Return Air Vent and Fan Chamber, Blackball Mine

Roa Road, Blackball

  • Return Air Vent and Fan Chamber, Blackball Mine, Blackball. Image courtesy of Department of Conservation.
    Copyright: Copyright – Crown. Date: 5/12/2007.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 5006 Date Entered 28th June 1990 Date of Effect 28th June 1990


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described Pt RS 4979, NZ Gazette, 2008 p. 2527, Westland Land District and the structures associated with Return Air Vent and Fan Chamber, Blackball Mine thereon. Refer to extent map tabled at the Rārangi Kōrero Committee meeting on 29 April 2021.

City/District Council

Grey District


West Coast Region

Legal description

Pt RS 4979, NZ Gazette, 2008 p. 2527, Westland Land District



Gold had been found in Blackball Creek as early as 1865, but it was not until November 1890 that coal was discovered by the Blackball Coal Company which had been established to supply an English shipping line with fuel for its ships. Quartz mining began in the area at about the same time, but it was for the mining of coal that Blackball township and its mine became important.

The return air vent and electric fan chamber were designed to clear the mine of the highly toxic methane gas given off by freshly exposed coal faces from the mine drives using the main entrance of the mine as the air intake. Originally a Capel fan imported from England was installed in the fan chamber, replacing the ventilation chimneys built above Blackball Creek in the 1890s.

This mine supported the development of Blackball township. Blackball miners and their union which was formed in 1899 established a tradition of union radicalism which influenced New Zealand industrial and political life over several decades.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Blackball was one of the larger coal mines of the West Coast and the fan chamber and air vent are a visible reminder of its importance.


The air vent and fan chamber is a utilitarian industrial structure in concrete. The 1922 Sirocco fan which is still in place is a significant industrial artefact.


Hidden by secondary growth, the return air vent and fan chamber are difficult to discern in the valley below the boiler house chimneys at the former Blackball Mine site.

Construction Professionalsopen/close

Moore, Martin

Martin Moore (b.1858) was born in Australia and came to New Zealand with his parents at the age of ten. After being educated at Brunnerton, Moore worked at the Dispatch Foundry in Greymouth and then at the quartz mines in Reefton. In the early 1880s he worked at a number of Grey County coal mines before joining the Blackball Coal Company as mine engineer when it commenced operations in 1890.

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description


A Sirocco double-inlet electric fan is mounted in a reinforced concrete chamber which runs perpendicular to the return air way. A reinforced concrete slab roof is supported by a single steel column at the junction of the fan chamber and air vent. The twin fans revolve on a steel axle which pierces both walls of the fan chamber.


1922 Original Capel fan replaced by the double-inlet Sirocco fan.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1922 -

1922 -
Original Capel fan replaced by the double-inlet Sirocco fan.

Construction Details

Steel and reinforced concrete.

Information Sources

Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives (AJHR)

Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives

1895-9, 1903-6, 1922

Eastwood, 1982

D. Eastwood, A Brief History of Gold Mining in Moonlight & Blackball Creeks, Westland, NZ Forest Service, Hokitika, 1982

Bowkett, 1966

Official Souvenir Booklet of Blackball Centennial, 1866-1966, comp. A. Bowkett, Blackball, 1966

Wilson, 1987

J. Wilson (ed.), The Past Today - Historic Places in New Zealand, Pacific Publishers, Auckland, 1987

Howitt, 1966

G. Howitt (ed.), 'Centennial of Blackball, 1866-1966', Looking at the West Coast, Greymouth, February 1966

New Zealand Coal

New Zealand Coal

Vol. 28, Autumn 1984, pp.2-4

Greymouth Public Library

Greymouth Public Library

Archives: Greymouth Public Library, Greymouth

Other Information

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.