Tuesday, 16 October 2007

"I say coal, you say resource"

I don’t understand the geology behind it, or underneath it as the case may be, but the hills of the Rosewood Scrub are coal-bearing. Other than the sugar cane that was grown for a short time in the Marburg valley, the main reason for a branch train line down the valley was coal. There is still a commercial mine on the Rosewood side of the Tallegalla Hills that sends its coal to power an electricity station at Swanbank.

Most of my family and friends here know my attitude to the commercial mining. Officially it is meant to be drawing to a close but I have heard the stories for some time and will wait to see what happens. When we were first looking at properties in the area, my partner spent forty-five minutes with the mining company’s PR person. In all that time, he never mentioned the word coal: it was always “the resource.” He basically said that mining would not continue in the near future unless the price of the resource rose significantly. In that scenario, mining could continue indefinitely. When we first bought our house you could not see the mine. Now it has carved away part of the hills on the skyline. I am not opposed to extractive industries per se. What I object to is the continuation of mining in what has been identified as a residential growth area and the concomitant dust, noise and light pollution alongside heavy vehicles running constantly through a small one-main-street town. As children play in the park in Rosewood, mining trucks constantly rumble past.

What fascinates me though is the fact that historically most mining in the area was small-scale family mines. Just as people had house cows, chickens and pigs for meat, so some had a mine on their property. As you drive around the area, you come upon evidence of these mines. Leaning crazily, often festooned with vines, the wooden supports for the mine head still dot gullies. They can be hard to spot and even harder to photograph but they are there, evidence of cottage-industry resource extraction – or coal mining as we like to call it.

[Don't forget that you can click on the images for a larger view.]

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