Changing Landscapes – Mining and rural infrastructure

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Kiama quarry: supplying ‘blue metal’ for Sydney

Kiama quarry: supplying ‘blue metal’ for Sydney
Kiama quarry: supplying ‘blue metal’ for Sydney

By 1880 roads, tramways and railways were expanding in and around Sydney.

This created demand for large amounts of crushed hard rock.

Most of the rock came from basalt quarries at Kiama. It was crushed using steam power, then carried by horse, cart and rail to boats waiting in the harbour.

Although Kiama is 120km south of Sydney, it falls well within the ecological footprint of the larger city. Like most metropolises, Sydney consumes resources from an area many times its own size.

Questions

  1. What other resources does a city or town need?
  2. Where do these resources come from?
  3. Where is basalt mined in Australia today?
  4. How is basalt mined today?

Making a road: creating infrastructure

Making a road: creating infrastructure
Making a road: creating infrastructure

A century or more ago, building roads was a time-consuming business.

Bullock teams hauled stone road rollers one way, then the other, to compact the earth. Corrugations on the rollers maximised the pressure.

Infrastructure like roads is very important to the wellbeing of a society. In Australia goods are often transported by road across the country. However, wear and tear caused by heavy vehicles means roads need constant, expensive maintenance.

Rail could offer a good alternative as fuel prices rise and road transport becomes more costly.

Questions

  1. In the 1890s and early 1900s, what types of transport would use this road?
  2. What types of transport would use this road now?
  3. How are roads made now?
  4. Which method is more environmentally friendly?

Ophir Bluff: gold for Australia

Ophir Bluff: gold for Australia
Ophir Bluff: gold for Australia

Gold was found at Ophir, near Orange, NSW, in 1851.

It had a huge social impact on the workers of NSW, and thousands of eager prospectors deserted regular jobs to seek their fortunes in the goldfield.

In 2001, metals, ores and minerals made up 46% of all commodities exported from Australia.

Although mining affects a relatively small area of land, it can have a large effect in regard to energy and water use.

Careful management is needed to minimise social and environmental impacts.

Questions

  1. What are some of the ways gold mining can affect the environment?
  2. Is gold still mined in the Orange district today?
  3. How is water used in the processing of gold?
  4. In what sort of rock is gold typically found?

Sluice mining: washing the hills away

Sluice mining: washing the hills away
Sluice mining: washing the hills away

Sluicing was a form of mining that used high pressure jets of water to break up loose alluvial hillsides.

After the soil of a hillside was turned into a slurry with water, it was channelled down the hill into sluice boxes, where minerals were caught on “riffles” in the boxes.

Sluice mining was used in NSW to find gold at Kiandra and Adelong, and tin at Tingha and Watson’s Creek.

It had a considerable environmental impact, including soil erosion, diversion of water courses and destruction of local vegetation and biodiversity.

Questions

  1. List all the ways sluice mining damages the environment.
  2. Where did the water come from for the mining operation?
  3. What sort of fuel would have been used to power the high-pressure jets of water?
  4. Is sluice mining still used in Australia? If so, where?

Sunny Corner silver mine: a rich past with a long legacy

Sunny Corner silver mine: a rich past with a long legacy
Sunny Corner silver mine: a rich past with a long legacy

Silver, gold, zinc and another metal called antimony were mined at Sunny Corner, near Bathurst, from 1875 to 1922.

During that time more than 100 tonnes of silver were produced and the mine was one of the most productive in the country.

Unfortunately for today’s residents, mine tailings were used as landfill for the village. Local soil and water is contaminated with lead and arsenic that was produced during the smelting of silver ores.

The damage is now being cleaned up using fungi and plants that can absorb or break down the toxins.

Questions

  1. How has the environment been affected by mining?
  2. What would have been used as fuel for the smelting?
  3. All of the machinery was steam-powered. Where would the water for the mining and processing have come from?
  4. Where is silver mined in Australia today?

Coal from the Illawarra: powering the Pacific
Coal from the Illawarra: powering the Pacific

The wagons in this photo are filled with coal mined from the cliffs around Wollongong.

The coal might have been on its way by boat to Sydney, to be burnt to generate electricity in power stations. Alternatively, it might have been exported to New Zealand, South America or the Pacific region, to be used as fuel for steam ships.

Australia exported almost four million tonnes of coal in 1903, around the time this picture was taken.

Coal is still a major Australian export today. This presents a dilemma, because burning coal produces greenhouse gases, which are contributing to global climate change.

Questions

  1. Why is coal called a ‘fossil fuel’?
  2. Name some other fossil fuels. Where do they come from?
  3. What are some other sources of energy?
  4. What is a renewable resource? Give some examples.

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