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AG = Agreement
AC = Amalgamated Claim
BL = Business License
BR = Book Reference
CL = Claims
CL = Claim Register (Thames only)
CO = Company Registration
CP = Claim Protection
CR = Court Record
CT = Claim Transfer
DM = Dam
DR = Doctor
EC = Extended Claim
FR = Flood Race
GR = Gold Receipts
HR = Head Race
LS = Lease
MR = Miner's Right
PC = Prospecting Claim
QC = Quartz Claim
RC = River Claim
RD = Road
RG = Registration
RS = Residence Site
SC = Sluicing Claim
SR = Securities Register
TR = Tail Race
TC = Tunnel Claim
WR = Water Race

For example: 'MR 1234' in the first left-hand column of the database results table means this person was assigned Miner's Right Number 1234.

Note: All Types of records are categorized by the Warden himself, and not by the transcriber.

  • AC = AMALGATATED CLAIMS: When a group of miners in one locality decided that it would be in their best interests to join their claims together into one, they applied to the Warden for an 'Amalgamated Claim'. This was a very common procedure in Otago, especially when the miners had decided that sluicing was their best option. This required that they bring capacious amounts of water to the claim, and they would need to work together to achieve this with water races, dams and tunnels. The Warden allocated the normal area per man for their amalgamated claim, making a much larger area to work. The men then shared the work load, shared the expenses of buying timber and tools, and of course shared the profits of the entire claim.

  • AG = AGREEMENT: This was any kind of mining agreement that the miners worked out between themselves and decided they needed to put in writing. Sometimes it concerned arrangements for working together, such as in an amalgamated claim, or renting of races or claims from another miner for a stipulated period of time. The miners wrote the agreements out, all parties signed them and the agreement was then registered with the Warden. The Warden issued a Miner's Privilege certificate (2/6d) and kept the agreement paper in the Warden's Court Applications Book for safe-keeping.

  • BL = BUSINESS LICENSE: Any person who wanted to open any type of business on the Goldfield such as a store, hotel, blacksmith forge, restaurant or butcher's shop was required to apply to the Warden for a business license. Like the Miner's Right, there was a fee for the Business License, and a certificate was issued by the Warden for one year, renewable on payment of another fee. The details of the Business were entered in the Business License register kept by the Warden. Many of these appear in the Goldminer's Database. They are important because the Warden used mainly businesses to define the location of a miner's claim ( e.g. 'above Tyler's Store' or 'behind the 'Golden Age Hotel').

  • BR = BOOK REFERENCE: Some reference books concerning the Goldfields have been indexed on the database. Details of the book reference accompany the record.

  • CL = CLAIM: An ordinary claim registered with the Warden, usually for a single miner with a valid Miner's Right. In Otago a single claim could not exceed 100 x 100 feet (10000 square feet) while in Thames the claim area was larger, usually 50 x 300 feet (15000 square feet) for a reef claim. The miner would mark out his territory by placing pegs in the ground at the corners.

  • CL = CLAIM REGISTER: (Thames records only). In May 1868, the Gold Wardens decided to begin registering all the claims, listing the claimholders and specifying the location and size of the claim. At the same time, the claimholders were asked to agree on a name for their claim, rather than listing it under just one claimholder. This name would then most likely become the name of the company later, if it was decided to register the claim as a Limited Company. The main reason for instigating the Claim Register was to officially record each legitimate claimholder's name and the number of shares he owned. This meant that when a buyer wanted to buy a share in a claim, he or she could ensure that they were buying a legitimate share by first consulting the claim register in the Warden's office. This system was instigated because unscrupulous scoundrels were selling shares in a claim that they did not own, and then disappearing out of town. The claimholders could not attempt to sell shares in their claim unless they first registered it. The hurried registration of a claim often followed closely on the discovery of gold on the claim and the consequent increase in its value.

  • CP = CLAIM PROTECTION: A miner with a valid Miner's Right and a staked-out claim was not permitted to leave the claim for more than a few hours, except at night or on Sundays. Otherwise the entire claim would be considered abandoned and could be reclaimed by another miner, provided he had a valid Miner's Right and registered the claim with the Warden. But there were times when a miner needed to be away from his claim, such as to build a water race, to obtain tools, timber or blasting powder, (the latter only in Thames for the quartz mining) or if he was sick or had a family emergency. Another common reason was because of lack of water in the heat of the summer in Otago or lack of money (for quartz mining in Thames which was expensive.) The miner could apply to the Warden, and on payment of a fee, would be issued with a Claim Protection certificate to allow him to be away from the claim from 14 to 30 days with no fear of the claim being considered abandoned.

