Wauchope Wolfram Field, Wauchope, Barkly Region, Northern Territory, Australia
|Latitude & Longitude (WGS84):||20° 36' 11'' South , 134° 19' 39'' East|
|Latitude & Longitude (decimal):||-20.60332,134.32777|
Wolfram was found here in 1917, and shortly after some mining took place. The most activity was during the late 1930's, and early 1950's, when tungsten ore was nudging the same price as gold. Tungsten was used at the time to harden steel, especially ammunitions. Prices skyrocketed in the late 1930's, as countries armed themselves for World War Two, then in the early 50's for the same reason, in response to the beginnings of the Cold War.
Who discovered wolfram here was not found, three leases applied for at the end of 1917. The field, and shanty town which developed, may have been named after J.A. Wauchope, considered an expert in wolfram mining in the U.S., but has not been confirmed.
Gold miners from Tennant Creek rushed to the site around 1937, when tungsten prices rose. In a repeat of the Tennant Creek Gold Field early days, disagreements erupted over claim disputes, some miners openly carrying guns. October 1937, Czech born, Jackov Burpas, was seriously injured when he tried to dig out an unexploded gelignite to re-set it. In what was never a good idea to start with, the gelignite exploded as he lent over it. John William Walsh, known as the Wolfram King for living a life of luxury at Alice Springs, was in the bankruptcy court in 1940, having fled Wauchope, leaving behind several leases, and angry un-paid miners.
Around five hundred Chinese employed by the British Phosphate Company, were evacuated from Nauru during World War Two, when a Japanese invasion was imminent. They were dumped at Wauchope and Hatches Creek, to help the government explore the area for wolfram. More will be written about this under the Hatches Creek Mindat locality.
The field's heydays was 1951 to 1953. Named mine sites were not found, the leases largely farmed out to tributers, who collected alluvial wolfram from the surface and shallow diggings. About thirty miners occupied the field during this time.
H.J. (Dick) Turner erected a mill, operating intermittently, which in 1953 was sold to H.V. Leonard. Shortly after, fifteen members of Leonard's syndicate were suing him in the Supreme Court for payment.
Miner names are mentioned as they came and went, with little further details. These included Tom Cameron and Jack Suteir, Cowle and Jack Lyon, Frank Read, Dave Glover and Wally Peetz or Peatz, Tim Hampton and at least three sons, Taylor and W. Brown, Scotty McLaren, Scotty Brownlie, Happy Rove and his taxi owning mate Perkins, George Turner, Snowy Kilgallon, Atomic Jimmy, Angus Jackson, Bill Pratt, Vic Mills, L. Read, Harry Dodd, Mick Simpson, Paddy O'Donoghue (Dancing Paddy), Paddy Nolan.
Some sold their leases to Tennant Creek based companies, which included Weaber's Rising Sun, Wauchope Wolfram Development NL, Merloo Gold Mining Co. NL. Various complaints were made by prospectors, including the price of water, and lack of a suitable access road. By 1954 it was all over, the site held in aspic ever since.
Wolframite and minor scheelite is hosted by shallow dipping stratabound quartz veins, intruding two mudstone beds of the Hatches Creek Group. This is hosted by the Taragan Sandstone of gently dipping silty mudstone, laminated siltstone with sandy lenses, arenites, and hornfelsed variations of this. Mineralisation is at the junction of an east-west anticline, with the Devils Marble Granite, and a shallow dipping basal structure. Reverse faulting displaces quartz veins. Disseminated ore is uncommon, with most early reports indicating 100-150 kg masses within the quartz. Wall rock alteration can be locally intensely kaolinised. Some tourmaline (schorl, dravite), topaz and hematite is noted, with the main ore being wolframite, with minor to trace scheelite, pyrite, chalcopyrite, molybdenum, cassiterite, and bismuthinite.
