History of the Gold Cube

Hi Folks

See a few comments about the “Gold Cube” so thought I would tell its history and how it came about to be. Well its concept came from New Zealand, More specifically Tauranga Bay. Westport NZ. Yep good ole NZ.

Some years back now, when I moved to Westport, I got interested in black sand beach gold long before I got into dredging. I actually lived at Tauranga Bay which is 17 K from Westport. I had a mate out at Charleston by the name of Val Currie, actually Valentine, but he went as Val. Once I got over calling him a girls name, we turned into real good mates. Van ran and owned the Tourist Gold Mine at Charleston. It has a water wheel and fluming, and ran a set of four stampers, that crushed cemented black sand deposits quite a way in from the existing coast line. The mine was actively worked full time by his grandfather in the late 1800s early 19th century. Val was born and raised in Charleston and he to developed an interest in black sand gold mining, after all it was in his DNA. When he had grown up and Buller was starting to get a bit of tourist activity, Val being the entrepreneur he is, decided to resurrect the old stamper and develop a tourist mine, that also supplied him with a cash income via gold produced and sold. . The area had been pretty well worked over by his Grandad, mainly by tunneling and a few open faces. So he put up new fluming and did a lot of work, and eventually he had an operating 18th century Stamper Battery, complete with tables and copper plates, that all worked. In the summer his water supply had to be rationed. So he only turned on the wheel when he had tourists going through, gave it a couple of turns, the stampers went up and down a few times and the tourists were happy. Then it was water off… In the winter with much more water he could run the battery as a working mine and produce gold. His grandfather had mined out the richer leads, but there was plenty of lower grade ground on the claim that still produced reasonable gold. Often Val and and I would go into many of the tunnels and sample the support pillars left behind, to support the roof. Man it sure was rich ground the old boys had. The cave weta"s didn’t worry us, and trust me there were plenty clinging to the roof. Eventually Val open casted some of the tunnels, but retained plenty for their historical value. And of course to let the tourists have a nosey in. No PC Health and Safety crap in those days. .

Val taught me all he knew aout black sand gold mining, he was a wealth of knowledge. Testing black sand with a gold pan is next to useless, And the D shovel method is the way to go. You take a sample with the shovel, then with plenty of water you wave the shovel in a circular motion, whilst at the same time going back and forwards. In a matter of no time you are left with the heaviest minerals which are zircon and garnet and the gold. You are then able to actually count the tiny fly shit specs of gold and get an idea of the grade of the ground. If there are to many tio count, you are onto real good ground.

I studied the tables closely and how they were designed. Charleston was actually first discoverd for it black sand gold deposits on the current Nine Mile beach. This was worked by Shetlanders who came out from the Shetland Islands late 18th Century. They used what are called beach boxes to catch the black sand gold. They were lined with copper plates that mercury was run over and rubbed gently in, the mercury sticks to the copper, the black sand was run over the plates and the gold was caught by the mercury. Becoming amalgam. After a time the mercury becomes what is termed “Sickened” to cure that each day prior to mining a well versed miner used to piss on the plates. For some unknown reason, piss used to vitalise the plates and they were ready to do their work abd catch gold. Maybe it was the nitrates in human urine. A good chemist would know. Anyway it works. I guess it was stumbled on accidentally. I can visulise some miner turning up in the morning to work his tables, with a stinkin hangover after a night on the grog. Bladder full, so takes a piss on his plates and holly hell, it helps his plates catch more gold. Thats why black sand goldminers drank lots of grog. They need to pee a lot eh. Thats a true story. Even Val adopted the practice, but was unable to ever get his missus to squat on the plates.

Of course eventually the mercury was so full of gold it couldnt hold any more. That was when the amalgam was scrapped of, and retorted to obtain the gold. The copper plates were then re-applied with fresh mercury and ready to do their work again.

