Mount Read Mines

Postcard of Williamsford (Tasmaniana Library, SLT)

Prospector Alfred Conliffe discovered a gold-bearing gossan on Mount Hamilton, a western spur of Mount Read, during 1890. The Mount Read Mining Company was established to work the deposit, which was the source of an extensive lead-zinc sulphides orebody. In 1894, Joseph Will located a rich seam of silver below the Mount Read Mine, a more important discovery. This deposit became the Hercules Mine, which developed to full production by 1900. The town of Williamsford, established to house the workforce, was connected to Zeehan and its smelter by the 29-kilometre North East Dundas Tramway in 1898. The closure of the Zeehan smelter in 1913 forced the closure of the Hercules Mine. By 1915, all mining on Mount Hamilton, which included the Mount Read Mine, had ceased.

The Electrolytic Zinc Company reopened the Hercules Mine in 1920 and ran it until its closure in 1986. During its 86 years' operation, ore production exceeded 2.5 million tonnes with an estimated metal value of $1 billion.

The Hercules Mine gained a reprieve in 1996, when Mancala Pty Ltd reopened the No. 7 level. In 1999, after three years and almost 200,000 tonnes of ore production, mining ceased for the last time. Mount Read and the Hercules Mine will also be remembered for its self-acting haulage which connected the Williamsford township to the mine above.

Further reading: W Jay, In the shadow of Murchison, Smithton, 1993; L Rae, A window on Rosebery, Ulverstone, 1994.

Greg Dickens