony (aged about 24) was the most handsome chap around

06.01 | 15:43

Which farm did "Pop Mackelvane" have, I was there during the last part of the second war.

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