Now what made this system work was called Boil Boxes, I will attach a diagram to assist as to how they work. The boxes are placed.along the tables. There is a slat in them. The water containing the black sand and gold, goes along the table, it then has to run underneath the slat and comes out the other side. Now as the table is set at an angle and there is some back pressure the waterr trys to climb to its former level, but it cant and it collapses. And continues on its journey to the end of the sluice or table, going through several Boil boxes as it does so. Now this raising of the water, in effect creates a column, that is slightly higher than the table it is going to spill on. In effect you have created a gravitational column.and gravitational Columns sort specific minerals into an assemblage due to their individual density and weight. So simply put this causes, the lighter material to climb to the top of the column and the heavy ones are retained at the bottom of the column. As it moves forward, the gold being the heaviest and being at the bottom hits the mats or mercury first and is captured. Thats why the majority of the gold in any system is captured just after the riffles or Boil Boxes. By the time it gets to the end of the plate, it is all jumbled up again. So through another boil box it goes and the process is repeated. Etc etc.Clear as mud hope eh. Right that will do for now. Its not far off my beer time, and my plates have sickened somewhat so I need to make up a good strong brew for them in the morning. Speights works pretty well, but Ranfurly Draught works pretty good to and is cheaper.

To Be Continued. . , .


A quick couple of diagrams of the boil box system.


Just love reading about this stuff, thanks

Here is a Pic of my Mark 2. Gold table at work on Tauranga Bay Westport. This had an upper deck and a lower deck. By utilizing a very small creek we were able to soon have quite a big hole to work. Which stored plenty of water as we had to recirculate. I was using a four inch sand pump, powered by a 8hp petrol motor. A suction head with a screen was lowered into the water and that delivered the sand and water through the suction pipe to the tables, As our slurry was pretty thick at times we had to add exra water to get it to the right consistency to do its job. So we had another pump running with a valve system on it, so we could alter the water flow to the table as required.As the sand was hard packed I had what I called a boil stick(ran off the extra water pump), which was a piece of rigid pvc pipe that directed a steam of water into the sand, thus agitating it and loosening it up. So boil stick and boil boxes. lots of boiling going on eh. Now the ground at Tauranga Bay was what I call a low grade bulk deposit. On Most west coast beaches, the rich black sand lays on the surface of not far off it., in a thin layer And these can become very rich. But the under lying ground is barren. So you have to skim of the thin layer as that is all that is worth working. My sand had gold from top to bottom, but of a lower grade, so it was throughput that was required We would pump about 8 cubic yards of sand an hour over the tables. Usually running around six hours a day. Weekly gold production was between 4 to 5 ounces.



Awesome bit of history, have stopped off at Charleston couple of times. Val was always good to talk too. Last time don’t think he was around. Will stop there again.

Right Folks well after I had learnt everything from Val. Out I headed with only my D shovel to test various beaches in the Westport area. Obviously the first beach I tested was the one I lived at Tauranga Bay.Westport New Zealand. I owned a house overlooking it. Up and down that beach I went testing it. Even driving a two inch diameter pvc pipe deep into the sand to get samples from different levels. I had a steel cap I could screw onto the top of the pipe. And drove it in with a small sledge hammer. When I pulled the pipe out the core stayed in the pipe. and when I took the cap of the suction was released and I would lay the core out on the beach then test the various levels. I got even more inventive and made up a small venturi, that I fitted at the top of the pipe with a valve or two on. There were two small creeks that flowed out onto the beach, so I had water. And of course plenty of layflat hose. I could turn of one valve and the water was directed down the pipe, that way the PVC pipe would go to great depths, at around 12 feet I struck a rock bottom which was pretty uniform all the way down the beach. So I had found bottom. By then adjusting that valve, I could activate the venturi and suck sand up from 12 feet, squirting it into a bucket. Then test it. I had various pay levels right down to basement some of them quite rich, But many of the layers were barren. So obviously I had to design a system where I could take the lot, the good with the bad so to speak. My tests varied from no gold specs to up to around 150 to 200 per shovel load. Val reckoned I had a workable deposit.

