The Coal Mines Historic Site at Saltwater River, which is the most intact penal coal mine in Australia, has been added to the National Heritage List.
The listing is an important recognition of the site as a significant component of Australia’s heritage and also satisfies a requirement for inclusion in the proposed Australian Convict Sites serial nomination for World Heritage listing.
Coal was discovered at the site in 1833, with production underway by mid-1834 and continuing to be worked by convict labour until the government closed the mine in 1848. Private operators continued limited coal extraction until around 1877.
During its convict period, the Coal Mines was considered a place of extreme punishment for the ‘worst class’ of convicts. The Site offers visitors the chance to discover a different perspective on Tasmania’s convict history than that offered by the nearby Port Arthur Historic Site.
Management of the Coal Mines Historic Site was transferred from the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service to the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority in December 2004.
The Coal Mines site is approximately a 25 minute drive from Port Arthur and a visit is a fascinating adjunct to any visit to the Port Arthur Historic Site. There are a number of walking routes available around the area, ranging from a few minutes to several hours.