The Ooloo silver-lead mine, situated on Murnpeowie station on the Strzelecki Track, was discovered by Hermann Rieck in 1923. Within a year it was stated by the Mines Department that the discovery did not appear to become a mine of any significance, but that there was justification for further exploration by a small syndicate. In 1931 it was stated it only could be worked if a very much higher price could be obtained for the metal. Ore of more than 59 per cent lead would be required to cover road, rail, freights and other costs.
In September 1931, during the Port Augusta Council meeting Councillors Riches and Bolitho moved that information supplied by Hermann Rieck in respect of the Ooloo Silver Lead mine be forwarded to the State and Federal members for the district requesting them to place the facts before the Governments, urging them to arrange for a satisfactory test of the field to be made below the surface. This was carried.
A month later Messrs. Butterfield and Harvey forwarded a letter from the Director of Mines respecting the Ooloo Silver-Lead mine, setting out that the mine was inspected in 1930, and ore was not found In payable quantities. The diamond drill was required in other localities and it was not deemed expedient to test the field by this means.
Councillor Riches said the Director's report was a year old and since that visit Mr Rieck had proved the mine to be a much bigger proposition. He moved that the matter be taken up with the Department again, and that the Director be asked, in view of the fact that a diamond drill was not available, to grant necessary assistance to enable Mr Rieck to make a systematic test of the claim. This was agreed.
The Ooloo Silver Lead Mining Company was registered in South Australia on 8 January 1936. The company's capital came from the issue of seven hundred shares of five pound each. It bought three mineral claims of 40 acres, numbers 11,850, 15,099 and 15,098, from Hermann Rieck who had discovered the deposit and paid for it with four hundred fully paid up shares in the company.
Out of this parcel of four hundred shares Rieck had to pay Joseph Henry Turner of Cowell 133 shares for assistance rendered. Therefore only 300 shares were available to be sold, which amounted to £1500, not too much really to start a mining venture in such an isolated area.
In February of that year it was reported that ‘Splendid reports have been obtained from assays, but appeals for Government assistance to prove his claim with a diamond drill have not been favourably received. Now a company has been formed to take over and work the claim. The company proposes to take over from the vendors 120 acres, consisting of three mineral claims of 40 acres, each situated at Murnpeowie. Considerable development work has been done, consisting of a shaft 70 feet deep disclosing a reef 2 to 8 ft wide.
Another shaft 30 ft deep had been sunk on the reef, the width of which has not been ascertained as the load is showing the full width of the shaft. The vendors have received no cash payment and are satisfied to accept in payment 400 fully paid up shares. The directors are Messrs. H Krantz, WG Venus, H Rieck and O Heysen. Several Port Augusta businesspeople and citizens have taken an interest in Mr. Rieck's claim for some years and have purchased shares in the new company.
Later his son, Frank Rieck, wrote in Life as I see it, that when his father discovered the deposit he thought that at last his battle for years had ended. He also hoped that fortunes would soon be revealed by the large area of surface tracings and indications of two separate lodes of ore carrying good prospects of silver and lead. Samples assayed gave up to 120 ounces of silver and up to 80% of lead to the ton. With figures like these it was perhaps understandable that Hermann dreamed of the establishment of a large city next to his mine.
The first directors of the newly formed company were Hirsch Krantz of Magill, Wilton G. Venus of Fullarton, Otto Heysen of Tusmore and Hermann Rieck of Port Augusta, who was also going to be the mine's manager at five pounds per week. A fair amount of work had already been done by Rieck who had opened up two distinct lodes showing lead, silver, zinc and small quantities of gold.
Both lodes ran in an east-west direction and could be traced on the surface for a distance of some four hundred metres. Two shafts had been sunk, one of ten metres on the southern side and another shaft of twenty-three metres on the northern side of the lode.