  • CR = COURT RECORD: The Warden's court was set up in both Thames and Otago to hear and resolve disputes between miners. Some of these records have found their way into The Goldminer's Database.

  • CT = CLAIM TRANSFER: A Miner could sell his claim to another miner. Once they had agreed on a price, they wrote out a deed of sale on a piece of notepaper, detailing the location of the claim, its size, often stating the fractional share owned in an amalgamated claim, what was included in the way of water races, tools etc and the price to be paid. All parties signed the deed, and it was then registered with the Warden. For a fee, the Warden issued a certificate to register the sale, checked that the new owner had a valid Miner's Right and then filed the deed in the Warden's Court Applications book for safe-keeping.

  • DM = DAM: Mining methods used in both Otago and Thames required plenty of water to wash out the gold from the surrounding soils (in the case of sluicing and panning in Otago) and from the pulverized quartz rock (in the batteries of Thames). Sometimes the only way to ensure a good supply when it was needed was to build a dam. A Mining Privilege certificate from the Warden was needed before proceeding. Once the application for a dam was received, the Warden had to check that the dam would not interfere with the water rights of other miners before proceeding. Then, for a fee, he would issue the certificate and the miners could proceed to buy the timbers and construct the dam.

  • DR = DOCTOR: If a miner was sick and wanted to apply for a Claim Protection certificate in Thames, he had to have a Doctor's note. The doctor's certificate was usually kept by the Warden and filed in the Claim Protection Register. These Doctors have been indexed and included in the Goldminer's Database. The system does not seem to have been the same in Otago where sickness was not recorded as being the reason for needing a Claim Protection Certificate.

  • EC = EXTENDED CLAIM: When a miner or group of miners staked a claim in ground which had been previously worked (often termed 'old ground' by the Warden), they were granted an Extended Claim, meaning they were assigned a larger area than a normal claim. A normal claim in Otago was 10,000 square feet per man, while an Extended Claim was usually 27,000 square feet per man. This applies only to Otago, and usually for sluicing claims.

  • FR = FLOOD RACE: A water race built to bypass the claim, channelling flood waters away from the claim during heavy rains or melting snows.

  • GR = GOLD RECEIPTS: In Otago, the miners could deliver their gold to the Government Gold Receiver at the Police Station. Some of the Gold Receiver's Receipt Books (e.g. Arrowtown) have survived. A GR records depicts an entry in a Gold Receipt book, with the amount of gold the miner gave to the Gold Receiver.

  • HR = HEAD RACE: A head race was a type of water race located at the top of the claim and bought the water into the claim to feed the sluice box or sluice gun.

  • LS = LEASE: Large groups of miners formed companies both in Otago and Thames. They then found they needed more land than the usual claim, for plant, buildings, residences etc. They could then apply to the Warden to lease the land around the claim, provided it was not already claimed by another miner or group of miners. Individual miners could also apply for a lease.

  • MR = MINER'S RIGHT: This is the most important Mining Privilege, and every miner had to obtain one before they could begin work, both in Otago and Thames. A Miner's Right cost 1 sterling, and lasted one year from the date of issue.

  • PC = PROSPECTING CLAIM: Issued when a miner wished to range out over a large area looking for gold. Once he found gold, or a likely prospect, he had to return to the Warden to register a claim.

  • QC = QUARTZ CLAIM: Issued when the gold found by the miner was locked up in quartz rock, and a mining tunnel had to be dug to extract the quartz rock. It was then pulverized using a stamper battery to extract the gold. Most gold was mined in a quartz claim in Thames, whereas it was very rare in Otago.

  • RC = RIVER CLAIM: In Otago where the miner was panning or using a cradle in a river. He would be allocated a certain number of feet of river frontage. Often the miners with a river claim wished to divert the flow of the river out of its bed so that they could look for gold in the old river bed. They had to apply to the Warden to do this, and such a Mining Privilege is often described as a River Claim.

  • RD = ROAD: If a miner (or business owner) wanted to use horses to transport equipment and supplies to a remote claim, he often decided to build a road. He could not do this without first applying to the Warden for a Mining Privilege to construct a road. On other occasions, the Miners requested to be able to dig up the existing road. The Warden usually complied but required them to first build a new diversion for the road.

