The West Australian market is not the market for the investor. I cannot advise him to go there to seek more than a limited number of good mining investments. It is pre-eminently (if we exclude the West African) the market for the speculator and the gambler, and it is unlikely to be resorted to by other people as long as the industry lasts. In being associated with the most dishonest and unscrupulous men in the city of London, to say nothing of the multitude of them in the colony, Western Australia has been particularly unfortunate, and full justice has not been done to its mineral resources. It has not yet had the chance it deserves, and it is almost too late in the day to hope that it ever will. The public, both here and on the Continent, have sunk enormous sums in the industry - or, rather, I should say in the pockets of an army of promoters - and the colony has not yet returned the equivalent of that money in gold, and it will probably be many years before it does. We have witnessed one scandal after another, until we have almost despaired of seeing an end of them, and we are beginning to doubt whether there is such an individual as an honest man associated with the market. How many more scandals we shall witness Heaven only knows. I cannot feel hopeful that we have seen the last of them, for there is no doubt that many companies are still being carried on, merely to provide the directors with their fees, which have no earthly chance of success. Others, of course, have been worked, not in the interests of the shareholders - they were the very last to be considered - but merely to manipulate the market, and it is doubtful whether any other gold-field has so dark and evil a record as that which Western Australia has left for our contemplation and reflection. And, apart from the scoundrels in London who have battened on the mines and the industry, and have ruined by their methods thousands of their victims, the industry has always laboured under disadvantages for which no one but Nature is responsible. As a gold-field, apart from man's interested interferences, it has been exceedingly disappointing, and this has been due to no other cause than the erratic and irregular manner in which the gold formations and the contents of the veins have been distributed. This characteristic has not been confined to one district nor to one gold-field; the characteristic is more or less uniform and unvaried throughout the whole of the colony, and hence it is still questionable whether the field will settle down into permanence as a regular gold-producer. By more or less uniform, I mean that in every district the lodes and veins have been patchy, but in some they have been more patchy than in others; but go where one will, we shall find that this patchiness is its distinguishing characteristic. In this respect it is totally dissimilar from the banket formation of the Rand, which is more uniform and regular in its gold contents. This alone, therefore, shows the speculative character of West Australian mining and the speculative value of even the best mines, such as Lake View, Ivanhoe, Golden Horse Shoe, Boulder Perseverance, Great Boulder Proprietary, Great Fingall, etc., which, though they may continue to pay large dividends for many years, may see a sudden change in their fortunes from richness to poverty, and thus in no instance can one say, as in the case of Rand mines, what the intrinsic value of any share is.
We can all carry our minds back to the early discoveries of gold, which gave rise to so much excitement all over the world. One or two prospectors found some exceedingly rich quartz on the site of what is now Bayley's Reward, in the famous Coolgardie field, and on the strength of this discovery some hundreds of companies were immediately floated in London, 98 per cent. of which never had a possible chance from their commencement. Then other wonderful discoveries were made which increased public excitement, including the famous Golden Hole of the Londonderry, but unfortunately these riches were confined in nearly every case to a small area, and to only a few feet in depth, and this has been the characteristic of the Coolgardie field. How often do we hear of Coolgardie now? Where are the hundreds of companies that were floated? Some half-dozen still live to remind us of the existence of such a field, and each one is living merely from hand to mouth, and there is no foretelling how soon their precarious existences will terminate. This was to be one of the richest gold-fields the world has ever seen. All it wanted was water, and accordingly a benevolent Government sanctioned a scheme for conveying water to the. field, which will cost some millions of money, and which is not likely ever to be returned. The mines will never be rich enough to support such a scheme, and Coolgardie as a payable gold-field seems practically dead. Up to the present the gold shutes have been found to be invariably narrow in extent, and the value of the ore is of very low grade, much too low to be worked to a profit in Western Australia. Moreover, the ground seems to be severely faulted, and, in spite of the water scheme, there is not likely to be an adequate supply of water. The principal Coolgardie mines now being worked are Bayley's United, Burbank's Birthday, Burbank's Grand Junction, Lady Charlotte, Lady Loch, Sherlaw's, Vale of Coolgardie, and Westralia and East Extension.
How often do we hear of any of these mines, or of their shares being dealt in on the market? Three or four of them pay small dividends, but their futures are by no means assured. Of the list, Burbank's Birthday seems to have been the best, and yet it looks as if its career is drawing to a close. The latest news from the mine is that the reefs are pinching out, and I, for one, am afraid its days are numbered, in spite of the opinion of the directors that the reefs will widen out in depth. It is probable that the mine may go on working for some years yet, and even pay another dividend or two, but it is not likely to be a mine in which money should be invested, nor do the shares seem to be very attractive as a speculation. The reef in Bayley's has also been exceedingly treacherous, and owing to its pockety nature it is not likely to be a conspicuous success.