Ferdinand Kayser

Mt Bischoff mine, 1900 (AOT, NS241/1/36)

Heinrich Wilhelm Ferdinand (Ferd) Kayser (18331919), Tasmania's first high-profile mining manager, was born at Clausthal, Hanover, Germany, where he graduated from the Royal Academy of Mines. A champion of mechanisation, Kayser deplored 'primitive' Cornish tin-dressing.

This imposing figure managed the famously rich Mount Bischoff tin mine from 1875 to 1907. His blunt, autocratic style, and directorial support for his methods, alienated the mine's founder, James 'Philosopher' Smith, but under Kayser's management Mount Bischoff became one of Australia's most profitable base metal mines. Launceston's grand Victorian-era buildings testify to his drive, milling expertise and deliverance of dividends, but his extraction technique was laborious and the directors' 'strip mine' mentality shortened Mount Bischoff's life. Kayser's vigorous rule of the company town of Waratah was praised by some and resented by others.

Further reading: N Haygarth, Baron Bischoff, Launceston, 2004.

Nic Haygarth