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The historic Pioneer gold mine is located off the Myrniong-Trentham Road at Mitta Mitta 70 kilometres west north west of Melbourne. It became one of Victoria's largest open cut gold mines after it commenced production in 1870 after gold was discovered at the site in 1852. It is sited at an elevation of 686 metres making it one of the highest mines in the state.


Pioneer Gold Mine Produced 441 Kilograms of Gold
The Pioneer gold mine is located to the west of where the town of Mitta Mitta was to be founded. It continued producing gold for 20 years after it first began production and was the primary reason for the town of Mitta Mitta being established, as the Mitta Mitta Post Office opened in early 1870, the same year the Pioneer gold mine began production. Over the following 20 years the Pioneer mine was to produce 441 kilograms of gold.


Pioneer Mine One of Three Gold Mines in Australia to Introduce Hydraulic Sluicing
The historic open pit Pioneer gold mine stood out at the time as it was one of only three gold mines in Australia to use large-nozzle hydraulic sluicing in its mining method. This technology was introduced to the Pioneer mine by its manager of 12 years, James Hedley, who came from the famous gold mining Hedley family, a prominent influence in the gold mining industry during the 1800's.


Pioneer Gold and the Magnificent Race
The Pioneer Company, the operator of the Pioneer gold mine at Mitta Mitta, set about cutting what was referred to at the time, as a 'magnificent race.' This race was constructed over a distance of 20 kilometres, travelling from the Lendenfeld Branch of the Snowy Creek to the Pioneer mine workings situated near the Junction. In 1888, seventeen months after the Pioneer mine had commenced production a report was produced that described the mines workings in detail: It reported the use of the large four inch nozzle that was called the 'Little Giant.' Water to this nozzle was supplied by iron piping ranging from 11, 20 and 22 inches in diameter. Sluicing from this arrangement continued for the full 24 hours of every day, both day and night. Each day it used four million gallons of water. An innovative hydraulic jet elevator was built to work the deeper areas of the mine. This elevator lifted the dirt off the bedrock to the height of the sluice. This section of the Pioneer mine was managed by Thomas Hedley, another member of the celebrated gold mining family and a leading figure in hydraulic sluicing during this period.


The success of the Pioneer gold mine's innovative sluicing method encouraged large scale sluicing to be introduced in other mines working in the same area. One of the foremost being the Union Company mine, who's claim was within the Pioneer mine's lease. The Union Company sluicing arrangement was fed by three races from Scrubby Creek and reduced down to a three inch nozzle. The average depth of ground being sluiced at the Pioneer mine in this way was about 30 metres.


The water pressure created in this way was so great it released the dirt and created a slurry that was passed through a sluice that trapped the gold. The remaining water and other materials was taken away by means if a tail race and dumped in the Mitta Mitta River.


Mining operations ceased at the Pioneer gold mine in 1904. This came about as a result of the nationwide drought at the time and the drying up of the local water supply.
 

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