The Mount Cameron Water Race was the lifeblood of mining and agricultural industry for more than a century. The main historic section of the water race is 53 km long, beginning at an intake on the Great Musselroe River and finishing at the Empress Dam (above).
of the water race begins in 1881 when the Mount Cameron Hydraulic Tin Mining
Company, which held mining leases at Gladstone in the north-east of the state,
set out to cut a race to support its mining operations.
of the small tin mines in the Gladstone district were reliant on a permanent
supply of water for ore separation and power generation. However the Company
almost exhausted its finance before completing the race, potentially
jeopardising its future.
in the area becoming a significant employer, the state government acted to
stabilize the industry. Legislation was passed in 1887 enabling the government
to acquire the water race, complete the work and extend the system. This action
was not without controversy. Detractors of the system could point to the
Briseis Tin Mining Company, also in the north-east, which successfully used its
own funds to create a water race system that was the lifeblood of its
successful production. Even with the government subsidising delivery of water,
all the Mount Cameron mines together did not produce nearly as much ore as the
Briseis Tin Mining Company.
Remains of the Chum flume
of the tin mining industry in the region can be mapped through branch races to
abandoned mines closing and new branches opening to new tin-bearing ground,
along with abandoned keepers’ cottages along the race system.
Abandoned keeper's cottage, 'Chum Cottage'
in the north-east declined rapidly after World War Two and by the 1960s the
only active mines were in the Mount Cameron district. However this was a
lucrative period for pastoralists, and in the 1980s when tin mining finished,
Bert Farquhar, owner of extensive grazing land in the area, saw a new
opportunity in the old water race system.
was granted the entire water flow of the system in exchange for all maintenance
and repair costs. He built an additional 108km of races, creating what was
probably the largest private farming irrigation system in the state.
only parts of the system that remain in use today are those portions installed
by Farquhar. After being the lifeblood of industry for more than a century, the
Mount Cameron Water Race has been abandoned.
The Tasmanian Heritage Register entry for the Mount Cameron Water Race is one of several that have been updated in the past month to provide more details on the history of place and its significance to Tasmania.