Rusted remnants of the mine.
Rusted remnants of the mine.

LOOKING BACK: Craggy ruins mask blood, sweat, tears

THE wallum scrub around Torbanlea is generally flat and densely vegetated so that, when traversing through it on foot, little can be seen beyond the immediate vicinity.

The sounds of the forest are limited to those produced by insects and birds, but there are pockets where the weight of recent human history make it clear this has not always been the case.

For many decades this area was alive with the sounds and sights of coal mines.

The mines are long gone but their shadows linger on.

One of the many mines dotted throughout the region was the Burgowan No. 7 Mine.

It began production in 1926 and closed in October 1968 after more than one million tonnes of coal had been brought to the surface.

At any one time, between 70 and 100 men were employed at the mine.

STILL THERE: A chimney stack can still be seen at the former mine site.
STILL THERE: A chimney stack can still be seen at the former mine site.

For many years these men were joined by pit ponies underground to get the ore to the surface, and it wasn't until 1953 that diesel locomotives replaced the ponies.

The principal equipment used by the men far below the surface were picks and shovels.

Upon stumbling through the forest into the clearing, the first indication that this was a mine site is the square chimney rising about 30 metres from the ground.

Constructed in 1926 with bricks, concrete and iron framing, its life so far can be divided into roughly equal years of industrially serving the operation of the mine and then standing silent as a monument.

Within the forest this is not the only monument now slowly being reclaimed by nature.

The landscape itself reflects the workings of the mine with giant mullock heaps towering over the otherwise flat scrub.


Amongst the mullock heaps are artefacts and remnants of this mine and the men who worked here.

For those with an interest in this remarkable aspect of our history, nearby, at Howard, The Burrum and District Mining Museum is doing a great job in preserving and presenting the region's historical connection to mining.

The 1950s are often regarded as the best years for the Burrum coal industry, with a steady supply being required at the nearby Howard Power Station, the railways and other local sites.

Coal was also exported through the Urangan Pier.

Exploring the craggy ruins, rusting remnants and scarred landscape of this mine is an eerily evocative experience.

It is probably an experience that means different things to different people.

Are they a symbol of humanity's fragility, endurance or transience?

They are all this and more.

Ruins are a touchstone in the stream of history.

Men lived, worked and died here in these mines.

Fortunes were won and lost.

Tunnels were dug, buildings erected and mountains of earth pushed aside, but now nature is retaking its hold.

Through the blood, sweat and tears of previous generations we have arrived at the state of development we now enjoy.

A state of development that allows me to come out here into the forest, admire the historic ruins and think about what they mean to me.

Perhaps this is progress?

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