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White Range Gold Mine, Arltunga Gold Field, Central Desert Region, Northern Territory, Australia

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Latitude & Longitude (WGS84): 23° 27' 25'' South , 134° 45' 52'' East
Latitude & Longitude (decimal): -23.4569724237, 134.7646438


The White Range reefs were found in 1898, eleven years after the first gold discovery at Arltunga. Mines developed were the Great Western, Central, North, East, South, Luce's White Range, Boulder, Extended, and Excelsior. All these are listed separately. The modern White Range Gold Mine, which partly swallowed the historic leases.

J. Byrne uncovered alluvial gold at White Range, but it was Henry Luce who recognised the potential of auriferous reefs, and pegged claims. His origins are unknown, but he was in Alice Springs (then known as Sturt) in 1889, and the following year in Arltunga. By 1901 he was employing eight men at his leases at White Range. He then died December 1903 aged 39. Gold production dwindled until his estate was settled two years later. E.H. White was granted sixteen mining leases in 1921. In 1934, the leases were forfeited, later purchased by Tonkah Compound NL. Coppoch's battery was erected in the early 1940's, then later R.J. Shaw's battery, and the Tennant Creek White Range plant.

In 1956, S. McIntyre had several leases, and across 1959-1960, McIntyre drove an adit into the hill at Excelsior hoping to intersect the reef, but arrived below it. J.R. Brice took over the old Excelsior and Extended leases in 1980.

In 1983, a modern crushing plant was established, but failed to cope with gold locked in sulphides, with only 0.435 kg of gold produced.

Kate Holmes conducted an archaeological dig at White Range in the early 1980's, stating there were hundreds of building remains. She warned there was little protecting the site, a prediction that came true when White Range Pty Ltd, developed a large strip mine across 1989-1991. This partly destroyed the old workings, and evidence related to historic mining at the site. Little rehabilitation was done, with white sludge filling the valley.

White Range is a prominent quartzite ridge, containing gold-sulphide-quartz reefs, which have produced 12 430 ounces 1898 to 1985 (more gold was produced also 1989-1991). By 1900, the White Range leases produced 82.4% of the gold through the Arltunga battery for the goldfield.

Arltunga is at the southern border of the Arunta Block, with the Amadeus Basin to the south. At the goldfield the Arunta basement rocks are overlain by the Heavitree Quartzite. Within this tension gashes and fractures have
been infilled with auriferous quartz reefs.

The Arunta basement rocks at Arltunga are two units, being the Cavanagh Metamorphics, and Atnarpa Gneiss, with two overlying Amadeus Basin units called Heavitree Quartzite, and the Bitter Springs Formation.

The Cavanagh Metamorphics consist of fine grained metasediment, amphibolite, banded iron formation, marble, chert, and chlorite schist, with associated quartzofeldspathic schist, and granitic gneiss. The banded iron formation is finely layered quartz, magnetite, trace chlorite, hematite and corundum. The quartzofeldspathic schist is grey fine grained containing microcline, quartz, sericite, plagioclase, muscovite and rare biotite. The granitic gneiss ranges from leucogranite to granite, coarse pegmatitic granite, and coarse tourmaline-quartz rock.

The Atnarpa Gneiss or Atnarpa Igneous Complex is intermediate to acid igneous rocks, with tonalite, diorite, granodiorite, and aplogranite. Hornblende bearing tonalite and diorite is 90% volume, with the remaining 10% leucogranitic rocks, lacking hornblende and biotite in the northern part of the goldfield. The tonalite is black speckled, with cream, pink, or pale greenish-yellow tints. Within the reserve this unit varies from diorite, trondhjemite, granodiorite, and adamellite, with numerous small dykes and pegmatites, containing paragonite, clinozoisite, and epidote.

The Heavitree Quartzite is white blocky silicified sandstone (quartzite), with thin interbeds of sandstone,and siltstone. At the base of this is conglomerate, pebbly sandstone, arkose and minor siltstone, ranging from 5 to 70 metres thick. The quartzite consists of silica, hematite, monazite, zircon, tourmaline, and minor calcite.

The Bitter Springs Formation is a sequence of stromatolitic dolomite, and limestone, shale, sandstone, basic volcanics, chert, and evaporatives. It consists of the Gillen Member and Loves Creek Member. Gillen is massive dolomite, with basal siltstone. Loves Creek is red sandstone.

A fault extends from Paddy's Rockhole west north-west to the former government battery site, then swings west. West of the fault is a reclined anticline, and east of the fault, extensive further faulting has wrenched rocks apart, and rotated the overturned anticline. Further in the area is the White Range Nappe, divided into east and west lobes, occupying depressions between three domal areas. The two lobes are synformal in east-west cross-section. The main structure at Arltunga is the White Range Antiform, a complex folded mass of silicified Heavtree Quartzite 5 kms from north-south, and 4 kilometres east-west. Also important is the Cavanagh Antiform, overturned and dome shaped.

The folds are found in Heavitree Quartzite in the area. In the southern area of the goldfield are south verging folds, associated with north-south sliding of the White Range Nappe. Second, north-south reclined and recumbent folds in the south part of White Range. Third, a group of east-west upright folds in the northern part of the goldfield.

At the end of the Devonian period, the White Range Nappe came about with thrust faulting (sliding), breaking through the Heavitree Quartzite, then residual stresses caused late upright folding of the Heavitree Quartzite. Tension gashes and fractures then infilled with auriferous vein material.






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References

Mackie, A.W. (1986) Geology and Mining History of the Arltunga Goldfield, 1887-1985, Department of Mines and Energy, Northern Territory Geological Survey, Northern Territory Government, Report 2.

Holmes, K. (1989) Arltunga: A Minor Goldfield in Arid Central Australia, Australian Historical Archaeology, vol.7, pp.43-49.

 
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