L and M Mining on the Kawarau

Hi All,

Sorry i’ve been mostly absent since this new site was set up. Long story short, lost my password… so just got it reset.

Found this article regarding L and M’s exploits on the Kawarau, mainly. Quite a sizable digger was constructed.

Here is the link.



Yep that’s a hefty machine.

I remember as a kid watching L&M mine near the confluence of the kawarau and clutha rivers where old cromwell town was. They were down pretty deep. They were doing this just prior to lake dunstan being filled.
I remember having a tour of their mine as we knew one of the operators who worked there and seeing the gold and black sand in the sluice. Being young at that stage I was more interested in the heavy machinary than the gold.
Apparently there is a big gutter of an old river channel that goes right under cromwell that they wanted to mine but couldn’t as it would involve displacing alot of homes. I’m sure it was around where the Chinese shanty town was located which turned into the cromwell tip and is now a boat launch site by the lake.


Many years ago, either 1970, 71 or 72 I was friendly with a guy. I have never forgotten him as he used to dress in gym shoes, track suit pants, gaberdine rain coat and for a scarf on two occasions he had womens pantihose wrapped around his neck.
He wanted me to do the work while he showed me where but it meant me leaving my steady reliable work to head into the unknown.
He knew a spot near Cromwell where there was an absolute fortune and wanted to continue from where he once left off.
Now this next part of what he told me I still do not know whether the believe or disbelieve…he said that one night when he could not sleep he went into their mine tunnel and removed two huge boulders and recovered 116 ounces from under one and 800 ounces - that is eight with two zeros - from under the other.
Normally I would never believe that yarn but I had another friend who used to socialize with the old chap. The other friend came from Omakau and had been a rabbiter on Molesworth and Cromwell.
The second old chap, Ray Arnold said that one day while sitting in the hotel room where the old gold miner lived he counted 16 pickle jars full of gold under the bed. Now that was his one fifth share as he was one of five. Each pickle jar could hold maybe 200 Ounces. I remember I had some of my gold in smaller marmite jars and they were 50 ounces each.
That means the old chap may have had about 3200 ounces under his bed.
Believe it or not.
This all happened about 1933.
The name of the old chap I knew was Lance Hooper. I tell the story as it was told to me.
I have no reason not to believe that an absolute fortune lies under Cromwell and Alex.
when they built the dam I remember the river very low and crystal clear as I have never seen it before and seeing a huge crevice going across it. This crevice may have been twenty foot wide…a huge crevice going down into the bedrock. At the time we commented that we bet there was a fortune in it.


I’ve been shown the drill hole maps for what is probably this old river channel. unfortunately over time the land has become more and more built on. Basically the ancient channel swings to the north of the current river, out of the gorge end in an arch towards Cromwell. Pretty much from what i can remember it starts by mrs jones orchard where the terrace drops down a level, and heads under the raceway and forest. i’ve heard many stories of shafts being sunk down. not sure how many were successful. i’m sure results would have been hush hush. i’ve even panned gold in the soil in the area where there’s a big bank. if i had land in that area i think i know what i’d be doing. banging up a shed and digging down out of curiousity. Then again the big boulders probably exist all through the ground as there sure are plenty that i’ve seen come out of the ground in all sizes even at shallow depth.


That area where Kawarau meets the clutha or just downstream was known as the jewellers box , some interesting storeys from the early dredgers that got in on the scene before the dam was built unfortunately they where hindered by muddy water as works had commenced , gold was left behind but can only imagine how much silt has covered the pay streak now which reportedly went for some distance .

I spoke with Ray Stewart about his experiences at the Jewellers box and also upstream near Lowburn before it was flooded. 50oz cleanups in a week! You’d be pretty stoked!

Its always surprised me no one had put modern suction dredges into the Clutha before it was flooded by the dam.

There was an area where the Clutha meet the Kawarau just below the old bridge where there was a rock outcrop mid river which supposedly was a mountain of black sand and gold underwater. Ray did pretty well in there. I dont think the old bucket dredges could ever get in there as it was pretty narrow and swift.

