HISTORY OF WILDCAT RIDGE WMA
The iron mines of Rockaway Township, one of the oldest mining regions in the United States, have played an important part in the early history of the Township and in the mining history of the State.The deposits within the Township have been mined intermittently for more than 200 years, providing ore as long ago as 1710, when Mt. Hope Mine was in operation. The Richard, Hibernia, and the Mt. Hope mines are some of the most productive mines in the state yielding immense quantities of ore.
THE HIBERNIA MINE
The Hibernia Mine comprised of Lower wood, Glendon, Scott, DeCamp, Upper wood, Willis and Wharton mines of the early New Jersey survey reports all operating the Hibernia deposit. The deposit extends from Beach Mine, near New Road, northeast under Hibernia Brook into the hill on the east. Around 1890 Joseph Wharton began a program of consolidation, and in 1901 secured control of the entire Hibernia mines. This resulted in one of the most important magnetite ore properties in the State of New Jersey. The property was then passed on to the Warren Pipe and Foundry Corporation and the Shamoon Industries; in the 1970's Shire National, successor of Shamoon Industries, sold the northeast section of the property. (Wildcat Ridge Wildlife Management Area). The mine had yielded more than 5 million tons of ore, to rank the fourth largest producer in the State of New Jersey. The ore mined was Bessemer grade, and the mine operated until 1913, when it was abandoned.
In 1873, a tunnel (Bat Hibernaculum) was driven for 2,500 feet along the ore shoot to drain the upper workings. The entrance to the tunnel still exists and is closed with a concrete wall. The portal is located across the valley behind where the old Hibernia Store and Trailer Post Office used to be, on the west side of Lower Hibernia Road. The tunnel is approximatley 10 feet high and 15 feet wide and connects with old stopes and shafts in some places.
The deposit was worked to the surface up the hill over the tunnel; the remains of the workings are still visible in the form of a collapsed trench. The deposit was in several steep stringers close together, the width near the surface averaging 10 feet, increasing to 20 feet wide at greater depths. Prior to 1972, the workings at the top of the hill at the southeast end were mostly open, hundreds of feet deep. The Glendon shaft was approximately 900 feet deep and connected with the Hibernia Tunnel; the No. 5 shaft also connected with the Hibernia Tunnel, at about a 250-foot depth. The No. 6,7 & 8 Shafts were reported to be 1,600 feet deep and also connected with the tunnel at a 250-foot depth. The No. 10 Shaft was reportedly 1,100 feet deep. In 1972, the openings were blasted shut and dozed in. One area by mid 1997 showed considerable settllement; the entire stretch could still be made out. The plunge of the deposit put it underground around No. 8 Shaft. Shafts 9, 10, 11, & 12 locations are still visible, but no surface workings are evident between the Shafts. The deposit was exploited to approximately 2,800 feet under No, 12 Shaft. The foundations of No. 12 Shafts are still very visible.(Beaver Pond Parking Lot) Several hundred feet north of No. 12 Shaft, Shamoon Industries started to sink a new shaft in the 1950's, but the project was abandoned and covered with a steel plate, several years later.
It is reported that ore was mined from the Hibernia deposit as early as 1722. In 1765, the "Adventure Furnace", later known as the Hibernia Furnace, was built at Hibernia and supplied shot and ordnance for the Continentals during the Revolutionary War. In 1850, some ore was mined to supply the furnaces at Powerville and Beach Glen; the Hibernia Furnace at the time being in ruins. There is no record of the amount of ore produced from 1750 to 1854, but from1854 up to 1885 the production is estimated at 1,821,000 tons. Between 1901 and 1905 the recorded production was 1,084,567 tons. The mine was closed for several years and reopened in 1908 yielding about 50,000 tons a year until shutdown. The total aggregate yield from the mine is estimated at 5,230,311 tons.
Source: Abandoned Iron Mines of Rockaway Township, Morris County, NJ, 1978, by State of NJ Dept. of Labor & Industry, Division of Work Standards, Office of Safety Compliance, Trenton, NJ. (6/03)