We’ve had a very rainy summer in Sydney this year due to the La Niña effect. Rainy weather like this reminds me of our visit to Western Tasmania. This region is one of the wettest in Australia (rainfall averages 2400mm annually), and in this post we visit the biggest town in the region, Queenstown. Like its Kiwi counterpart, it is an isolated place on the West Coast of the island, and like the other towns of the region, it also has a strong mining history.
Mining goes back all the way to the 1880s. Historical buildings scattered through the town attest to the town’s long history.
It started with gold, but eventually copper was the most lucrative metal. So much so that the town’s population grew to over 5,000. It wasn’t the mining itself that was the most ecologically damaging but its processing. The town had a few copper smelters that had to be fuelled, and the fuel of choice in the old-days was timber. So all the trees in the area were felled, hence the bare hills surrounding the town.
The high rainfall also meant that erosion was sweeping the topsoil away. The copper mine still exists but hasn’t been fully operational since 1994. Copper smelters no longer operate in town so the hills get a chance to slowly regenerate. But the lack of mining meant a lack of jobs, hence the population of the town has shrunk to under 1,800 and lots of shops remain empty. But there are people in town wanting to revitalise it.