History of West Australia/Eugenio Vanzetti


SOME time ago, when the attention of the whole world was first turned to Western Australia the group of scientific thinkers studying local conditions of mining was very small. Some of these men accepted Government employment, and some returned to the colonies which they had left. determined rather to stand by the positions they had temporarily abandoned than to throw in their lot with the large gang of speculators by whom Western Australia was then populated. One of this small group, however, Eugenio Vanzetti continued to carefully examine the country, and by hard and steady work he has now obtained a name and reputation second to none in the colony.

Eugenio Vanzetti HOFWA.jpg
Photo by
Greenham & Evans.

The subject of this sketch was born in Verona, Italy, some forty years ago; and having there successfully passed his University examinations in chemistry and metallurgy, proceeded, after a few years sojourn in France and Spain, to Australia. He landed some eighteen years ago in Sydney, New South Wales, and practised medicine and chemistry for many years in the towns of Forbes, Parkes, Mount Hope, and Cobar. During his residence in those centres he took an active interest in mining, and gained an extensive and varied knowledge of both copper and gold mines. richer mines which he had lately acquired.

In 1894, attracted by the magnificent prospects of Western Australia, he came hither to further study mining conditions as representative of several important commercial interests. At this time the boom had just commenced in earnest, and thousands of people were rushing to the fields. Mr. Vanzetti devoted all his leisure to observation of the country, but did not allow himself to be carried away by the excitement prevalent everywhere. Making Perth his headquarters, he paid visits of inspection to the fields at intervals. Watching the fortune of others who had arrived with him, he saw some few succeed, but many fail; he himself was enabled to bide the time now arrived, when mining would no longer be a mere gamble, when fortunes would not be made by finding a pocket of gold, and lost almost as quickly, and when large financial corporations, convinced of the permanency of the fields, determined to undertake commercial operations in connection with mining, which will shortly place Western Australia on a level with the older established fields of California and South Africa.

Mr. Vanzetti has, perhaps, been more instrumental than most people in bringing about sound enterprise on the fields, and introducing large capital. The arid nature of the country convinced him that, though rich in gold, the fields would never be the success they should be unless some sound scheme for treating the large quantities of ore available was devised in connection with an adequate water supply. Recognising at once that the difficulties he had to contend with were very different to those at Broken Hill, where the mines are consolidated, he determined, instead of attempting to take water to the mines, to adopt the system of bringing the ore, by means of railways, to the water for treatment, at the same time utilising the trucks on the return journey for supplying the mining people with sufficient water for domestic purposes. With this intention he procured the most permanent water supplies in Western Australia, most of which are situated in the agricultural tracts of country round Northam and Newcastle. Having secured the "Golden Pig" Mine at Southern Cross, and obtained large concessions in the matter of freight from the Government, who viewed his scheme with favour, he floated the Water Trust Mining and Public Crushing Company, with a capital of £250,000, for the purpose of treating stone at Seabrook, near Northam, where a splendid permanent water supply had been selected, from the Golden Pig and other richer mines which he had lately acquired. Some of the most perfect and most extensive machinery in the world is now erected at this place.

The success which attended the flotation of this company did not cause Mr. Vanzetti to rest on his laurels, for, on turning his attention to other fields, he saw an opportunity of launching out on a scale of far greater magnitude. Not far from Newcastle, on the Avon River, there is a splendid site for the erection of an enormous battery, fed by an even larger permanent supply of water than at Seabrook. True, it is many miles from the field, but with that energy which has marked Mr. Vanzetti's career, he at once set to work to surmount all difficulties. He made (1896) the bold proposal of constructing a line to connect the works with the northern belt of mines (which he maintains are the richest on the fields), beginning at Mount Jackson and ending at Mount Margaret, for the time being at least. The magnitude of this scheme will be appreciated when it is realised that it involves the construction of a railway 500 miles in length, at an estimated cost of £2,000,000. The capital which this intrepid financier has at his command is, perhaps, greater than that of almost any individual in Western Australia, he being the representative of several of the largest mining corporations, and in touch with the most influential business men of the day. All that is required is the consent of the Government for the work to be undertaken. This rail, or ore tramway, will, it is pointed out, in no way interfere with the Government railways, but will merely act as a feeder for the works, and aid the development of fields which would otherwise remain untouched.

Few men would have the courage to propose such a scheme, and fewer still could find the enormous capital required to put it into execution. Mr. Vanzetti is, however, a man who impresses one with the idea that whatever he earnestly undertakes is bound to succeed, if once the prejudice against private enterprise can be overcome with regard to Government concessions.

Unlike many scientific men, he strikes one as being thoroughly practical, and combines with keen business tact that charm of manner and courtesy characteristic of a widely travelled and well-read Italian gentleman.