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The Sludge Question: The Regulation of Mine Tailings in Nineteenth-Century Victoria

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Mining waste was a significant environmental problem in nineteenth-century Victoria, an Australian colony dependent on gold mining for its economic prosperity. Sludge from alluvial (placer) workings and hard-rock mining flowed into rivers across the colony causing significant damage and disruption to downstream communities. The sludge problem was eventually resolved by the passage of legislation early in the twentieth century. The struggle to control sludge reveals changes in public perception over a fifty-year period, from acceptance of sludge as an inevitable consequence of industry to the identification of sludge as pollution that should be eliminated. Significantly, at a time when the cost of dealing with noxious waste from other industries was still being borne by the public purse, the anti-sludge legislation held the mining industry responsible for its own pollution and required gold miners to return clean water to river systems.
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Keywords: Australia; gold mining; pollution; rivers; sludge; water

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2014

More about this publication?
  • Environment and History is an interdisciplinary journal which aims to bring scholars in the humanities and biological sciences closer together, with the deliberate intention of constructing long and well-founded perspectives on present day environmental problems.

    Environment and History has a Journal Impact Factor (2018) of 0.800. 5 Year Impact Factor: 0.918.
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