Another area under water on this river is the junction of the Manuherikia river and the Clutha at Alex. Old timers reports show over a pound of gold to the pan in the early days at the junction of these rich rivers. Im surprised no one has but a claim at the bottom the the Manuherikia in Alex which is still accessible as theres some fantastic gold still in there. I see the top parts of the river are under claim though.


Hi Lammerlaw
we swapped posts recently on the Saddle Hill gold reefs.
Lance Hooper was my mothers cousin. I met him a couple of times while we were walking through Woolworths in Dunedin and that would have been in the early 60’s I think. I remember the way he was dressed - the old gym shoes. old trousers and shirt with binder twine as a belt. His father Bill Hooper was married to my Grandmother’s sister and he lived in Mosgiel. I don;t know if that was before or after his wife died. My Grandmother lived around the road and when Bill proposed to her and she was quite indignant about the whole thing. My grandfather (Fred Sykes) was a builder and moved to Cromwell to find work after he returned from the WW1 as thing were very tight. My mother was born there in 1921 and rumour has it they were so poor they lived in a tent when she was born. I believe that the Hoopers, The Bells and Kilgours (Bell Kilgour mine and Bell Hooper mine) where looked on as a bit of a joke because of what they were doing and they were jokingly called ‘mud tunnelers’ but the laughing stopped when they both struck gold. One of the brothers used to bring small bottles of gold to me Grandmother when they lived up the old South Road in Caversham and that helped them out during those hard days. Lance must have been a bit off beat and I can remember my mother avoiding him a couple of times. He looked like he didn’t have 2 bob to rub together but when he died rumour has it that they found vacuum cleaners stuff full of 5 and 10 pound notes because he didn’t want the banks and IRD to know how much he had. I also worked with a chap many years ago who said that Lance came to work one day a bit confused. He had taken his wife a cup of tea but she wouldn’t wake up. They went back to his place and she had died during the night.
My parents bought Bill Hooper’s crib at Lowburn Ferry and I had many enjoyable years on holiday as a youngster and later on as a gold fossicker and fisherman. I loved the area and just about cried when they flooded it.
Now - is your first name Graeme? I have read a couple of posts over the past couple of days and there were two posts that talked about getting 1/2 a lb of gold from three handfuls of gravel. And, did you live over the road from Mosgiel West School? I’m not trying to interrogate you but I am just trying to put a couple of things together.
I would love to hear more about Lance sometime and it would be nice to do it in person. I;m not sure what happened to Neville Hooper but he may have either a transport or an aeroplane business. I still have a 93 year old Aunt so I must ask her, she still have=s all her marbles and I should find out about these things while I can

Yes you have pinned me down perfectly. Mt father still lives over the road from Mosgiel West School - he sold all his gold to a certain thieving jeweller in Dunedin who gave him a mere pittance for it. That bastard of a jeweller is also the most arrogant nasty bit of goods I have ever had the misfortune to talk to.

Dad bought a boat and a new rifle to go shooting the other day…hes one of the last WWII serviemen still going shooting/fishing I would think. Hes 94. He still has s ome of our gold mining gear but it is never used now. He even has a metal detector he bought many years ago - it was the best money could buy at the time. A Whites 6000 It has hardly been used…hmmm I must see if I can do him out of it!

When mum died she left in her will that each female in the family was to get a larger nugget mounted on a gold chain - but someone had swiped all their larger nuggets andpoor me had to supply them so that mums wish could be fulfilled!

That is intereswting about Lance Hooper. A good friend of mine Ray Arnold knew him well. Ray came from Omakau and played football back in the day for Omakau - he became a rabbiter on Molesworth where he met his wife. During the depression Ray was a good friend of Lance hoopers and told me that Lance had 16 pickle jars full of gold under his bed…that would have been quite true.

Many years later in the 1970s Ray Arnold and his wife and two others used to camp every year up in Central and they had a hobby claim - it may have been at Scotland Point or close to it. I remember that under Ray Arnold and his wifes settee in their wee house - two army huts joined together - there was a long wide cardboard tray and it had a single layer of bottles in it - each bottle contained one holidays worth of gold and it surely was not to be sneezed at. Many ounces. Where it went I have no idea because Ray and his wife are long gone.

Were you raised around Caversham?

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Thanks gents…watching that play out was a beautiful thing. :smile: