Wonthaggi State Coal Mine, Victoria, Australia

Wonthaggi State Coal Mine, Victoria, Australia

Up until 1969 this was working coal mine owned by the State of Victoria to supply coal for heating and to move transport in Melbourne.

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Aussie Stories - telling about Australia in words and pictures

Miner's lantern, State Coal Mine, Wonthaggi, Victoria, Australia
Miner's lantern, State Coal Mine, Wonthaggi, Victoria, Australia.

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Underground railway, State Coal Mine, Wonthaggi, Victoria, Australia
Underground railway, State Coal Mine, Wonthaggi, Victoria, Australia.

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Underground workings, State Coal Mine, Wonthaggi, Victoria, Australia
Underground workings, State Coal Mine, Wonthaggi, Victoria, Australia.

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Underground workers, State Coal Mine, Wonthaggi, Victoria, Australia
Underground workers, State Coal Mine, Wonthaggi, Victoria, Australia.

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Mine canary, State Coal Mine, Wonthaggi, Victoria, Australia
Mine canary, State Coal Mine, Wonthaggi, Victoria, Australia. The mine canary's job was entirely sacrificial. It was there purely to let the miners know if the air in the mine was getting too poisonous. If it fell of its perch and died then the miners knew the air was bad and they had to get out quick! So the canary did it's job by dying ...

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Mine machinery, State Coal Mine, Wonthaggi, Victoria, Australia
Mine machinery, State Coal Mine, Wonthaggi, Victoria, Australia.

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On the way to work, State Coal Mine, Wonthaggi, Victoria, Australia
On the way to work, State Coal Mine, Wonthaggi, Victoria, Australia. These caged underground carriages were just big enough to sit in and they fit into the tunnels neatly.

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Sometimes coal mine shafts go for kilometres underground. I well remember going down the shaft at the Griffin coal mine in Collie in Western Australia. After we had walked for quite a while we decided to wait for the next vehicle to come past and hitch a lift. We still had quite a way to go before we reached the coal face, and then go back again. While we were waiting we turned out torches off. The blackness down there where this is no light at all is intense. The work at the coal face was very interesting ... but that is another story.

Miners' Union poster, State Coal Mine, Wonthaggi, Victoria, Australia
Miners' Union poster, State Coal Mine, Wonthaggi, Victoria, Australia. Miners' unions played a very significant role in ensuring fair working conditions, safety, and fair pay over many years.

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We might decry - with some justification - some of the excesses of some unions, but we should not forget the great good that was done by unions in bringing about fairness and safety in what is a dangerous workplace - as we can see from the story of the Beaconsfield Gold Mine in Tasmania.

Underground mine worker, State Coal Mine, Wonthaggi, Victoria, Australia
Underground mine worker, State Coal Mine, Wonthaggi, Victoria, Australia. An underground mine worker, showing the traditional way things were done.

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Hard physical work! This was replaced by initially hydraulic powered drills and explosives, and later by giant machines with great whirling heads that grind the coal up and dump it on to a conveyor attached to the back of the machine. These machines work well in relatively soft materials like coal, but not so well in hard rock mines like gold mines.