An offer to buy the ore had been received from OT Lenspriere and when a hundred shares had been sold the company proposed to start further work. By 10 February 108 shares had been sold and work was commenced. Among the shareholders there were several Turners, including Samuel Reginald Turner of Lock and Russell James Turner of Mangalo. There was also a Clifford Reuben Davison of Adelaide and Ernest Riches of Murnpeowie.
Share Certificate kindly supplied by Harold Riches.
Meanwhile the Department of Mines had agreed to advance half the cost of shaft sinking to depth of 100 feet. However it was soon realised that much better possibilities were showing at the northern end of the claims and all plant, including the water pumping equipment were moved to that area. Once again the Mines Department granted assistance to the company for sinking the northern shaft to 120 feet and a cross cutting at 100 feet.
It all looked very promising and Joseph Henry Turner bought an additional seven shares, taking his holding now to one hundred and forty. Ernest Riches had bought another six and now held twenty shares. In May 1937 the directors had sold another 40 of the unissued shares and with the proceeds purchased a drilling plant which was being forwarded to the mine. The plant would be brought into operation when the present shaft sinking contract was completed, and would be used to test the mine at depth.
The first annual meeting of the Ooloo Silver-Lead Mining Company was held on 29 June 1937. The directors' report and accounts for the period ending 31 March were adopted. The chairman reported that developments to 23 June at the mine were as follows: Since work began at the northern shaft, as advised by the Mines Department, the shaft has been deepened from 69 to 81 ft. The contractor advised that at 69 ft the lode was half-way across the shaft and about 4 ft in width and contained a quartz reef carrying lead, measuring 10 to 14 inches.
At 81 ft the lode formation had narrowed to 18 in. and appeared to be slate rock in a state of decay. The quartz reef had dwindled away to about 3 in. A drive was then begun at the 73 ft level in a westerly direction and this revealed some interesting stone. The drive had been continued for 12 ft and had exposed a lode of 6 to 14 in. wide which appeared to carry high values of ore. Samples had been sent for assay and we are now awaiting results.
These samples were submitted to the Mines Department, who spoke favourably of them and advised the directors to continue the drive in order to ascertain the length of this lode. In the meantime the drive was being extended and the contractor considered that indications pointed to the continuance and Improvement of the lode. It was stated that by driving westwards, ‘we are working almost parallel to the northern boundary of the claim and in the direction of the adjoining claim which is also held by the company’.
An option had been takes by the company over the block adjoining the northern side and this protected them for any lodes parallel to the one on which they were working. The option expired on 28 October. The directors had recently purchased a boring plant for £200 delivered at the mine. They consided that this would be an excellent proposition for the mine as it was capable of testing the values down to 1.000 ft.
It had not been necessary to pay out any funds to get this plant, as 40 £5 shares were issued to provide funds. The amount of cash in hand was £95. As it was the first annual meeting all the directors retired, and as the result of a poll the following were elected: Messrs. M Clotz, JJC Pearce, H Rieck, JH Turner and WG Venus.
A year later Krantz as chairman, reported to the board of directors that a loss of £225 had been made and would be carried forward. To develop the mine during the past year had cost £562. Of that amount the sum of £160 had been obtained from the Mines Department as a subsidy, which had to be repaid. The report also stated that during the past year the directors had worked closely with the Mines Department and following their recommendation transferred its operations to the northern lode.
A contract was let for the deepening of the existing shaft and in view of previous assays of ore taken from this shaft; some interesting reports should be available in the near future. Last but not least it was pointed out that, in order to conserve all the funds possible for the further development of the mine, the directors had agreed not to accept any fees for their services’.
By August 1937 splendid progress had been made at the Ooloo mine. Some local residents who were holding substantial interests in this show had visited the mine. They returned delighted with the prospects. Work was confined to extending the drive at the 70ft level on the northern shaft. Some excellent ore was obtained in this drive and it was intended to sink another shaft about 90 ft west of the present workings.