So now it was time for me to build a Beach Table. My first one was built out of marine ply, much along the same design as a high banker. But almost identical to the type the Shetlanders used. This was one I had to shovel onto a screen, as the sand did contain some gravel, dead shells etc. The next mission was to find some sort of matting that wouild hold the fine gold. I wasn’t going to go the mercury/copper plate way. After testing many different materials I found the best for the ultra fine beach gold, was believe it or not was inside out sweat shirt fabric, polar fleece was its name. And boy did it capture and hold the gold. So that became my mat of choice.

Well I got it all built, bought a water pump and was off to the beach to test it with a friend. Yep it worked and it worked well. I had set it up in the richest part of the beach, I had found. .Now shoveling black sand I soon found is pretty hard work, even if you are young and fit. And shoveling many cubic yards a day is hard yakka. But I persevered, as if I wished to upgrade , well I needed to catch gold to sell to buy that gear. After a while I was able to buy a small Trash pump that I adapted to handle abrasive black sand. Using the same table, I made up a hand held suction head with a screen on it, not to small a screen or it would block, and not to large as the trash pump would ony handle a certain size of gravel. So I now had two pumps to run. One for the extra water and one to drive the Trash pump. But gold returns went up.

Pretty soon we were able to make quite a large excavation. But then found out we were always running out of water, as our supply was minimal. So I worked out we had to recirculate our water and conserve it. So the table was placed so that the water and sand flowed back into our hole at one end and we worked the other end. Well that worked to a degree, but the trouble was the water got deeper and deeper until our hole was filled. and we had to get out or drown lol. Put the thinking cal back on. We both owned wet suits, as at that time we were just starting to get into dredging. but that is another story.

So it was wet suits on, let the hole fill, then float in it, holding the hand held suction hose, which we had now attached to a rigid piece of PVC pipe, that way we could push it down onto the sand at the bottom. I must admit we did get some funny looks from people visiting the beach, floating around in a dirty water hole in the middle of the beach. Some who enquired what we up to I told, oh we are gathering deep sand clams, this is where they live, deep in the sand. Others I told we were excavating what we believe is the site of an ancient Spanish Galleon and when we found it, we would re-write the history of the discovery of New Zealand. Some folk are very gullible and actually beleived us. It was after all boring work, just floating there, with only ones head out of the water, for up to eight hours a day. There has to be a better way I thought. In those days I was pretty inventive, still am I guess.

So after I had proved the system worked, it was time to build Beach Box number 2. The MK 2 Model. Now like all gold miners you always want to go bigger and better. Hmmm more gold, more gold, more dosh. So I set to designing the MK2. It was gunna bet a two table set up, an upper and and lower table, fed by suction. Bought a welder, then learnt how to weld, not a craftsman there, but in the end I could lay a pretty good bead, well good enough to hold things together. The whole system was built using flat aluminum for the tables, and square galvanized section for the support frames. I had the local plumber do the boil boxes for me, as he had a large bender in his workshop. Finally after much work, heaps of welding, and hundreds of pop rivets it was done. All mounted on its own axle with pneumatic wheels. Yep it was a mobile monster. Time to buy another pump, this time a larger trash pump (8hp) as I was moving up to three inch suction. Bigger is better. Designed a bigger and better suction head. Now it was time we did away with the floating around in the hole method, it wasn’t going to work with everything larger. So off to the local lumber yard. I need a plank, a bloody great plank, the plank of all planks. And yep tucked away in the “Whatever are we going to do with this or who will ever buy this Dept” was just what I needed. This massive Oregon Pine plank of all planks. About 7 yards long, four inches thick, and about two foot wide. Just what I needed. Got it at a good price to, They were pleased to see it go, And guess what they had nine spares if I ever need another one.

