30 Things (There is more to mining than just coal)

At a recent meeting of our Probus Club of Toondah, our guest speaker was Gavin Becker, a retired metallurgist, who spoke on ‘The Minerals Council of Australia’s 30 Things’. You can download the PDF slide show of his presentation by clicking here:


It’s worth downloading this presentation and reviewing each use of minerals. I like the extra information presented in small print. For example: Australia gave the world WiFi:

WiFi was developed in the radiophysics lab at CSIRO in the 1990s. The technology was a revolution in mobile computing and is today estimated to be in more than five billion electronic devices. For its efforts, CSIRO has earned more than $430 million through licensing agreements with tech companies since 1996.

Gavin still works in the mineral processing area, specializing in base and precious metals. He is keen to offer the other side of mining to that which the media are currently exploiting with the Extinction Rebellion crusades. He abhors politicians short term thinking that plans only for one election. When sand mining stops on Stradbroke Island, it is estimated that there will be $130 million loss to my local area in the Redlands. 

30 Things

Everything we consume is either grown or mined.

More recently, there were demonstrations in Melbourne outside an international conference on mining. Personally, I think it’s a mistake to lump coal mining in in the same category as that of base and precious metals, when it’s really just coal mining that we need to be cutting back on. As Gavin’s talk demonstrated, there’s much more to mining than just coal.

No More Mr Magoo for Me.

Me and Mr Magoo

cataract | ˈkatərakt | noun a large waterfall a medical condition in which the lens of the eye becomes progressively opaque.

 Origin: late Middle English: from Latin cataracta ‘waterfall, floodgate’, also ‘portcullis’

portcullis | pɔːtˈkʌlɪs | noun a strong, heavy grating that can be lowered down grooves on each side of a gateway to block it. 

ORIGIN Middle English: from Old French porte coleice ‘sliding door’, from porte ‘door’ (from Latin porta) + coleice ‘sliding’ (feminine of couleis, from Latin colare ‘to filter’).

I had never made the connection between waterfalls and eye opaqueness until recently my own cataracts had progressed sufficiently to enable their replacement. The key connecting word, from the above definitions, is ‘portcullis’: the heavy gratings that have been slowly lowering over my eye lens for the past few years.

I was due to have my driver’s licence renewed, and was concerned that I would fail the eyesight test: so, it was a relief to find that my cataracts had grown sufficiently to qualify me for their removal. All went well, except for a large bruise under my right eye where the anaesthetist must have hit a blood vessel (I liked to pass it off a near miss from a can of beans).  

I have always been short sighted but after the surgery, I find that I only need glasses for close reading. So, I was able to pass my driver’s licence eye test with flying colours, without spectacles. However, I did need a new licence without the obligatory ‘requires spectacles while driving’ so I needed a new photo to put on my replacement licence. When it came in the mail this week, I found that it shows me with the ‘shiner’ under my right eye preserved for evermore. Mr Magoo would have been amused (if he could have seen it). Heh.Heh.

Peel Island in Retrospect

RQYS Sailing Cruising Group at Peel Island 9.11.2019

In October, after the all-too-familiar uncertainty about the weather, I accompanied the Sailing Cruising Group from the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron to Peel Island to assist as a tour guide of the former Lazaret buildings. It was only my second visit to the island this year (the first was to conduct Paul Smith’s small family group in May as they researched their ancestor, Paulus Fredrick Schwarz, the Lazaret’s Assistant Caretaker there in 1908.) It was good to be back on the island, and I was even given a ride from the beach, thus bypassing the 40-minute trek that the rest of the 36 members of the group had to make. 

So, I was dropped off at the former Nurses’ Quarters and while waiting for the walking group to arrive, was left to contemplate my 30+ year’s association with the island: the exciting times in the early 1990’s when the Cowie’s were caretakers and who enthusiastically cleared the bush that had covered most of the buildings for 30 years. They were happy to greet all and sundry who cared to visit. My wife and I had many a memorable sing-song with them…

Phyllis and I sharing a sing-a-long with Ray and Nola Cowie at the former Nurses’ quarters in 1993.

Later in 1998 I helped establish the Friends of Peel Island Association (FOPIA), a group formed to assist with the maintenance and restoration work and to promote public awareness of Peel’s cultural and historic values. Our regular work parties were well supported and have continued, albeit in a now diminished form, to this day. A beach party at the end of the day’s work was always a highlight for me…

FOPIA members on the beach at Horseshoe Bay in 2004

Now the first of the sailing group have arrived and I show them around the Lazaret buildings. Unfortunately, their stay must be very short due to the dependence on the tides. It would have been nice for them to rest on the verandah and soak up the atmosphere of the place, but time and tide wait for no one. 

For an hour we tramped around the buildings and then it was straight off down the track to their boats at Horseshoe Bay: for me a visit of unsatisfying brevity. I’d love to have had more time with this enthusiastic group of boaties. Time, too, is catching up with my body, and my aches and pains protest at my big day out. But there is something else missing: my hopes for the future of the island as a tourist destination. Gradually due to the lack of official manpower/money/interest, the island seems destined to be reclaimed by Nature. With the channeling of funds into the development of tourism at nearby Stradbroke, but not Peel, an opportunity has been missed.