Collie Coal History
In the middle of the 19th Century coal was the only fuel which could support large scale industrial development.
The Governor of the impoverished Swan River settlement in Western Australia offered a reward in 1839 of 2,560 acres of land for the location of “any considerable bed of coal”.
Seven years later, the explorer A C Gregory claimed the reward after discovering the Irwin River coal seam 200 miles north of Perth. Other discoveries followed but there were few buyers for the low rank coal and interest waned.
The demand for coal in Western Australia began in the mid 1800’s with the commencement of coal railways for transport
It was not until the 1880’s that there was a sharp revival of interest, due to the number of steamships arriving at WA ports and the expansion of WA railways. This led to the Governor offering a 1,000 pound reward for the discovery of a viable coalfield within 50 miles of a declared port.
It is thought that the original discoverer of the Collie River coal deposits in 1883 was a stockman named George Marsh. He picked up several dark coloured stones from the edge of a river pool and placed the stones on either side of his fire to support cooking utensils. Much to his surprise the “stones” caught alight.
Following Marsh’s discovery, trials using the coal were undertaken and Engineer in Chief C Y O’Connor was very enthusiastic regarding the potential of Collie coal.
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