Sludge: Disaster on Victoria's Goldfields
About the book
Everyone knows gold made Victoria rich. But did you know gold mining was disastrous for the environment? Mining effluent, or 'sludge', contaminated three-quarters of Victoria's creeks and rivers and still affects our rivers and floodplains today. Children and animals drowned in sludge lakes. Sludge submerged Victoria's best grapevines near Bendigo, filled Laanecoorie Reservoir and flowed down from Beechworth over thousands of hectares of rich agricultural land.
'Sludge' is the compelling story of the forgotten filth that plagued nineteenth-century Victoria and how the battle against it helped lay the groundwork for the modern environmental movement.
About the authors
Susan Lawrence is a professor of archaeology at La Trobe University and has spent thirty years studying the goldfields. She is the author of 'Dolly's Creek: An Archaeology of a Victorian Goldfields Community' and, with Peter Davies, 'An Archaeology of Australia since 1788'.
Peter Davies is a research fellow in archaeology at La Trobe University whose work focuses on the social, industrial and environmental archaeology of colonial Australia. His previous books include 'Henry's Mill: The Archaeology and History of a Forest Community' and 'An Archaeology of Australia since 1788', with Susan Lawrence.
Against the narrative that the story of the discovery and mining of gold in Victoria is an unqualified story of progress and prosperity Lawrence and Davies, relying on both extensive archival and field research, revive the forgotten story of how billons of litres of water used in the mining process carried in thousands of kilometres of channels, spread huge amounts of sludge through fertile river valleys, poisoning stock and ruining farmlands.
This book is a major contribution both to environmental history and historical archaeology. It is not only a history that illustrates past mistakes which have left an enduring environmental legacy but also speaks to a continuing need to address what remains a major contemporary ecological disaster.