Ravenswood and the mine

Ravenswood is a heritage town dominated by an enormous gold mine, and tensions between its history and its future are inevitable.

The town was founded 150 years ago because of its gold and flourished for 50 years. Then it became a ghost town, drowsing for 70 years before coming back to life 30 years ago, again because of its gold. Now it is threatened by its gold.

When new technology made the gold profitable again in the early 1990s the mine re-opened as an open-cut pit south-east of the town. Another pit has now opened to the south-west, raising a long wall just a couple of hundred metres from the main street.

Ravenswood hall and shop
The community hall (restored) and shop in the main street with the mine wall behind them

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View over Ravenswood
View over Ravenswood, with the Catholic church in the foreground

Ravenswood is an old gold-mining town in the Townsville hinterland, up over the crest of our part of the Great Dividing Range. I have a visitor from Melbourne staying with me for a week, an old friend who has never before been further north than Noosa, and her presence was my excuse for revisiting Ravenswood for the first time in several years: I could show her what the country away from the coast is like, and the history is interesting too.

Ravenswood had a spectacular boom in the 1870s, followed by a rapid decline which left it almost a ghost town in the middle of the twentieth century – from 48 pubs down to two! – and a resurgence from 1995 when new technology made mining profitable again even with the extremely low yields of a couple of grams of gold per tonne of ore.

The new open-cut mine (see map; zoom out for a better idea of the town’s location, too) is just outside the town but almost out of sight behind a ridge. The photo above was taken from the slope of that ridge and shows perhaps one third of the township. Many of the old buildings have fallen down or been removed (many miners’ cottages were simply carried to Charters Towers or Townsville) and now a  few hundred inhabitants are spread over a large area.

It was an overcast day, as you can see (we even got some rain!), so the insects were not very active. I did spot a very nice dragonfly, though.

Dragonfly perching on grass stem.
Dragonfly in roadside grass, Ravenswood