He was using the area as a brick pit to feed his onsite brick kiln, and the timing was fortunate as mining on the alluvial flats was in recession from the early 1860s. Hence, an array of small deserted claims were there to be claimed cheaply.
The only real competition for leasing the alluvial ground on Spring Creek at this time came from some of the former owners of the Rocky Mountain Extended Gold Sluicing Company. They recognised that if only the crucial issue of digging a drain deep enough could be solved, the whole of the alluvial flat could be turned into a highly profitable open cut gold mine.
A reconstituted version of their company was floated in 1867, created for the distinct purpose of deepening the 450 yard tail-race draining down from the Goldfield to Spring Creek Falls.
This was a time of great opportunity; where investment was sought and secured to explore the fuller potential of the field. There was also a large focus placed on securing the water rights along the creek. This included buying out the water powered sawmill below the falls, as their operations were much affected by the upstream waterworks.
When the works on the tail-race project were completed in 1871, the mining warden report noted that:
“Rocky Mountain Co.’s tail-race just completed—half a mile long—cost £10,000—14 ft deep (on average), 6 ft wide, through granite. This is, without doubt, the greatest undertaking of the kind in the colony.”
The value of investments such as these had been publicly endorsed in 1869 when the future Victorian Chief Inspector of Mines, Robert Brough Smith published his book on the Goldfields and Mineral Districts of Victoria.
Commenting on the Beechworth and Yackandandah Goldfields he wrote that:
“The miners have conveyed water in numerous races from the heads of then streams to their claims in the lower parts of the district, and an immense quantity of gold has been got out of the alluviums. Perhaps no part of the colony - not even Ballarat - shows more remarkably the energy and activity of the mining population than this area.”
Investors in the Rocky Mountain Extended Gold Sluicing Company would have agreed with his assessment. Over the next six years the mining company they owned extracted 6,500 oz of gold (current value $16M AUD) and paid out £7,000 in dividends (roughly equivalent to $7M AUD today).