The Woodlines

Article | Updated 4 years ago

© Edward Burtynsky. Image from the Australian Minescapes Series commissioned for FotoFreo 2008 Western Australian  Museum collection
Super Pit #5, 2007

The development of the goldfields created an insatiable appetite for timber.

A rapidly growing population soon began to wreak havoc on the environment. At first timber was cut for domestic use and to fuel the condensers supplying fresh water. However these needs were nothing compared to those of the big company mines. Vast quantities of timber were needed as props to support the ever growing number of underground shafts, to power the steam driven winders that hauled the gold bearing ore to the surface and to feed the sulphide roasters processing the ore.

By 1900 the timber around Kalgoorlie had been cut out. Timber companies moved to hauling huge daily tonnages across a vast network of rail lines.

One of the largest rail systems in the country radiated out from the Golden Mile. At their peak the firewood companies were delivering around 1500 tonnes of timber per day to the mines and towns. It was one of the largest industrial uses of timber for fuel anywhere in the world in the twentieth century.

Super Pit #5, 2007
Super Pit #5, 2007
Image copyright Edward Burtynsky. Image from the Australian Minescapes Series commissioned for FotoFreo 2008 Western Australian Museum

Edward Burtynsky specialises in capturing nature transformed through industry. This image shows the amount of timber used to support some of the tunnels and shafts of underground mines. They have been removed as open cut mining progresses.