Everyone knows gold made Victoria rich. But did you know gold mining was disastrous for the land, drowning it in floods of sand, gravel and silt that gushed out of the mines? Or that this environmental devastation still affects our rivers and floodplains?
Victorians had a name for this mining waste: ‘sludge’. Sludge submerged Victoria’s best grapevines near Bendigo, filled Laanecoorie Reservoir on the Loddon River and oozed down from Beechworth to cover thousands of hectares of rich agricultural land. Children and animals drowned in the sludge lakes that collected in mining towns. Mining effluent contaminated three-quarters of Victoria’s creeks and rivers.
Sludge is the fascinating story of the forgotten filth that plagued nineteenth-century Victoria. It exposes the dirty big secret of Victoria’s mining history – the way it transformed the state’s water and land; and also how the battle against sludge helped to lay the ground for the modern environmental movement.