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O.K. COPPER MINE, CHILLAGOE, NORTHERN QUEENSLAND: A TATTERSALL COVER

This cover is one of the many Tattersall Lottery applications sent to a ‘blind’ to thwart the Tasmanian postal authorities, as shown by the puncture in the cover. Mr. H. Athol of ‘ Highfield Hall’ Murray St. Hobart, Tasmania has not been identified. The blue ‘TWO PENCE FOUR CORNERS’ stamp of Queensland has a rare postmark of O.K. MINE/ 6 JUL 06/ QUEENSLAND. This post office opened in 1905 and closed in 1911. The postmark is a Type 1 of Cowan & Dell, 25 mm diameter with a large ‘dot’ on both sides and a one-line date, which is rated 3R (of 4R). The example of Type 1 is shown as the postmark for 'ACLAND' (Figures 1 & 2).

In September 1901, copper was discovered by John Munro in an area at the northern perimeter of the Chillagoe mineral district, part of the Walsh and Tinaroo Mineral Field. He named the site OK, reputedly after an empty OK jam tin. On 11 November 1902 Munro applied for a Prospecting Area of 400 square yards on a hill where copper carbonates were showing profusely and where he assayed copper at 34%. The OK Copper Mines Development Syndicate NL was formed, consisting of members John Munro and several others, including an engineer, several store keepers and a railway company. The syndicate developed the mine and constructed and operated the OK smelters, and it was the first copper company in North Queensland to declare a dividend. This is a picture of the early mine and workers (Figure 3).

Transport costs were a major obstacle for mining companies, and as the railway to nearby Mungana had recently been completed, the OK mining venture became viable. Chillagoe mineral lodes had attracted official attention in 1888 following a report from the Mineral Lands Commissioner and John Moffat engaged seventy-five men to prospect some 260 acres of leases. He planned to finance a tramway from Montalbion to Chillagoe to redress the isolation and lack of transport. However, as copper prices were depressed, the capital market was contracting, and there was no reliable geological opinion on which to float the properties, no major development eventuated.

By May 1905, the company had 400 tons of matte ready for export, and at that time they believed there were 62,360 tons of ore in sight valued at £1,060,000. In June 1905 they declared a dividend of five shillings per share, the first copper mining company in North Queensland to do so. In October 1909 mining operations were suspended due to a strike. In 1920 a cyclone damaged the OK Mine and store buildings. A proposal to construct concentrating machinery to treat the mine dump did not eventuate, and machinery was removed from the mine and smelters were moved for use in the Chillagoe State Smelters in 1921. The mine opened again in 1930 supplying the Chillagoe smelters and closed in 1942 after producing 7,685 tons of copper. In 1951 the OK Syndicate erected a three head battery for trial treatment of ore. The condition of the neglected site in 1994 is shown in Figures 4 and 5.

Addendum ( April 2011):  Another Tattersall cover was found addressed to a Mr. Athol, but with the initials J.W.H.. written by the same hand, and sent to the exact same address as in Figure 1.  The 2 'Four CORNER' orange ' ONE PENNY' QUEENSLAND stamps were cancelled with the nearby town of CHILLAGOE/ NO 17/ QUEENSLAND duplex with the barred numeral '600'. David McNamee on p. 24 of his book 'Catalogue and Handbook of Tattersall's Covers' states "There are no records of anyone named Athol in Hobart for the period 1903-1909.  It is possible that this was a pseudonym for someone working at Tatts, or perhaps this was an entirely fictitious person.  This example of the use of 3 initials (J.W.H.) was not mentioned by David (Figure 6). 

 
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