LEAD Action News
LEAD Action News vol 10 no 4, June 2010, ISSN 1324-6011
Incorporating Lead Aware Times ( ISSN 1440-4966) and Lead Advisory Service News (ISSN 1440-0561)
The Journal of The LEAD (Lead Education and Abatement Design) Group Inc.
Editor-in-Chief: Anne Roberts

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Is Rosebery a Health Hazard?

By Frank Campbell

Source: www.crikey.com.au/2009/07/10/is-rosebery-a-health-hazard/

Posted Saturday, 11 July 2009 at 10:41 am Permalink - Copyright 2009 Private Media Pty Ltd, Publishers of Crikey. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with kind permission of Crikey.com.

"As a boy growing up in Rosebery I played in "Lake Bull". This was a semi-liquid tailings dump where grey sandy mine muck accumulated over decades. It formed a kind of quicksand, and more than once kids had to rescue each other with ropes or sticks as they sank. The Rosebery mine extracts silver, lead and zinc, and dates from the 1890s. Last time I looked (1992) Lake Bull was still there.

Rosebery was and possibly still is a dangerous and brutal environment. We had the run of the mine. Nothing could keep us out and no one tried. An overhead cableway from the Hercules mine at Williamstown ran over the town. At a certain point we could climb into the buckets and steal ore. If the damned thing started again we would have trundled off to the crusher. We were fascinated by ores, especially the crystalline ones such as Galena, which was mostly lead. These heavy lead ores were ideal for rock fights, which were conducted like trench warfare. Injuries were common. We also commandeered railway ore trucks inside the mine. One boy lost his thumb when he couldn't escape from the ropes tying him to the track quick enough. This "game" was derived from the Superman serials at the local cinema. Original we were not.

Exposure to heavy metals was inevitable. We knew nothing about pollution. The entire place is impregnated with heavy metals. Mining in those days was entirely underground, but as I said above, it was standard practice to pump mine waste out and dump it above ground, where it polluted the Stitt River. Remember that Rosebery is one of the wettest places in Australia. Some time in the 80s (I think), mining by chemicals began. This entails pumping liquid solvents into mines to separate metals from ores. Where did/does this waste go?

You won't read anything about all this in Geoffrey Blainey's "Peaks of Lyell" (1954), his first book, which launched his career as a paid corporate historian.

The residents of Rosebery today are living on a heavy metal waste site. The brutal macho days of mining may (or may not) be over, but the legacy lives on. Rosebery is a place few Australians have heard of. Tasmanians regard it as primitive, god-forsaken and best not mentioned in polite company. You can be sure that government has never conducted a single study into the health of miners or residents. Many are now dispersed as employment at the mines shrank due to technological innovation. Is there any interest in a health study of the West Coast mining towns? Or an audit of current mining practices? Or is the West Coast still dispensable, beyond the pale of civilisation?"

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