So now we were able to start the hole then as it deepened lay the plank over it. And we now had our own bridge. The plank of all planks could support the two of us easily, cant beat that Oregon pine eh. And I only fell of it once and into the water filled hole. Well it all worked. Except for one thing. The angle of the tables meant the discharge end was quite close to the surface and our sand tailing soon mounted up. The ban of all gold miners. Luckily a mate of mine who was working a gold claim, had a large flat deck trailer, double axle, he didn’t need anymore. So bought that, hoisted the MK 2 up onto that, and the problem was solved.

I worked that beach for nigh on 15 years. Mainly on my days off, as I was in the NZ Police, and gave it heaps on my holiday time. It was a good little earner. But the overheads were high. Running three petrol pumps, maintenance etc. When my kids started getting older, I decided it was time to move to town. Mainly for their sake. There were only two full time occupied houses at the Bay, the rest were Holiday Homes. My kids were getting into sport,and friends so it was the fair thing to do. After moving to town,I kept up with the claim for about another two years. There was plenty of ground still left to work. But I now had a suction dredging claim up the Buller River, and boy was that a rich one. (Thats another story). It started getting all the attention. I parted with my claim at Tauranga Bay . The new owners copied my process but made theirs even bigger and better than mine. Mine was scrapped. But it had served me well. What more could I ask. .So that is the tale of my blacksand mining days, they were fun days, especially the weigh up. But the Buller river ones were even better.

Well I will go add a couple of pics I found. Sadly in those days there were no digital camera’s, and over the years any printed pics I had seem to have disappeared, much like my youth. In the pic of the MK 1 Beach box is me when I started all this. Well I am now coming up 72, ddoesn’t time fly. In the next and final episode I will cover the evolution of the great and mighty gold Cube.

Cheers Trev aka “Kiwigold”,


Some Pic’s.

Tauranga Bay. Westport . New Zealand. I had the whole Bay claimed.


Early Shetlander Blacksander with Beach Table… Nine Mile Beach. Westport
New Zealand.


My MK1 Table

The new owners table. Just had water turned off, to check mats for gold.

Cheers Trev. aka “Kiwigold”


Really loving reading your stories Trev, thank you!! :slight_smile:

great story there trev.

Just love it. Thanks Trev. Good to see you coming out of retirement with your stories. Keep it up!!

And now to the “Gold Cube”. Back in those days I ran a Yahoo Groups Gold Forum. Most of the members were US based. On it I discussed in great detail the challenges of catching ultra fine gold. and how the Boil Box process enabled this to be achieved as long as the feed stock was basically taken down to sand size. The system would not handle straight gravel, so it had to be screened out by a grizzly or a mesh screen. I got a few interested in the process, esp those in Oregon where similar beaches as here in NZ existed, which carried ultra fine beach gold.

One day a US guy named Mike Pung was directed to the group. Mike had gone on a mission up to Lake Superior, I think it was. On the banks on the shore line, were layers of black sand which contained ultrsa fine gold. Now on an ocean beach the layers are built up by wave and tide action, layed down, then buried. And this process just keeps on repeating itself. As I have previously explained, some beaches here in NZ, have the pay layers going down to greater depths, and some aare only surface layers. There one day and gone the next. The deeper ground is normally stranded deposits further inland from the existing beach. But in the case of Tauranga Bay, because it was a Bay and somewhat protected, it was a deeper deposit.,Lower gold grade, but plenty of it. Down South Westland at Okarito etc Small, Bucket dredges were built to mine these un-cemented inland deposits. Similar occurred at Barrytown, but the Bucket Dredge there was somewhat larger.

Mike found that he was unable to catch the ultra fine Lake Superior gold, with conventional methods. And he was seeking a way to achieve it. I supplied him with my email address, and I set out to assist him. After all the process I was using was giving me a 98% recovery rate, I was always testing my tailings and input grade. a 150 spec shovel sample from the face. Resulted in a 2 spec shovel sample from the tailings. I was more than happy with that. That lousy 2 specs weren’t worth saving and I had no trouble letting them go.

