Afterlife of the mine: lessons in how towns remake challenging sites



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Old mine sites suffer many fates, which range from simply being abandoned to being incorporated into towns or turned into an open-air museum in the case of Gwalia, Western Australia.
Author provided

Laura Harper, Monash University; Alysia Bennett, Monash University, and Ross Brewin, Monash University

The question of what to do with abandoned mine sites confronts both regional communities and mining companies in the wake of Australia’s recent mining boom. The companies are increasingly required to consider site remediation and reuse. Ex-mining sites do present challenges, but also hold opportunities for regional areas.




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No to rehab? The mining downturn risks making mine clean-ups even more of an afterthought


Old mine sites can provide a foundation for unique urban patterns, functions and transformations, as they have done in the past. It is useful to look at historical gold-mining regions, such as the Victorian goldfields, to understand how these sites have shaped the organisation and character of their towns.

Research by The University of Queensland’s Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation suggests Australia has more than 50,000 abandoned mine sites. Some are in isolated places. But many others are close to or embedded within regional settlements that developed specifically to support and enable mining activity.

Abandoned mines present unique challenges for remediation:




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Soil arsenic from mining waste poses long-term health threats


These characteristics exclude mining sites from reuse for activities such as residential development. The sites are often considered fundamentally problematic. At times former mining sites have been reused opportunistically, accommodating functions and uses that could co-exist with the compromised physical landscape.

How have old mines shaped our towns?

The industrial patterns established during the Victorian gold-mining boom are traceable through observing the street layout and the location of civic buildings, public functions and open spaces of former gold-mining towns.

For example, in the gold-mining town of Stawell, a pattern of informal and winding tracks was established between mining functions. These tracks later provided the basis for the town’s street organisation and land division, including the meandering Main Street, which forms the central spine of the town.

Left: Cascading dams in Stawell are remnants of the industrial crushing processes that were linked together along naturally occurring gullies. Right: Looking from Cato Lake towards Stawell Town Hall.
Harper, Laura, Author provided

Cato Lake, behind Main Street, was transformed from the tailings dam of the Victoria Crushing Mill. St Georges Crushing Mill and its associated dams became the Stawell Wetlands.

Current residential allotments in Stawell overlaid with the geographical survey of 1887. The gaps correspond to mining claims, crushing mills, tailings dams and other industrial processes associated with mining.
Harper, Laura/Map underlay from Mining Department of Melbourne, Author provided

Other mining sites were transformed into the car park for Stawell Regional Health, the track for Stawell Harness Racing Club and the ovals for the local secondary college. A survey of public open spaces in Stawell shows that over time former mining sites accommodated most of the town’s public functions.

Open space in Stawell showing the correlation of past mining sites with public function:
1. Central Park – public reserve est. 1860s.
2. Cato Park and Bowls Club – was Victoria Co. Crushing Mill
3. Stawell Regional Health – built over a mullock heap associated with the St George Co. Crushing Mill.
4. Wetland Precinct – was part of St George Co. Crushing Mill
5. Stawell Harness Racing Club – was part of Wimmera Co. Crushing Mill
6. Stawell Secondary College and grounds – was part of Wimmera Co. Crushing Mill
7. Borough of Stawell reservoir (disused) – was part of Wimmera Co. Crushing Mill
8. Federation University (Stawell Campus) – was School of Mines and prior, St George Lead (surface diggings)
9. Stawell State School – public reserve established in 1865
10. North Park Recreation Reserve – was part of Galatea Co. Mine / Grants Crushing Mill
11. Stawell Leisure Complex – was part of Galatea Co. Mine / Grants Crushing Mill
12. Oriental Co. Mine Historic Area – was Oriental Co. Mine
13. Moonlight-cum-Magdala Mine Historic Area – was Magdala Mine / Moonlight Co. Mine
14. Big Hill reserve, lookout and arboretum – site of multiple claims including Sloan and Scotchman, Cross Reef Consolidated and Federal Claim

Harper, Laura, Author provided

Many other Victorian goldfields towns developed in similar ways to Stawell. These towns have lakes or other water bodies in and around their central urban areas that were born out of mines.