An open cut about 20 ft long and 8 ft deep disclosed some very rich ore and was well worthy of further sinking. A first-class staff was employed at the mine and every confidence was placed in them. Some specimens of the ore were brought to the surface and could be seen at the offices of JH Turner and GJ Payne.
Early in October there was a big fire at the mine when the camp and belongings, including food, clothing, etc. of both Mr and Mrs Riches were destroyed. Fortunately everyone tried to help out and a few weeks later Riches put a Thank You note in the local papers which read, On behalf of my wife and family I wish to thank all people for their donations and kind help in our recent misfortune caused by fire at Ooloo Silver Lead Mine; especially thanking Mr and Mrs JH Turner, Mr and Mrs GJ Payne, Mr and Mrs Fred Allen and Mr and Mrs FL Williams.
When summer was finished in 1938 it was decided to sell the boring plant. It was advertised as complete with engine, cables, bits, jumper bars and power blower. It could be inspected at the mine, near Farina. Its original cost had been £900. The directors would accept £200 cash with the engine, or £150 without. Further particulars could be obtained from Turner, Adamson and Co. Chartered Accountants, 33 Pirie St Adelaide.
At the same time it was reported that the Mines Department had granted another subsidy to the company to assist is deepening Turner's shaft to 150 feet. GJ Payne, of Cowell was appointed director to fill a vacancy caused by the departure of another director who was leaving for Melbourne.
On 12 March 1938 Joseph Henry Turner was elected director of the company and had one of the shafts named after him. He had to solve several problems. During the dry weather the track to the mine was passable but work had to be done on it to carry heavy traffic. A dam had to be constructed before a large number of men could be employed and a diesel pump had to be installed to keep the shafts free of water. All this would need a lot of capital, which was not available.
Two weeks later the directors of the Ooloo Company stated that, in view of the recent favourable results by the mine contractor, a general report on the mine has been obtained from Mr FJA Plummer. In order to carry out the recommendations contained in the report, the directors have decided to seek fresh capital.
A meeting was called for 26 April at the boardroom of the Chamber of Manufactures to authorise an increase in the nominal capital to £35,000 divided into 70.000 shares of 10 shillings each. Of these 7.000 will be issued to existing shareholders in lieu of their 700 £5 shares, and 14,000 10/ shares will be offered for subscription, in the first instance to shareholders in proportion to their holdings. Shares not applied for, if an, will be available to the public.
At the same meeting it was also decided that the number of directors shall not be more than six or less than three, each of whom shall, during such term as he holds office be the holder of such number of shares to the aggregate nominal value of at least £25. It was further agreed that each of the existing £5 shares in the capital of the company be divided into ten shares of 10/ each upon each of which shares 10/ should be credited as paid up.
The chairman of directors Mr WG Venus gave a summary of the work which had been done since the last general meeting and the matters which had influenced the directors to recommend the increase of capital. At the end of August, the contractor, E Riches, had experienced difficulty in coping with the water in the northern shaft. As the inflow was beyond the capacity of the company a new shaft was sunk.
After reaching 100 ft. in the second shaft, water trouble was again experienced, and further sinking was impossible until additional pumping plant was available. In view of the present prospects it would be a calamity if further exploration could not be made for want of capital. Mr PJA Plummer, a mining engineer who inspected the mine at the request of the directors, said that the work which had been done had established the existence of two rich lodes.
As there were still a large number of unemployed men in the northern areas, the Port Augusta Council was of the opinion that large numbers of men could be employed at the Ooloo Silver Lead Mine and on the Glenloth and Tarcoola gold fields and suggested a more definite attempt to exploit these fields. Nothing came of it and on 26 May 1939 a meeting was held to consider the appointment of a Liquidator of the Company and fix his remuneration.
Even with the additional money the company had been unsuccessful and on 30 May 1939 it was decided that it would be wound up voluntarily and all its property put up for sale. On 7 October 1939 a final general meeting was held to receive an account of the winding up and any explanation thereof.
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