So Mike made up a set up similar to mine, but on a smaller scale, Much the same size as a regular sluice box. Screened the imput material of course, and had a series of Boil Boxes built into the sluice system. Off he returned to Lake Superior and voila , he was able to finally capture that ultra fine gold. He was somewhat impressed to say the least.

Now Mike must have got thinking, there is a market for this in the US, and in fact world wide. Sure there were many varied systems for treating concentrates, and retaining the ultra fine gold. Some worked to a degree, some were useless. And the ones that actually worked well, like shaking tables etc were somewhat expensive and bulky to say the least. Mike was obviously thinking along the lines, that 1. This process could be used to deal with concentrates only, or could be utilized as a primary system. Or both processes. He rang me and asked if I had patented the process. I told him, No I hadn’t, And explained to him the history of it. The Shetland Islanders were the ones who came up with it. Not me. I refined it a bit, but the basic process was similar to a conventional sluice, and that certainly couldn’t be patented. As it is a principle that had been in use for eon’s.

The use of a gravitational column for sorting material by its specific gravity had also been around for eons. But used in different applications. Mike told me he was going to work on it, with a direction of making a version that he could market. And did I have a problem with that. I told him, "no, go for it, and wished him well. Mike’s occupation at the time was wood working, and making spiral wooden staircases etc. I had seen some of his work. And he was a true craftsman indeed. Mike said he would keep me up to play on how it was going.

Being inventive I guess he came up with the idea of making the process more compact. more lighter and produced in a format or design that actually could be patented. Mike made various prototypes, even one out of clear perspex so he could observed the actions of the water and the column etc. Many prototypes were made and put to one side. And this took a lot of money and time. .Finally Mike had it done. And he then had to spend a great deal of cash getting the molds made, And thus the “Gold Cube” was born., I like to think of it, “As Born in the USA”, but conceived at Tauranga Bay. Westport New Zealand. Of course then the hard part started, how to market it, and get the gold seeking public interested in it. It was a completely new concept to market… And breaking into an established market and getting people to think outside the box ain’t easy. Mike and his Partner Red Wilcox, attended many gold shows across the US. The 'Cube" hit the many Gold Forums going at the time. No FB back in those days. There was skepticism from some. But as they sold, and proved their worth and ability to catch ultra fine gold at a fraction of the cost of more expensive and bulky systems. The Cube became a world wide hit. And remains there today. Every time I see one being used on one of the Discovery Gold Programs. Well my head swells just a tad. Incidentally Mike sent out to me here in New Zealand a "Gold Cube with the high banker attachment for gratis. And yep he did a very fine job indeed. It was great to be associated with this invention. And see where it has got to, today.

And that Folks is “The End”. I finally located a pic of some beach gold from Tauranga Bay on my streaming down table. About 5 ozs there. I used to call it the golden fleece. That streaming was a long process, pity the Cube hadn’t been invented then eh.

Don’t worry about the gold going to the end. I ran the concentrates through again, after the mat was cleaned. And then what was left was taken back down the beach and thrown back onto the table. Nothing ever ascaped me.

Cheers Trev aka " Kiwigold" . . .


Great story. Please keep it going.

Fantastic story mate!

Great yarns and far removed from my type of gold mining and also far removed from the type of country I worked. Enlightening and interesting and well worth the read.
I worked for a while at a place called Totara Flat and we had a chap in the forestry there. On a friday after work he used to shoot off up onto the terrace behind the camp and shortly later back with half an ounce which he gave to the Reefton Workings Mens Club I think it was called, to raffle off.
I don’t remember his name. It might have been Atholl or something but everyone called him ‘Yakkity Yack’
That was 1969.

Kiwigold…loved the read and history of the Gold Cube…amazing how your delving into and adapting ways and means of capturing fine gold spawned further refinements…albeit overseas…Just BRILLIANT.!!! Kiwis have been the spark for a number of “fires” Kudos to you:grinning:

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