Incapable directors are, for the most part, as incompetence of all kinds generally is, extremely extravagant. Shareholders have, over and over again, therefore, just to take one phase of it, had many unpleasant experiences of the error of making haste too quickly in the erection of crushing plants. Mine-development should always be kept well ahead of the mill, but instead of carrying out this policy directors force the extraction. They urge their mine-managers into large expenditures upon crushing plants that are afterwards found to exceed the normal capacity of the mine-development. It is obvious that where a mill has to cease working because it has exhausted the available supply of ore, and has a crushing capacity in excess of the daily extraction from the mine, a serious waste of capital results. Of late years the tendency in gold-mining has been to fuse as many claims as possible into one concern, to erect 200 or 300 stamps of the latest type, and to seek economy in working by doing everything on the monumental scale. It is not, in the first instance, conclusively shown that a large number of stamps results in a reduction in the cost per ton of obtaining gold. In fact, in a great number of instances the results point altogether to an opposite direction.

Where a mill has been erected in the anticipation of the opening up of the ore bodies, or in excess of the real capacity of the mine-plant, there is a strong temptation to prevent the shutting down of the mill by crushing unpayable stuff, or by sacrificing the payable plan of working in order to extract the more easily.-got-at ore bodies. In cases of this kind, where a mill is kept supplied only with the utmost pressure upon the mine, such subsidiary operations as sorting and proper preliminary crushing are apt to be neglected. This is a main explanation for some of the cases where the installation of large and heavy batteries has been followed by an increase in the working expenses and a falling off in the yield. The anxiety for record outputs is not wholly conducive to economical working. Unceasing productiveness is a condition of profitable employment, provided the mine is sufficiently well developed. On the whole, perhaps, rather than erect huge installations, it is better to have a battery whose capacity is slightly below the maximum ore-supply, for contingencies are constantly cropping up which interfere with the regular conduct of mine-operations. In one case it may be drought, in another scarcity of labour, in a third a sudden change in the character of working. It is obvious, therefore, that additional stamps, which are only intermittently at work, are in the nature of a white elephant.

Directors and shareholders should keep these facts carefully in mind when they deal with the naturally generous estimates of an engineer anxious to do things on a proper scale of magnitude. Innumerable are the cases in which the whole of the working capital has been expended in the erection of a large battery instead of pushing on development work. In Western Australia the futility of such a policy is added to by the uncertainty which has hitherto existed as to the most efficient and economical means of treating the ore. To spend large sums of money on a battery, when, for instance, there may not be sufficient water for working it, is an act which carries its own condemnation. Such costly mistakes have very frequently been made, however, and are likely to be made again, so long as directors and shareholders look upon early crushing as the first proof of the real value of a property. A more rational policy ought to be adopted by them, especially as they can be instructed by the history of the Wit-watersrand. The success of ventures, such as the deep levels of the Rand, will result from the attention that has been given to development in anticipation of crushing, and they should constitute a powerful object lesson against the unreasonable desire for an output which too frequently means the wrecking of a promising mining property.

I have said quite enough in this chapter, I think, to show how vitally necessary it is for the speculator, and above all for the investor, to know the class of men who are on the directorate of the particular company whose shares he is buying. He may subscribe to those shares on the prospectus, or buy them in the market; nevertheless, in any case he should make it his business to find out whether the company and the mine are being capably and honestly managed. It may be difficult, and even impossible, to find out, but he, at any rate, may write for advice to the reputable portion of the financial press, or consult the various manuals - the 'Mining Manual,' or the 'Stock Exchange Year-Book ' - that are published, giving a short record of the mine and the names of the directors. He can, at least, take every precaution; but few do this, and they come to grief in consequence.