Calembeen Park and St Georges Lake in Creswick and Lake Daylesford in Daylesford were all formed through the planned collapsing of multiple underground mines to create urban outdoor swimming spots.

Calembeen Park in Creswick is a swimming hole with a diving board that takes advantage of the extreme depth of the lake formed through collapsing several underground mines.
Author provided

In Bendigo, the ornamental Lake Weeroona was formed on the site of the alluvial diggings. Other sites in these towns became parks, ovals, rubbish tips and public functions that could be accommodated on the degraded land.

Abandoned mine sites outside towns have also been used for unique purposes. Deemed unsuitable for use by the farming and forestry industries, these sites have developed into havens for flora and fauna, including endangered species. A 2015 article in Wildlife Australia magazine details instances of the Eastern Bentwing-bat and the Australian Ghost Bat adopting abandoned gold mines as replacement habitat for breeding and raising their young.

The neglect of other gold-mining sites has preserved historical remnants by default. The Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park in Victoria is one example. Here, water races, puddling machines and crushing batteries are hidden amid dense bushland.

The town of Gwalia in Western Australia, abandoned after its mine closed, has been transformed into a town-sized open-air museum.

And what uses are possible in future?

Historical gold-mining sites in or near towns continue to be adapted for unusual uses. The Stawell Goldmine on Big Hill in Stawell is being converted to accommodate the Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory (SUPL), a research laboratory one kilometre below the surface. Cosmic waves are unable to infiltrate the abandoned mining tunnels, so the conditions are ideal for exploring the theorised existence of dark matter.

Working on the Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory deep underground in an old mine tunnel.
Swinburne University



Read more:
Digging for cosmic gold: the hunt for dark matter at the bottom of a gold mine


In Bendigo it is proposed to use the extensive historical mine shafts under
the town to generate and store pumped hydroelectricity. This scheme, recently explored as a feasibility study by Bendigo Sustainability Group, would use solar panels to create power to pump underground water up through the mining shafts to be stored at the surface. When power is required the water would be released through turbines to generate electricity.

The lack of demand for remediating sites for market-led uses (such as urban development, farming or forestry) broadens their potential for uses that might otherwise seem marginal or improbable, such as new forms of public space.




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From mine to wine: creative uses for old holes in the ground


The scale and remoteness of many post-industrial mining sites in Australia – such as Western Australia’s Super Pit gold mine, which is 3.5 kilometres long and 600 metres deep – might mean that approaches to reuse different from those taken with historical goldmines are required. We don’t have to wait until a mine’s closure to think about how it might be used in the future.


The Conversation is co-publishing articles with Future West (Australian Urbanism), produced by the University of Western Australia’s Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Visual Arts. These articles look towards the future of urbanism, taking Perth and Western Australia as its reference point, with the latest series focusing on the regions. You can read other articles here.The Conversation

Laura Harper, Lecturer in Architecture, Monash University; Alysia Bennett, Lecturer and Researcher, Department of Architecture, Monash University, and Ross Brewin, Senior Lecturer, Department of Architecture, Monash University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Australia’s problem with Aboriginal World Heritage



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Uluru-Kata Tjuta: of 19 Australian World Heritage sites this is one of only two that recognise the values of ‘living’ Aboriginal culture.
Shutterstock

Ian Lilley, The University of Queensland and Celmara Pocock, University of Southern Queensland

Journalist Stan Grant once compared our Indigenous cultural heritage to the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel. Ironically, though Grant pointed to the Lake Mungo site in the Willandra Lakes as an example, Aboriginal people are poorly represented by Australia’s World Heritage sites. Torres Strait Islanders are not represented at all.

Of 19 World Heritage sites across the country, including such wonders as the Great Barrier Reef and the Sydney Opera House, only two, Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta, recognise the values of “living” Aboriginal culture, alongside the breathtaking natural features in those areas. These are what UNESCO calls “mixed” sites, bringing nature and culture together.

