Tilley sees gold
Parliamentarian to seek talks on heritage prospects
BILL Tilley (MLA, Benambra) wants to talk with the Victorian government and its agencies about ways in which it can work with the Beechworth community to enable it to tap the tourism and economic prospects of its extraordinary gold heritage.
Alluvial and reef mining in and around Beechworth, Woolshed Valley and Stanley from 1852 until about 1930 yielded an official tally of 153 tonnes of gold.
In today’s money it would be worth an astonishing $8 billion.
But much of the industrial heritage – including an almost intact, rare, 12-head stamping battery, a fascinating colonial-era version of a ‘super pit’, a massive reef-mine mouth and a network of water races in Nine Mile Creek Historic Reserve – remains abandoned, all but forgotten and officially inaccessible.
“I’ve said it before and copped plenty of flak, Beechworth remains the only faithful representation of Victoria’s gold mining history – it’s not a movie set or theme park – and yet here are opportunities to enhance that reputation left rotting and hidden in the bush” Mr Tilley said last week after visiting the Wallaby and Rechabite mine sites in the reserve and Rocky Mountain Gold Sluicing Company tunnel beneath Beechworth.
“We have the Wallaby Mine that generated much of the gold that came out of the area.
“It is without signage, being eroded by run-off from the nearby road and the track that was once maintained and is now overgrown.
“Below that you have the stamping battery that crushed the rock to extract the gold, restored at a cost of $50,000 after the 2003 fires, again without signage, again at the end of an overgrown track. “You need to climb two fences to get to it.” Mr Tilley said these community and tourism assets were less than 10 minutes’ drive from Beechworth’s main streets’ intersection – where the gold yield is commemorated on a plinth outside the town’s heritage-listed post office.
“It doesn’t take much imagination to see this as part of a bike or walking trail from town celebrating this rich history.
“In a similar vein, buried beneath the town is a tunnel that runs from the Chinese Gardens to the Gorge that was once used in gold mining and could be yet another great tourism attraction.
“My plan is to take this up with the state authorities – look at how we can make this part of Beechworth’s history public knowledge and accessible to everyone.”
Alpine heritage and tracks and trails coordinator Andrew Swift, who has extensive knowledge of what were known as the Ovens goldfields, told the Ovens and Murray Adver
tiser earlier this year that the North East goldfields were “wonderful and fascinating” and had “astounding” potential.
“The magnificent heritage buildings of Indigo Shire’s townships are apparent to all locals and visitors,” he said.
“However, the stories of the outlying goldfields and mines – places from which the wealth of the district was extracted – are little known.”
Mr Swift said this heritage – of which much is listed on the Victoria heritage database – and its stories were lynchpins of the one-time goldmining communities’ cultural identities.
Former Indigo councillor Andrew Banks earlier this year told Indigo council that the shire’s gold-mining sites were of national significance and remarked that what had occurred at the Wallaby Mine – which is in a historic reserve managed by Parks Victoria – was “a disgrace”.
Parks Victoria northern rivers district manager Daniel McLaughlin in April told the Advertiser that public safety at the old mine sites was a key priority but funding for improvements was not available for areas such as the Wallaby Mine at this stage.
Indigo mayor Jenny O’Connor yesterday told the Advertiser that the council certainly welcomed Mr Tilley’s comments and interest in the gold prospect.
She said the council and community would be keen to work with him to pursue talks with the government and its agencies.
Anyone with information and an interest in joining a small community group to work up the scope of the gold prospect is asked to email edit.omadvertiser.com.au.
THE REAL DEAL: Parliamentarian Bill Tilley (MLA, Benambra) in the Nine Mile Creek Historic Reserve near the Wallaby Mine with its rare, 12-head stamping battery, which was partially restored at a taxpayer cost of $50,000 in 2003 but is now officially inaccessible and abandoned.