Approximately 1000 tonnes of concentrate was produced from 10 000 tonnes of ore. Employing Chinese labour during the war years, the government extensively tested the deposits, but the results were dis-appointing. While there are fifteen wolfram bearing quartz veins, most ore was produced from only three of them. Wolfram bearing quartz veins cover an area 0.2 square kilometres. Wolframite is found as massive patches as coarse disseminated tabular crystals. The veins are 15-20 cms wide, up to 250 metres long, trending north-east, and dipping south south-east. Cassiterite and topaz is said to be found in the creek leading from the wolfram field all the way to the Stuart Highway. Some minor alluvial tin mining occurred from this in the early days.
The site is approximately 10 kilometres east of the Wauchope Hotel on the Stuart Highway. What appears to be a very rough and sometimes indistinct track leaves the hotel and heads east north-east, along a valley and into the low hills of the Murchison/Davenport Ranges. Satellite images indicate a surprisingly extensive area of shallow diggings, and possibly minor building ruins/equipment remaining. The track leads directly to the diggings, then proceeds in a full circle around a hill, with diggings most of the way.
16 valid minerals.
Rock Types Recorded
Select Rock List TypeAlphabetical List Tree Diagram
Entries shown in red are rocks recorded for this region.
This geological map and associated information on rock units at or nearby to the coordinates given for this locality is based on relatively small scale geological maps provided by various national Geological Surveys. This does not necessarily represent the complete geology at this locality but it gives a background for the region in which it is found.
Click on geological units on the map for more information. Click here to view full-screen map on Macrostrat.org
1800 - 2050 Ma
Age: Orosirian (1800 - 2050 Ma)
Stratigraphic Name: Taragan Sandstone
Comments: sedimentary siliciclastic; synthesis of multiple published descriptions
Lithology: Sedimentary siliciclastic
Reference: Raymond, O.L., Liu, S., Gallagher, R., Zhang, W., Highet, L.M. Surface Geology of Australia 1:1 million scale dataset 2012 edition. Commonwealth of Australia (Geoscience Australia). 
Northern Standard Times and Gazette newspaper (Darwin) (1917), Wauchope Creek Wolfram, 29/12/1917
Evening News newspaper (Rockhampton) (1937), Wauchope Wolfram Field. Men Carry Guns. Lease Dispute, 19/10/1937
News newspaper (Adelaide) (1952), Wolfram Report, 21/10/1952
The Age newspaper (Melbourne) (1951), Weaber's Wolfram, 06/10/1951
The West Wyalong Advocate newspaper (1937), Wolfram Fields, 03/09/1937
Northern Standard newspaper (Darwin) (1951), Notes from Wauchope, 10/08/1951
The West Australian newspaper (Perth) (1951), Wolfram Mine, 26/06/1951
Centralian Advocate newspaper (Alice Springs) (1953), Wauchope Miners up in Arms, 07/08/1953
Northern Standard newspaper (Darwin) (1950), Wauchope News, 27/10/1950
Northern Standard newspaper (Darwin) (1951), Wauchope News, 16/02/1951
Northern Standard newspaper (Darwin) (1950), Wauchope News, 10/11/1950
Northern Standard newspaper (Darwin) (1951), News from Wauchope, 18/05/1951
Daily Examiner newspaper (1937), Czech Badly Injured on Wolfram Field, 05/10/1937
The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper (1937), Rush to Wolfram Field. Many Miners at Wauchope. Exodus from Tennant Creek, 30/08/1937
The Advertiser newspaper (Adelaide) (1911), The Wolfram Discovery, 08/04/1911
News newspaper (Adelaide) (1940), Order for Arrest 'Wolfram King', 24/05/1940
The Courier Mail newspaper (Brisbane) (1953), Financier Loses Case, 03/09/1953
McLennan, R.M. (1982), Progress Report. EL 2884 Mosquito Creek, December 1982
Cruikshank, B.I., Hoatson, D.M., Pyke, J .G. (1993), A Stream-Sediment Geochemical Orientation Survey of the Davenport Province. Northern Territory, Journal of Australian Geology and Geophysics, Commonwealth of Australia, (14), pp 77-95, 1993
Ahmad, M., Munson, T.J. (2013), Geology and Mineral Resources of the Northern Territory, Ch. 10 Davenport Province, Northern Territory Geological Survey, Northern Territory Government, Special Publication 5, 2013