Birthday Reef’s gold-bearing quartz a job creator

Snowy River workers (from left) Luke O'Connell, Charlotte Buxton-Blue and Alex Watson in front of...
Snowy River workers (from left) Luke O'Connell, Charlotte Buxton-Blue and Alex Watson in front of the famed Birthday Reef beneath Waiuta on the West Coast. Photo: Federation Mining
More than 70 years after it was last worked, miners have finally reached the rich Birthday Reef beneath old Waiuta township, south of Reefton.

Federation Mining's tunnelling reached the gold-bearing quartz reef at the weekend, meaning staff can now touch the deposits.

Birthday Reef has not been worked since July 1951, when there was a major collapse in the original Blackwater shaft. Soon after, the company's London-based board of directors decided to abandon the mine. With no alternative employment in the area, within just a few weeks many miners and their families had abandoned Waiuta, and a few months later it was almost a ghost town.

A couple of years ago Australian-owned Federation Mining began tunnelling in from the nearby Snowy River side, aiming for the famed reef.

"Over the weekend our team developed on to the Birthday Reef," the company said in an update on Monday.

"This is an exciting milestone for the Snowy River project with the interception of the reef at a depth of 880m below surface and was accessed via our southern decline (tunnel)."

By gaining access to the reef, staff could now take samples.

Federation said it would provide "important insights for our technical teams to confirm our geotechnical and extraction strategies as we progress closer to moving the project into a production phase."

Greymouth Mayor Tania Gibson said the mine was a great benefit to the West Coast economy.

It came as other positive discussions were occurring in the mining sector, she said, referring to the upbeat remarks by Resources Minister Shane Jones during his visit to Greymouth last week.

Hitting the Birthday Reef was a major achievement and a big obstacle to overcome.

As the mine cranked up, there would be more downstream benefits for the economy, Mrs Gibson said.

"Investors are looking in many areas," she said, noting improvements to the Greymouth central business district.

Federation expects the workforce to grow to 140 when it moves into gold production.

The old Blackwater Mine produced 21 tonnes of gold before the shaft collapsed.