The history of Ouegoa, situated at the north-eastern end of Grande Terre, is deeply linked to those of copper and gold mines which made some people wealthy during a short period, from 1870 to 1890.
In the 19th century, the search for gold veins was systematically associated with the "discovery" of new territories. In New Caledonia, this research began even before the French people officially possessed the area in 1853. As early as 1850, it was said that gold quartz was discovered near Hienghene. In June 1863, there were reports that gold flakes were discovered in a layer of clay in Pouébo.
No need to whet the appetites any more. In August 1869, Governor Guillain promised a free license of 25 hectares of land plus a bonus of 50 000 francs for any discovery of a promising mineral deposit.
The Anglo-Saxon Caledonian gold rush
On 10 September 1870, four prospectors announced the discovery of a deposit on the left bank of Diahot, a place for the future Fern-Hill mine. The news then spread up to Sydney and some anglo-saxon prospectors would travel before leaving the scene a few months later because of the lack of good veins!
In 1872, it was the turn of copper. In October, four former military people discovered a promising copper deposit on the banks of Ouégoa River.
The Ouégoa smelter uses convicts
At Pam, a small center was created under the influence of the massive influx of Australian miners and the construction of first warehouses. As a transhipment point, the port of Pam has a more significant activity than that of Noumea!
From 1890, a smelter, using penal labour, helped to consolidate the mining feature of Ouégoa. However, from that date, the fall of world prices for copper caused an inexorable decline for Pam.
Of this history of mining remains an exceptionally rich and diverse heritage, although very degraded. The Fern-Hill mine still has exploration drifts and some shafts (vertical holes that give access to the mine itself) of the time. The Balade mine, with easier access, makes it easier to see retaining walls, several exploration drifts as well as a small railway tunnel that connected it to the Murat mine. A little further away, in Baie Durant at Pam, the remains of the old smelter remain visible (crushers, furnaces). There, one can also distinguish heritage building covered with vegetation: administrative building, post office, doctor’s house, etc.