Blackwater & The Australian Coal Centre

The Capricorn Highway leads from Emerald towards Rockhampton. We followed this road to the town of Blackwater. Along the roadside were lots of small fluffy pieces of cotton left over from the recent cotton harvest.

We saw quite a few trucks carrying the huge bales of cotton. As we went through Yamala we passed a huge cotton gin and outside there were hundreds of those huge bales of cotton waiting to be processed. I’d never seen so many in one place before.

Doesn’t it amuse you to see the strange things on the roadside that people have created? We’ve seen all sorts of things on this trip like the Bra Fence, the Shoe Tree and even a Bicylce Tree. Along to road to Blackwater from emerald, perched on top of a road cutting are The Magnificent Minions. These are a group of very clever sculptures that looked like they had been made out of various sized gas bottles. Some people are very clever.

We arrived in the small town of Blackwater, population 4,749. Our first stop was to visit the Blackwater International Coal Centre. The centre is home to the visitors centre, a Japanese Garden, a cinema, a cafe, a craft shop and the Australian Coal Museum.

The museum houses over 20 seperate exhibits that explore the past, present and future of the Australian Coal industry. It also has modern training facilities and conference rooms. While we were visiting we saw a group of miners in one of the training rooms that looked like they were taking some sort of test.

There was a really interesting display that showed a tree and all the different branches showed things that are made from coal and coal byproducts. I didn’t know billiard balls were made from a coal product called Bakelite.

We learnt all about the Bowen Basin. Bowen Basin is a long narrow basin on the eastern side of Australia that subsided in the Early Pemian period about 290 million years ago. In the Mid Permian much of the basin was flooded by sea. In the Mid Triassic 235 million years ago the basin was cut off from the sea permanently by earth movement. Today the basin extends from Collinsville in the north all the way to Theodore in the south and covers and area of 60,000 square kilometres.

The coal in the basin was formed in Mid to Late Permian times and the basin has the largest coal reserves in Australia. It is also the largest bituminous (black) coal deposits in the world.

Coal was first discovered near Blackwater but the explorer Ludwig Leichhardt in 1845. Early attempts at mining in the 19th and early 20th centuries were not successful. In the 1960’s large coal reserves were discovered near the town and the first large scale open cut mining began. Long trains transport the coal to Rockhampton.

Australia is currently the 5th largest producer of coal in the world but only the 10th consumer. China, India, US and Indonesia are the four countries ranked higher. We have an estimated coal reserve that, at current consumption levels, could last for 1,231 years.

After touring the museum we had lunch in their cafe then visited the lovely little Japanese Gardens. I’m afraid we’ve been very lucky to have seen one of the best Japanese Gardens in the world at the Irish National Stud in Kildare, Ireland so this one was a little disappointing but we still enjoyed the walk.

We had a little drive around Blackwater and it looks like a mining town with most of the houses being transportable.

On the way back to Emerald we came across a huge coal train with two engines up front and two more in the middle. It must have been at least 2 kilometres long.

You have to take care on these roads, especially when there are mines about as the machinery they use is huge. Check out this huge wide load that we had to get off the road for.

Back in Emerald we stopped off at the Botanic Gardens to do more of the walking trails. I found the Maze, the Palm Grove, the Rose Garden, the Rainforest Walk and the Marbles in the Park sculpture.

We needed gas so ran around to all the service stations in town, none of whom had any small bottles, only to end up back at the Emerald Cabin & Caravan Park where we stayed the other night. They fill gas bottles and we were able to get our filled for $18.

We needed some firewood and, after calling the local Mitre10 to see if they had any, went to get some from their garden centre. We got 2 bags of hardwood for $12.95 each. One to fill up our wood bin and the other for a fire that night.

We finally headed out of town on the Springsure Road and found a great spot just past Gindie. It looks like it was an old gravel storage area but was nice and flat with a good lot of trees between us and the road. We set up as far back off the road as possible and Rich quickly got a lovely little fire going. I was so surprised that there was no one else already camped at that spot. Everywhere we’d been lately there was such a crowd. How peaceful to be just us. Shame there was no water view!


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