On Day 2 of our trip to the southern Tarkine, we had seen the effects of the Savage River mine from afar when we topped Whyte Hill for panoramic views. The slash of white in the far distance, marked by the arrow, is the result of the open cut Savage River mine removing hectares of original old growth cool temperate forest.
Despite mists covering some hills, settling into some valleys and often pressing in on our car as we drove towards the township of Savage River on Day 3, fleetingly, parcels of landscape floated into view. Unfortunately, very unfortunately, the savage cuts into and removal of the land in the few kilometres leading into the town, came vaguely into view. This degradation was so extreme that I had the physical reaction of nausea caused by profound repulsion. I was stunned by the large scale of the forest and land clearance.
When I was a high school student in Burnie, the development of the Savage River mine was held in high regard as a modern saviour for Tasmania’s economic growth. But I never went there. I never saw it. Besides, I imagine in those days when all the adults I knew valued the taking of resources from the landscape, it would have been unlikely for me to have an alternative opinion. None of us back then, except perhaps the original residents of Tasmania pre-European settlement, understood the delicate relationship between land and life.
The AussieTowns website shows a view across some of the mine here. Further into this article, a photo shows one edge of the dam in association with part of the mined landscape.
Over the decades the Savage River mine, now owned by Grange Resources, has gouged millions of tonnes of rock for its magnetite. The aerial shot on the Grange Resources website above gives some inkling of the extent of the changes – look at the dense Tarkine forests either side of the terraced rock hole. Clearly the digging has continued northwards from the township for 6-8 kilometres.
These days, the awareness of the need to protect our land for the ongoing health of the global community, features in mining policies. Grange Resources talks about environmental matters here and sustainable development here and here.