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  • Writer's pictureHelen Avaient

Beaconsfield Mine and Heritage Centre in Tasmania, Australia

Loss, mateship, community spirit, ingenuity, persistence, and heroism are words displayed at the Beaconsfield Mine and Heritage Centre. These words symbolise the town. Gold was first discovered here in 1847 and mining began in 1877. The mine last closed in 2012.

There is a lot to see and do here, all relating to the Beaconsfield mine and local area. Learning more about the Beaconsfield early days as I embarked on a journey through the historical buildings was interesting. Interactive displays allow a hands on experience, suitable for young and old. I even climbed the headframe and saw the town from a birdseye view.

A large area of the centre is dedicated to the stories of the mine rescue in 2006. On 25 April an earthquake shook the town. Almost a kilometre underground in the mine, a serious rockfall killed one miner - Larry Knight. It trapped two others, Todd Russell and Brant Webb, in a cage so small they could barely move. Surrounded by rock they waited almost two weeks to be rescued. A multisensory stimulation has been created that allows people to see the tiny caged area they were trapped inside. Seeing the actual size, it is miraculous that they survived.

The information on display boards at the centre focuses a lot on the courage and innovation of the rescuers, the hopes of the world as they watched and how the community united during this dreadful time. I remember watching on television for those two nailbiting weeks and how I cried tears of joy when they showed the two miners walking out of the mine and moving their tags on the red board to show they had made it out and were no longer underground. It still brings goosebumps when I think of it.

"In most gold mines, the gold bearing quartz seam is stronger than the rock surrounding it. Here in Beaconsfield however, the conglomerate rock encasing parts of the gold seam is stronger than the quartz ore body." - from a sign at the centre

Under the town, the tunnels reach deep into the earth. A model shows the early tunnels. (1:473 scale) It is remarkable to think that all this is unseen far beneath our feet. The shaft and drives here reached a depth of 457m (1,500ft) by the time the mine closed in 1914. The modern workings (1999 - 2012) not depicted in this model, extended much further to 1,200m (3,900ft) - from the sign located next to the model.

The reef is located in an aquifer which required increasing pumping capacity as the works went deeper. When it reopened in 1999 electric pumps were used to drain the water.

In 1984 the heritage centre was created and a native garden was planted using ferns from the local area. This garden is currently being revegitated with Tasmanian endemic plants. I feel it symbolises nature taking over from the industrial as time passes.

Early history and the way pioneer people lived always fascinates me. I admire their fortitude and survival skills. It also makes me glad I live in an era of electricity and modern conveniences. The centre is set up in a way that feels like we have been transported back in time and looking through the windows of homes and businesses.

Historical photographs on display also show the ordinary lives of these early pioneers.

Old machinery and equipment has been restored and on display. Press a button near the waterwheel and it begins to turn, showing how it scooped up water and powered the stamp batteries at the mine.

An innovative way to display the different woods of Tasmania has been created along one of the pathways to the first floor. Being able to wander around and touch the displays really connects you with the past. This is not a museum, it is an interactive heritage centre.

The heritage centre takes you both indoors and outdoors, spread over two levels. I spent around two hours enjoying the various displays, learning more about the history of the town and the love of the local community.

Happy Travels!

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Terese McSkimming
Terese McSkimming

I didn't to get to visit this site. It sounds like I missed a very big part of Beaconsfield. If time allows me, I might have to take a trip back over to Beaconsfield. Thank you for sharing.

Helen Avaient
Helen Avaient

Awesome. It is definitely worth a revisit

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