The site of the original discovery of payable quantities of tin ore (cassiterite, SnO₂) of April 1880 became the Great Northern Mine. Taken up as a 60 acre (24 Ha.) mining freehold, selected by the original prospectors, a large share soon passed into the hands of John Moffat who founded a mining empire in North Queensland. Today the surface winding plant is described as ‘the most intact in North Queensland’ and the whole of the site is heritage listed. You can easily explore it on a short walk along formed tracks, which depart from the museum carpark. This is an interpreted trail through the original mine workings which will take you past the relics of the mines that made up the Great Northern Freehold – one of the richest on the tinfield. The walk is graded as easy and is about 1km long. It also has signage for some of the trees and shrubs on the site. You can download a map here with more mine information below. Guided tours of the Great Northern Mine Site can be arranged at the Mining Museum.
The Great Northern Mine developed rapidly. Initially the easily worked surface and outcrops were stripped of ore, then shafts were sunk to work deeper deposits. While there was extensive mining all across the site, and the whole claim is pock-marked by smaller shafts driven to follow tin wherever it occurred, there were three ‘main’ shafts which were the principal producers. The first one was the Gully Shaft (1881 on), which at one stage was powered by a horse whim. The Eastern Shaft (1883 on) followed quickly and ultimately reached a depth of 600 feet (200 metres). The New Gully or No 3 Shaft (1904 on) was the final one.
From 1880 to 1956, when mining ceased at The Great Northern Mine, over 5,000 tonnes of ore on today’s value (A$40,000/tonne) worth $200,000,000 had been produced.
The site passed into private ownership of Frederick Stamp in 1954 and thanks to his rather idiosyncratic protection of the on-site machinery, remained largely intact up to his death in 1992. It was listed on the Queensland Heritage Register in 1992.
In the eight years of negotiation with the beneficiaries of his estate, some deterioration of the site occurred. However, in May 1999, the then Herberton Shire Council acquired the site to ensure it became publicly owned and plans were made for preservation and conservation of the site.
Today, much of the original haulage machinery is still here at the shaft heads. Some items are the only known examples of their kind in Australia. All can be seen on a short, interpreted walk on the site, just follow the black arrows and use the QR code to access a complete audio guide. The Herberton Mining Museum seeks to present and interpret information about the Great Northern site, the history of tin mining in the district and how the town of Herberton developed.
© Herberton Mining Museum History Association 2023