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A history of discovery, study and exploitation of coal in Tasmania

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Bacon, CA and Banks, MR (1989) A history of discovery, study and exploitation of coal in Tasmania. Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania, 123. pp. 137-189. ISSN 0080-4703

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Abstract

The history of discovery of coal in Tasmania. the history of geological work on the coal and the history and methods of exploitation of the coal have been influenced by three main factors: (I) population spread and density, (2) geology, including quality, of coal and (3) economic conditions. The pattern of discovery showed the effects of population growth and the spread of settlement in the island and, particularly in the early days of the colony, the types of discoverers reflected important groups in the population. Study of the coal was, for the greater part of last century, carried out by visiting naturalists, amateurs (some of them gifted) or overseas experts. Even when this situation changed and the work was done by resident geologists, the study usually depended on concepts and practices developed elsewhere. The derivative nature of this work is a reflection of the generally poor quality of known coals and, by and large, low known coal reserves. The history of mining reflects the geology of the coal deposits, changes in the means and availability of transport and, in general, economic conditions. Coal mining had significant effects on only two Tasmanian communities. The discovery and quality of coal in the Don and Mersey Valleys attracted many people to the area in the 1850's and early 1860's but the prevalence of faults and thinness of seams precluded later significant developments. The opening of the railway to the eastern end of the South Esk valley in 1886 improved the ease and reduced the cost of transportation, and thus led to increased demand for production of coals from the Fingal-St Marys area. The opening initiated a long period during which coal mining made a significant impact on the economy of that area. The thick and relatively unfaulted seams there allowed economic mining until the low oil prices of the 1960's combined with the relatively low quality and total reserves of coal to force closures of mines, which severely disturbed the communities of Fingal and St Marys.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Royal Society of Tasmania, RST, Van Diemens Land, natural history, science, ecology, taxonomy, botany, zoology, geology, geography, papers & proceedings, Australia, UTAS Library
Journal or Publication Title: Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania
Page Range: pp. 137-189
ISSN: 0080-4703
Additional Information: Copyright Royal Society of Tasmania
Date Deposited: 23 May 2012 04:43
Last Modified: 18 Nov 2014 04:34
URI: http://eprints.utas.edu.au/id/eprint/13805
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