Fit For Purpose

Dirty work boot laying on its side with worn down soles

Leather worn through at the toes, broken laces, and soles coming apart. These boots were worn to the bitter end and seemed to serve their wearer well. But were they fit for purpose? Worn by a miner at the Stockton Borehole Colliery, at Teralba, Lake Macquarie, where coal was mined from 1901, boots like these […]

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Catch of the Day

As a young child approaching my grandparent’s farm out beyond Bugaldie, north-west of Coonabarabran, I used to stare out the car window. After many hours on the road, mesmerised by hours of endless gum trees, the Warrumbungle Mountains finally appeared. As we drove along the flat plain near the railway siding of Bugaldie, my mother […]

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A Necessary Invention

The proverb ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ is possibly never more apt than when applied to the portable mine gas detector. Throughout mining history, countless miners have lost their lives in explosions caused by the inflammable methane gas that accumulates underground through the transformation of ancient plant material into coal. But from the 1950s, […]

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Industry Connections

Rectangular tray of rusty, assorted drill bits.

At this point, the history of Newcastle, located on Awabakal and Worimi country, is enmeshed with coal mining – but this was not always the case. Though these twentieth-century drills bits may have seen use in one of the many coal mines in the region, they are actually typical of those used for woodworking or […]

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Safety in Numbers

Imagine spending hours underground every day, working in a dark, damp, confined space, and breathing powdered coal dust that also coats your hair, skin and clothing. Add to that a constant, risk of physical injury, cave-ins, and the threat of explosions caused by any burning substance coming into contact with the methane gas seeping out […]

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Hurled to Eternity

In the early hours of a Monday morning in March 1898, the sound of a major explosion rocked Dudley, a small mining town just south of Newcastle. As plumes of black smoke spewed from the shaft of the Dudley Colliery, the mothers, wives, and children of workers ran to the site. Fifteen identity tags hung […]

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The Big Picture

Measuring a little over one metre tall this photographic portrait is of Charles Rasp (1846-1907), the man credited with finding silver at Broken Hill and establishing the now British-owned mining company BHP (Broken Hill Proprietary Company) in 1885. For decades the settler population at Broken Hill has celebrated Rasp as the city’s ‘founding father’, including […]

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No Dough Needed

Richard Sneddon drove his horse and cart to the back door of the bakery of the West Wallsend Cooperative Society and filled his baskets with fresh loaves, which had been baked and neatly stacked on trollies the previous afternoon. Around the town, Richard left bread at the houses of co-op members, and collected the small […]

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All Strapped Up

Underground coal mines are dangerous workplaces. The pit ponies used to work coal were no less at risk than the miners. The pit pony’s job was to haul the coal wagons, or skips, and equipment in and out of the mine. This old, well-worn and hardened leather strap had a crucial role to play when […]

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Broken Hill’s First Lady Miner

Tess Alfonsi is recorded as Broken Hill’s first woman miner – a designation that is all the weightier given the historic domination of mining by men. She worked the Triple Chance Mine with a hammer-tap drill, hid a pistol in her skirt when she paid the wages and protected her mine from claim jumpers with […]

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