Australia’s two other such sites – the Tasmanian Wilderness, and the Willandra lakes – recognise archaeological records of Aboriginal people, along with natural values, but not contemporary Indigenous rights and associations.

None of Australia’s three sites inscribed purely for cultural values recognises Aboriginal people. They are the Sydney Opera House, the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne, and a multi-component listing of convict sites across the country including Port Arthur in Tasmania.

Aboriginal people rightly remain concerned, and often angry, that they were excluded from the original nominations of all of Australia’s World Heritage sites, natural, cultural and mixed. Yet they also remain deeply sceptical about the benefits of such listing.

Some progress

There has been some progress. Australia received enormous international credit for modifying, in 1994, the original Uluru-Kata Tjuta nomination to recognise living Aboriginal culture. But the real turnaround has been when Aboriginal people have directed these processes themselves.

After years of work, Gunditjmara people succeeded in having the site of Budj Bim on Aboriginal land in southwest Victoria, placed on Australia’s Tentative World Heritage List. The site includes a remarkable system of eel traps around Lake Condah. Elements of these traps date back over 6,500 years. This is the first step in the long process of gaining World Heritage recognition.

Remains of a 1,700 year old stone house at Budj Bim, Victoria.
denisbin/Flickr, CC BY-ND

Recently the World Heritage Committee established a forum for Indigenous peoples – in the making since the early 2000s. With the issue now so firmly on the international agenda, Australia will come under intense scrutiny to lift its game regarding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander World Heritage. How might that be done?

Indigenous heritage now

World Heritage sites are assessed against ten criteria across natural and cultural values. Originally highly Eurocentric, these criteria have gradually widened to become more inclusive, especially of Indigenous people.

Uluru-Kata Tjuta has long been held up as the paragon of this shift. It was originally listed as World Heritage in 1987, solely for its environmental characteristics. It was relisted in 1994 to include Aboriginal values, recognising the importance of Uluru and Kata Tjuta to the Traditional Owners, the Anangu people. Today, the area is recognised for being one of the most ancient human landscapes in the world, including its spiritual dimensions.

Rock art at Uluru.
Shutterstock



Read more:
Why we are banning tourists from climbing Uluru


Unlike Uluru-Kata Tjuta, and, later, Kakadu, the Tasmanian Wilderness and Willandra are recognised for their archaeological and rock-art sites, rather than for their living heritage. Willandra, for instance, celebrates archaeological evidence that demonstrates an Aboriginal presence more than 40,000 years ago, in what was then a lush environment quite unlike the present semi-arid conditions.

Such archaeological and rock-art sites are unquestionably important for the extraordinary history they contain, and Aboriginal people have a particular attachment to them as evidence of their ancient and continuing connection with their land. They are actively involved in management of these places for that very reason.

Yet the cultural value of these sites remains defined by non-Aboriginal archaeologists, rather than Aboriginal belief systems or political aspirations.

The Tasmanian Wilderness is recognised for being one of the last expanses of temperate rainforest in the world. It also includes evidence in limestone caves of Aboriginal occupation up to 35,000 years ago. Yet the listing fails to identify or formally recognise the relationship between that area – particularly the hand-stencil, rock-art sites – and Tasmanian Aboriginal people today.




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Outdated process

We are investigating what World Heritage might better deliver to Indigenous people. One of our major cases is the popular tourist destination of K’Gari (Fraser Island), given a World Heritage listing for its natural heritage in 1992. Some members of the local Butchulla community want Aboriginal heritage included in the listing.

Many archaeological and Butchulla story sites at K’gari are unquestionably unique to the Butchulla people and have great significance for the community today. Takky Wooroo (Indian Head), the rocky headland that anchors the vast sand island in place, is one well-known example.

Takky Wooroo (Indian Head) anchors the vast sand island of K’Gari (Fraser Island).
Shutterstock

However the Butchulla face hurdles in having this heritage recognised. The first is proving that their heritage is “better” than examples of Aboriginal heritage elsewhere. The second is demonstrating a continuous connection to it.

