Mui Wo Silver Mine – 1905 newspaper article

Tymon Mellor’s article, Mui Wo Silver Mine – Part One – The Owner provides much information about Ho A Mei who promoted and developed the mine that lent its name to the well known Silver Mine Bay on Lantau island. Tymon has sent this Hong Kong Telegraph article published in 1905 which provides guidance on the plant and a plan to re-open the mine.

Many thanks to Mark Regan and John Smith for typing out the article and valiantly attempting to interpret the last couple of paragraphs.

Silver Mine Bay Mine 1 HK Telegraph 23.9.1905

HK Telegraph 23.9.1905 p10

Our Mineral Resources – The New Territories – Prospective Development

Close upon twenty-five years ago a party of Chinese went over to Tai Yu-shan on the island of Lantau, taking with them a little powder to blast away the surface of some rock. They soon satisfied themselves that there was ore hidden beneath the hills, and having found the owners of the island arranged to lease this portion at a rent of $2,000 a year. Permission to work a mine was ontained from the provincial government of Canton, and on the advice of Professor Milne, who pointed out that they had the advantage of water there and could work a mine very economically, and that if the lode was continuous it would be a paying concern, they determined to float a company, and soon had one started with a capital of $10,000. This was the first step towards the erection of smelting works at Tai Yu-shan, the ruins of which can still be seen today by those who go over to Lantau and anchor in…SILVER MINE BAY

The mine, which is on the face of a hill not quite a mile from the sea, is approached through a beautiful valley running away from a sandy shore now transformed into a western seaside resort for visitors and pleasure-seeking picnic parties. Those who have ventured into the dark and damp levels and disturbed the haunt of thousands of bats flitting noiselessly beneath a dripping roof, can form some idea of the working of the powerful arm of industry, which some two decades ago transformed this spot into a hive of bustling activity. The mining industry in China, worked under European supervision and with machinery, was then in its infancy, and there were many difficulties to contend with. At this particular mine there was a good deal of sickness and at times things were at a very low ebb in consequence of the workmen refusing to go to their work and the Europeans engaged being unable to do so in consequence of ill-health. But progress was made and the smelting works got into thorough working order. The extent of the operations can be gathered from the following description:-

THE SMELTING WORKS.

From the mines to the shore where the works were located the ore was taken in buckets running on an endless wire rope, while the crushing process was carried out in a large building the roof and walls of which were entirely made of galvanised  iron. A fifty-horse power engine and boiler gave motion to a stone-breaker, three pairs of crushing rollers, eight jiggers and two buddles, being placed on the top floor; while in the lower part of the works were a thirty-horse power boiler which set in motion a twelve-horse power engine driving four fruevanners, a six-horse power engine working a lift to the top of the mill, a 3,000 feet long wire rope tramway to the mines, and another six-horse power engine for driving the blasts of the furnaces. In the furnace house were eight furnaces of various types, all connected by flues and a condenser to a chimney sixty-feet high, standing on the hillside about a hundred feet above their level. A hydraulic motor was driven by water from a twelve-inch main of iron pipes 2,000 feet up the mountain side where a dam for collecting the water had been constructed.  These were the works which a visitor to Tai Yu-shan would have found at Silver Mine Bay some fifteen years ago. The soft hand of Nature has now laid her cloak of green around the remains, the walls have long since crumbled away, and only the cemented floor is observed near the beach where it serves the peasants from the dwellings close by as a drying ground for rice and fish. On the neighbouring hillside stands the chimney, commanding an excellent view of the entrance to the mine, with tons of excavated earth banked up from the running stream some fifty feet below.

PROPOSED REOPENING BY HONGKONG CAPITALISTS

And now, after the lapse of many years, the question of recommencing mining operation has been brought forward, and we have good authority for stating that a number of influential business gentlemen in Hongkong contemplate associating with this object in view. As most of the shafts are flooded it will be necessary for powerful pumping gear to be taken across to Tai Yu-shan and this we understand is about to be done by those interested in the enterprise. There is no doubt, of course, that the mineral resources of Southern China are inexhaustible, and with capital, patience and good management could be worked easily and made to pay handsomely, owing to the fact that most of the ores are to be seen cropping out at the surface, and more especially as labour is cheap and can be got on the spot. The levels and witles [?] at Tai Yui Shan [?] were driven in over 2,000 feet and pumps were fixed by the old company to enable sinking operations to be carried below water level. According to the mining engineer who superintended the former mining operations there is a large quantity of ore to be found, and although when work was first commenced Chinese officials placed many obstacles in the way of success – such as the payment of a tax of ten per cent on the out-put and the placing of ignorant men to advise them – the inducement offered in the opening up of the district were considered most favourable. All around the mines there is a wide expanse of fertile country under cultivation, and villages and hamlets are discovered nestling at the foot of well-wooded mountains and on the banks of streams. The whole district is intersected by numerous waterways and these should prove invaluable to the promoters of this enterprise. It is…

Silver Mine Bay Mine 6 HK Telegraph 23.9.1905

recognised that mining is a risky undertaking and is not a very safe investment, yet if a satisfactory report is forthcoming there should be no reason why the re-opening of the mines at Tai Yu-shan, where the first crushing plant and furnaces in China formerly existed, should not turn out to be a profitable undertaking.

Ore on the Mainland

It is further reported that excellent magnetic iron ore has been discovered in the Western part of the New Territory, in the neighbourhood of Thirty Fathoms Cove. A number of Europeans have been engaged in examining the lode etc. and their report seems most encouraging.

The contemporary image shown on the Home Page of this article is of the Lower Tunnel at the mine.

This article was first posted on 12th June 2017.

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. Mui Wo Silver Mine – Part One – The Owner
  2. The Silver Mine of Silver Mine Bay
  3. Robey & Company, Lincoln, UK – suppliers of structure and machinery at Silver Mine, Mui Wo

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