  • RG = REGISTRATION: Sometimes used by the Warden to register a Mining Privilege which did not come in under his usual categories. Explanations are given which each individual record.

  • RS = RESIDENCE SITE: A miner often wanted to build a hut or house near his claim, especially if he had his family with him. The warden registered and charged for all residence sites. The miner could subsequently sell the residence site, and the sale was registered under the Claim Transfer category, usually. Many residence sites were sold in Wetherstons and Waipori Townships in 1866 and are included in The Goldminer's Database.

  • SC = SLUICING CLAIM: Often the warden would register a claim as a Sluicing Claim from the start. This occurred only in Otago. Little or no sluicing occurred in Thames, with all the gold locked up in quartz which a hard spray of water could not penetrate. The term 'sluicing' was not seen in any of the Thames records covered but it was very common in Otago.

  • SR = SECURITIES REGISTER: The Security Registers used in the database are part of the Bank Of New Zealand Collection. They record the names of the bank customers who left their valuables, including gold, at the Bank of New Zealand for safe-keeping during the Goldrush.

  • TR = TAIL RACE: A head race was a type of water race which was locate at the lower end of the clain and channelled water away from the claim, usually back to the creek. This was important so as not to flood any claims loacted below them.

  • TC = TUNNEL CLAIM: In Otago, the miners would build a tunnel through a hill in order to bring water to their claim or divert a river from its original bed. But they had to apply for a Mining Privilege certificate (and pay a fee) before they could start.

  • WR = WATER RACE: After the miner's right, this is the most common Mining Privilege that was applied for in Otago and the West Coast. The miners sought a good water supply, and then brought it to the claim with a Head Race, usually from a creek, river or dam. Sometimes the water race was just a deep channel cut in the ground but if they needed to cross a gully or a roadway etc, they used timber-framing to build a water race on stilts (called a flume). The race had to be carefully designed to ensure a downward slope to provide sufficient flow and pressure of water all the way to the claim. Once they had the water on their claim, they then had to build a tail race to drain it away to a nearby creek or into the water race of a miner in a lower claim to prevent flooding on their claim.
    When the miners applied for a water race certificate, the Warden had to ensure that the new race would not interfere with the water rights of neighbouring claims, or flood claims lower down the slope. He visited the site and carefully detailed where the race was going and how long it would be. You will usually see some of these comments from the Warden about the water race on the Database entry.
    Sometimes, when the Warden had been on his rounds, he found water races that had never been registered. He then dragged the miners concerned back to his office, where they made the application, paid the fee and had the certificate date back-dated to the 'possession date'. This 'possession date' is always recorded on The Goldminer's Database.
    Sometimes water races were abandoned by previous owners. Other miners could then apply to haev it regsitered under their own name. The system in Thames was entirely different since there was no alluvial gold to sluice. The only water races needed were to supply the big stamping batteries. Therefore the races were big and usually built by well-financed mining companies or the government.


'THE MINER'S RIGHT. Every person residing on a Goldfield and engaged in mining for gold shall take out a Miner's Right, such Miner's Right to be produced for inspection when demanded by the Warden or other officer or by any person duly authorised in that behalf in writing by the Warden. Every Miner's Right shall before the issue thereof be signed by some Warden acting within the Province of Otago.'

Later The Mines Act of 1877 (long after the New Zealand Goldrush was over) gave the regulations more teeth:

'172. Any person not being the holder of a miner's right, license or lease duly empowering him in that behalf, who shall mine for gold or occupy or carry on any business upon any crown lands shall be liable to the penalties following - that is to say; For the first offense, a sum not exceeding Five Pounds, for the second or any subsequent offense, a sum not exceeding Ten pounds, not less than Five Pounds, with imprisonment in some gaol, there to remain for any time not exceeding one calendar month for every five pounds or fractional part of five pounds so to be paid.'

A Miner's Right cost 1 per year. All Mining Privilege certificates (for instance for a water race) cost one shilling and sixpence in Otago in 1862, going up to two shillings and sixpence by 1863.

The Miners had to renew both their Miner's Right and all Miner's Priviledge Certificates every year. The ID number of both the Miner's Right and any Certificates changed at the time of renewal. If they were caught by the Warden with an expired Miner's Right or Certificate, the Warden could take them to court where the fine was 2 or 3 times the cost of a renewal. However, it was at the Warden's descretion whether or not to prosecute, and they often just let the miner renew immediately, with back-dating to the date of the expiration.

Contact: Kae Lewis