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Matich, Fred; Matich, Ivan; Mataga, Des
Mining buried resin (Kauri gum) - an engineering perspective
16th Engineering Heritage Australia Conference: Conserving Our Heritage - Make a Difference!
Engineers Australia, Barton, Australian Capital Territory, 2011, pp. 326-336

Mining buried copal (the sap of the kauri tree known as "Kauri gum") is an important part of New Zealand's heritage. Kauri trees are ancient and are unique to New Zealand. Over geologic time, as the trees died and decomposed, the copal (resin) became buried. In the 1860s, the commercial value was recognized and mining was initiated. Initially the resin was used to produce the best varnish available at that time. However, this use required a purity of 97% and in 1910 a use for gum with purity as low as 70% was found in linoleum production. Kauri gum became one of New Zealand's leading exports. Mining of the resin has ceased. Little has been published on the engineering-related challenges involved in the mining operations, development of mechanical equipment, field processing and reclamation. The challenges were successfully met by the "Gumdiggers" without formal geological or engineering training. The paper is a tribute to pioneers in the Kauri gum industry in recognition of their contribution to one of New Zealand's important heritage events. It is presented from an engineering perspective by Engineers with first-hand knowledge of the industry.

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