Sludge: Disaster on Victoria's Goldfields

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The fascinating, troubling legacy of the gold rush

Everyone knows gold made Victoria rich. But did you know gold mining was disastrous for the land, engulfing 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 flowed down from Beechworth over thousands of hectares of rich agricultural land. Children and animals drowned in sludge lakes. Mining effluent contaminated three-quarters of Victoria’s creeks and rivers.

Sludge is the compelling story of the forgotten filth that plagued nineteenth-century Victoria. It exposes the big dirty secret of Victoria’s mining history – the way it transformed the state’s water and land, and how the battle against sludge helped lay the ground for the modern environmental movement.

‘A remarkable achievement’ —Tom Griffiths

‘A work of brilliant rediscovery and a wake-up call for our own times’ —Grace Karskens

‘Vividly conveys the long-term costs of short-term gains’ —Billy Griffiths