Both of these criteria are central to the World Heritage process, but are legacies of an outdated approach to Aboriginal culture. The process lumps diverse Aboriginal people into one group, when we know that Australia was home to hundreds of different peoples.

While the connection of the Butchulla to their heritage has already been recognised under Native Title, we would never assume that European cultures must remain unchanged since 1700 to be recognised as heritage.

How to do better

Our research is consistently finding that Aboriginal people are deeply sceptical about the benefits of World Heritage listing, despite efforts by State and Commonwealth governments to ensure Aboriginal input.

One concern is that World Heritage is seen as universal, something for all people. But some Aboriginal people see this as diminishing their very particular attachment to places, such as the remains of Mungo Man at the Willandra Lakes, an ancestor of deep personal and community significance.

‘Mungo Man’ was repatriated to the Willandra Lakes, where the remains were found, in 2017.
PERRY DUFFIN

What can we do better? It is simple. All future heritage sites should canvass Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander involvement early in the nomination process, even those where there is no obvious Aboriginal link to the site. This process is already retrospectively underway for Australia’s natural sites
and in 2012, it meant the Indigenous heritage values of Queensland’s Wet Tropics were recognised at a national level, which is vital to having them recognised internationally.

We should also support Indigenous people to make their own nominations. This is what’s happening at Budj Bim. While non-Indigenous archaeologists are helping with the nomination, it is being driven by local Aboriginal people. They have linked the archaeological value to both ancestral stories, and to the Gunditjmara’s continuing efforts to maintain and protect their heritage today.




Read more:
The detective work behind the Budj Bim eel traps World Heritage bid


What other possible sites are there?

There are a great range of other amazing sites that we know are “out there”. Take the famed “Dreaming tracks” and “songlines” that criss-cross the continent, for instance. Tracing the travels of ancestral beings, they encode the locations of living places and sacred spaces, mapping the disposition of resources across the landscape and through seasonal cycles.




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They encompass some of the nation’s most dramatic natural features as well as camping places, sources of water, food and other resources, art sites and Indigenous sacred places, thus combining natural and cultural, tangible and intangible, and ancestral as well as living heritage.

With suitable protection of secret-sacred information, as well as the routes themselves and the specific sites they incorporate, Aboriginal songlines and the routes of ancestor-heroes in Torres Strait could be a future World Heritage nomination. A number are already on various state government heritage lists.

Similar nominations are appearing in other parts of the world, such as the recently-listed mixed site of Pimachiowin Aki, co-developed by the Ojibwe (Anishinaabe) peoples “in the heart of Canada’s boreal forest” – not least because of precedents set by Australia over the years.The Conversation

Ian Lilley, Professor in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, The University of Queensland and Celmara Pocock, Associate Professor, School of Arts and Communication, University of Southern Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Australia: Outback Asteroid Impact


The link below is to an article reporting on a suspected asteroid impact site in outback Australia.

For more visit:
http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/journal/evidence-of-huge-asteroid-impact-found-in-australia-outback.htm

Tree Day: Park Beach Reserve – Coffs Harbour


The link below is to an article reporting on a site for tree planting on National Tree Day – 29 July 2012. The site is at Park Beach Reserve, near Coffs Harbour.

For more information visit:
http://www.coffscoastadvocate.com.au/story/2012/07/19/branching-out-community-support/

Website: Tree Day


The link below is to a site where you can find a location to take part in Tree Day 2012 (Australia). Tree Day is the 29th July 2012.

For more information visit:
http://treeday.planetark.org/find-a-site/

Article: Africa – New World Heritage Site


The link below is to an article that looks at the world’s latest World Heritage Site, which is in Africa. UNESCO has declared the new site which is shared by the Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and Cameroon.

For more visit:
http://news.mongabay.com/2012/0702-tns-world-heritage.html

Article: Project Noah


The following link is to a tutorial about how to use the social networking site Project Noah. I have a presence on Project Noah, but am yet to really get into the site, but hopefully soon will.

For more visit:
http://www.killerstartups.com/startup-spotlight/making-sure-we-don’t-forget-nature-with-project-noah/