Balfour Mining Town

Where: Balfour Mining Town (and Murray’s Reward Mine) near Arthur River, Tasmania
Permits: None
Costs: None
Difficulty: Easy-ish, there’s a few big bog holes on the way and you definitely need a 4WD.
Days required to do it justice: 1 day

One of the most interesting things to explore when travelling Australia is the human impact on a landscape. I am a big fan of poking around the remains of old mining towns, especially those really remote ones where the mind boggles as to how anyone every found ore there in the first place.

Balfour township on the west coast of Tassie is one such town. It was the hub of a profitable copper and tin mining industry from 1902 to 1912 with the largest mine being the Murray Brothers Reward Mine. The ore was transported from this inhospitable wilderness by a horse drawn tram along a 21km long tramway  to Temma, on the coast, where the ore was  then shipped to Sydney. Its tricky enough getting in here in a car through deep water bogs let alone powering through with horses.

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The road into Balfour is a little boggy

The road into Balfour is a little boggy

As the copper faded so did the town and nowadays only a few ruins remain along with some modern day shacks. The most haunting reminder of this once bustling town of 500+people is the cemetery. Only a handful of graves are visible but two, sitting side by side are of particular interest and through some research I discovered that: Sylvia McArthur, aged 15 and Bill Murray, aged 51 died within a day of each other in November 1912. Sylvia died of typhoid and Bill shot himself, apparently as a result of the demise of the mine. Bill was the mine manager and joint owner and Sylvia was the daughter of a mine operator. They moved in very different social circles so it is interesting to see their graves side by side. Sadly the track to the cemetery is becoming increasingly overgrown and difficult to locate. They were buried here so their souls would have a good view of the nearby river but now, as the bush has regenerated after being completely logged, the river is no longer visible from the cemetery.

Sylvia's grave

Sylvia’s grave

Bill Murray's Grave, next to Sylvia's

Bill Murray’s Grave, next to Sylvia’s

Another overgrown grave in Balfour Cemetery

Another overgrown grave in Balfour Cemetery

Walking track to the cemetery

Walking track to the cemetery

At the site of the 1900’s Imperial Hotel in Balfour there is now an open aired shack which has been constructed around the original pub chimney by the parents of a young man who died in 2009. It has been created as a place for anyone to stop in, light a fire, have a beer and reminisce about what was once on this site. The best part is the old Landcruiser smashed into the side of the building and the fact people respect and look after the unique place.

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The shack on the site of the Imperial Hotel in Balfour

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Love the landcruiser (note the original chimney of the Imperial Hotel at the back)

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The original chimney of the Imperial Hotel in Balfour

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Random artefacts line the walls of the Balfour shack

 

This town could have disappeared completely from view in thriving rainforest country but what is left is still accessible and a fascinating journey into Tassie’s early history.

The road to Balfour

The road to Balfour

2 Responses to “Balfour Mining Town”

  1. I love the photos of the Pajero getting wet – great to see it being used!

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