Glenorchy Battery Association
The Glenorchy Battery Association was formed by a group of interested parties with the intent to ensure that what still remains of the scheelite mining industry infrastructure on Mount Judah is appropriately preserved and memorialised.
After a long hiatus, there has been recent activity up on the site. DoC is currently clearing the old State Mine adit, and The Glenorchy Battery Association has had Reid Earthworks reinstate a smaller version of the old dam, which has yet to be filled. The GBA is currently fund-raising to purchase a replica stamper, the original having been removed some years ago. The Glenorchy Community Trust has pledged a significant sum towards this project.
A brief run-down on the Battery Association’s work to date is included in the Latest Chairman's Report.
If you have an interest in the project, and would like to contribute, please feel free to make a direct credit donation to the account of Battery Association Glenorchy, BNZ bank account number 02-0948-0015581-097
Scheelite? What's That?
Well, it’s a long story, one that has been millennia in the making, as it involves the formation of an ore, the uses for which lay undiscovered from when the earth was formed until the mid-18th century, when Scheele, the Pomeranian (Swedish) scientist who discovered oxygen, chlorine and manganese, isolated and identified it as an important ore of tungsten. It acquired commercial value in the 20th century when tungsten became used in alloy steels and electric-light filaments. The mineral is named in honour of the abovementioned chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele, who obtained tungstic acid from it in 1781.
In 1872 Russian Alexander Lodygin used tungsten as the metal filament in an incandescent light bulb and in 1902 the Hungarian Sandor Just and Croatian Franjo Hanaman patented and produced the first commercial tungsten filament incandescent lamp.
Scheelite has been mined in New Zealand since 1885 but has also been mined extensively in North Carolina, California, and Nevada in the USA, Cornwall and Cumberland in England, and in Bolivia, New South Wales Australia, Siberia, Switzerland, China and France. The ore is white, yellow, brown, or green in colour and has a vitreous to adamantine lustre. It’s really heavy, and is scientifically described as a soft, heavy metal.
Most scheelite fluoresces, the colour ranging from blue-white or white to yellow, depending upon the amount of molybdenum present. Molybdenum (Mo) is used to impart superior strength to steel and other alloys at high temperature. This and other tungsten minerals can be refined to produce finished tungsten metal which, when reacted with carbon, produces tungsten carbide, a very tough, durable compound used in munitions.
The Mount Judah product was Mo rich and hence valuable in the arms industry during the WWI, WWII and Korean wars. The mines themselves are of significant historic interest, unique in their high altitude sites, the old photos graphically depicting the arduous and dangerous aspects of the work and terrain.
Paul Hansen, Chair GBA
Sharon Aitken, Secretary GBA