Blackwater (and Blackdown Tablelands)
A modern mining town servicing the nearby open cut coal mines.
Blackwater is 836 km from Brisbane and 190 km from Rockhampton, west on the Capricorn Highway. The town got its name from the colouring of the local water supply by ti-trees which are common in the area.
Behind the motels and roadhouses lies a town which was originally designed to hold 20 000 people. It currently has a population of around 8000, nearly all of whom work for the mines in the area. The result is a town which has shrunk from its original conception.
The first person to discover the Blackwater coal deposits was Ludwig Leichhardt who travelled through the district in 1845 on his way to Port Essington in the Northern Territory. 27 km from the present site of Blackwater Leichhardt observed ‘beds of coal indistinguishable from those on the Hunter at Newcastle.’
The township, named after the local water holes which seemed to have black water in them, was gazetted and laid out in 1886 after the railway arrived in the area. There was an attempt to establish a coal mine west of Blackwater during 1892-3 but it was short lived.
It wasn’t until the early 1960s that the town really started to develop. In 1959-60 coking coal was found to the south of the town. A mining lease was granted in 1965 and in 1967 the first mine in the area started operating. It is claimed that in 1962 the town’s population was only 25. Twenty years later it had grown to over 8000.
The coal reserves in the area are now being exploited by BMA which is a combination of the former BHP and South Blackwater Mines. Other companies involved in local mining include Curragh Queensland Mining Ltd, Cook Resources Mining Pty Ltd, Jellinbah Mine, Kenmare and Yarrabee Coal Company Ltd.
Blackwater is in many ways a model of how the community as a whole can be shielded from the grime of coalmining. The coal is shipped to Gladstone by electric trains (the line was electrified in 1988) which are often over a kilometre in length. Consequently there are no coal trucks choking up the roads in the area and the mines are far removed from the town.