Generally famous for its natural beauty New Zealand does have a wide variety of places and attractions which are quite unique and have their own vibrant history.
One such place is Waihi, most famous for its open pit gold mine.
I know the names of places are quite interesting here in New Zealand because of their Maori origins, still, I have learned that we should not laugh at these names.
The names like Ram-garh, Lax-man-garh etc. etc. are quite funny and gibberish to the people non-native to those parts of the world. The same happens to us here.
Coming back to the point, we got a chance to go to this place as we had a long weekend holiday because of the Waitangi Day.
There are so many places to see and visit in New Zealand that choosing few of them to be seen in 3 days is a task in itself. Believe me, when I say so because it needs a lot of discussion and planning.
Especially when the number of people is 5. Everyone has his own opinion.
We went to this place on Saturday 4 February and until Friday night, we didn't have any idea what we would be doing on the weekend. However, unanimity prevailed when we heard about this place and all agreed to see the GOLD MINE.
Prior bookings had to be made before reaching there as the guided tour of the gold mines takes only 11 people at a time. We made the booking on Saturday morning and were quite relaxed that we would be finally seeing a real mine.
The drive to Waihi was a smooth one as all the usual drives in New Zealand till now, as there are only vast pastures, cattle and sheep to be seen once we get out of the towns.
The drive was only a 100 km, probably less than that and it took us only an hour and a half to reach there well in time. We got ourselves registered for the tour and walked on to see the town. Being closely associated with the gold mine, the town has all the heritage related to the same e.g. we found statues of workers on the main street of the town.
We could see the quite town market in less than half an hour and after some photo clicks, we went to the assembly point to start the guided tour. The guy (i think his name was Murray, not sure though) who took our registration details for the tour was the tour guide himself. We were 11 people in total, us 5 and 3 old couples on a usual holiday. They were quite old, I must say; I have never seen such old couples holidaying in India.
We got into a 12 seater van and started to go around. Although we had seen the open pit mine just minutes before the tour, we started from the authorised entry point of the mines. Murray showed us the old equipment used in mining. Then we climbed to the topmost point of the mine from where we were given a lot of information about how the mines work, how the city lives on with the mine etc.
We came to know that there are 2 major mines in the area Martha Mine and Favona mine.
The one which we saw first was Martha Mine, the open pit one. The other one was underground and no one was allowed to go inside that except the authorised personnel.
Murray also told that some parts of the city are supposed to have gold in the ground beneath the colonies. He then also told that his house also sits on a potential gold mine and he can be a billionaire. I thought he was joking.
We got to see the whole Martha Mine from 2 different viewpoints and learned that how difficult the whole process of getting out gold was. Meanwhile, we were clicking the usual photographs.
While discussing with Murray about the extraction techniques used, he came to know that we were engineers and had some knowledge about the whole process. Then he seemed to be more interested in explaining us the whole process.
Finally, we were taken to the Favona mines opening portal and got to know how things worked there.
I am not mentioning the technical details here as it would be too boring.
Murray also showed us a 10 gm gold tablet and 100 gm silver tablet which had been minted after extracting from the Martha mine. We were quite cheerful to see the gold finally.
He also told that in the gold factory no one except authorised ones can go inside and we all under the camera surveillance. He told that the manufactured bullion bars go to Perth, Australia for separating the silver from the gold. The interesting fact here is the gold ore contains silver apart from gold which is almost 3 times the quantity of gold.
We asked Murray when does the transfer of the bullion bars happen from the Waihi plant to Perth and joked that a real 'Italian Job' can be made here.
He replied that it was the BILLION dollar question and no one knew the answer to it. :)
The whole tour took 2-2.5 hours, but I really enjoyed it as it was interesting to actually see the whole technique which we had read only in textbooks.
If you are interested in seeing what was the actual process of mining out the gold, here is the link :-
It was a great experience seeing the mine and understanding how the whole thing works. It would be etched in my memory for a long time now.