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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



Mining and Engineering

The dividing line between science and technology is not readily drawn, and some reference should be made to the development of facilities for teaching and research in mining and engineering. The need for these was early apparent, particularly in mining, for university development in New Zealand coincided with the dramatic upsurge of gold mining in Central Otago and the emergence of problems of gold recovery from ores which remained after the wealth of the poor man's diggings had been skimmed. The first meeting of the Council of the University of Otago had before it a letter from James Macandrew, the provincial Superintendent, in which he referred to the great practical importance to the province of a school of mines and of agricultural chemistry, and to the general need to develop teaching in natural science. One of the four foundation chairs was that of natural science, and special competence was sought in chemistry and mineralogy and in the applications of these sciences to agriculture and mining. Black, the professor appointed, was an excellent choice, and from the time of his arrival he actively promoted a service to the miners, a furnace for assay work being built in the University in 1872. Between that time and 1876 negotiations were completed which led to the Colonial Parliament agreeing to the establishment of a formal School of Mines, located in the University of Otago. The first Director was Professor Ulrich, who, like Black, proved an admirable appointment.

For many years training was concentrated in the field of metal mining, and the majority of the graduates and holders of the Associateship (A.O.S.M.) found ultimate employment overseas. Government regulations required three years' underground experience for a Mining Certificate and five years' for a Coal-mining Certificate, and in the absence of any reduction in these (for graduates) unduly onerous requirements, there was no incentive for students to acquire the necessary prerequisites to employment in New Zealand. More recently, following recommendations by the Dean of the Mining Faculty in 1945, the activities of the school have been linked more closely to the requirements of New Zealand industry by the development of teaching in coal mining and in secondary metallurgy. With these and other parallel and related developments within the University of Otago, a major change in the status of the school has recently been made by the establishment of a Faculty of Technology incorporating the Otago School of Mines, the Otago School of Metallurgy, the Otago School of Surveying, and the Otago University Industrial Liaison Services. (Unfortunately, by a recent decision of the Council of the University of Otago, the Faculty of Technology has been abolished and the teaching of Metallurgy discontinued).

Not long after the School of Mines had been established, the Government requested Black to visit the various mining centres where he gave lectures to miners and others on scientific methods of ore extraction. These were very well supported, and it was decided to establish a series of local schools of mines (the “Larnach Mining Schools”) giving a restricted and somewhat elementary course adapted mainly to the training of mine managers, the investigation of ores sent in for examination, and the general dissemination of recent information about treatment methods. Schools were set up at Lawrence, Thames (with branches at Coromandel, Waihi, Karangahake, Te Aroha, and Waiorongomai), Collingwood, Westport, Waimangaroa, Lyell, Reefton, Charleston, Boatmans, Greymouth, Kumara, Ahaura, Stafford, Hokitika, Kaniere, Rimu, Ross, Waipori, Roxburgh, Bannockburn, Bendigo, St. Bathans, Naseby, Arrowtown, Skippers, Queenstown, Riverton, and Orepuki. Others were later opened on the coalfields at Huntly, Runanga, Kaitangata, and Ohai. As might be expected, these met with varying success and at the time of the sitting of the Mining Education Committee, set up by the Minister of Mines in 1952, only eight remained-Coromandel, Thames, Huntly, Westport, Reefton, Runanga, Kaitangata, and Ohai. Only Thames, and to a lesser extent Reefton, achieved anything more than a local reputation. In 1956 the Department of Education assumed responsibility for the technical education of those seeking Certificates of Competency under the Coal Miners' Act, and all but Reefton are now closed.

An attempt to establish a school of mines within the university system at Auckland was made in 1906, but proved short lived, the school having ceased to function by 1912.

The needs for university instruction in the various branches of engineering are met by the two Schools of Engineering at Auckland and Canterbury Universities. The Canterbury School is the older, its origins going back to the 1890s, when lectures on machine construction, mechanical engineering, and applied science were given at the School of Art. Special lecturing staff were appointed culminating in the establishment of a Chair of Engineering in 1894 first filled by R. J. Scott. Specialisation is possible in mechanical, electrical, civil, and chemical engineering. The establishment of the Auckland School with full recognition for degree purposes, was subject to long negotiation with the University of New Zealand. Its origins may be traced to the establishment of a small engineering department in the University, connected with the activities of the School of Mines. After many rebuffs Auckland was granted recognition for the first and second professional examinations in 1927 and finally for the full (mechanical) degree in 1945. Specialisation is possible in civil, mechanical, and electrical engineering.


Stanley Nelson Slater, M.SC.(N.Z.), D.PHIL.(OXON.), F.R.I.C., Professor and Head of Chemistry Department, and Assistant Vice-Chancellor, Victoria University of Wellington.