This month sees the closure of South Australia’s last coal fired powerstation and the subsequant cessation of mining at Leigh Creek. Whilst it gladdens me to see another step towards cleaner energy the Leigh Creek operation does hold some special memories for me.
I was nine years old when my family began their big move away from Melbourne on a trip that was supposed to take us all around Australia. By Easter of 1984 we had got as far as the Flinders Ranges in South Australia.
We drove across from Rawnsley Bluff outside of Hawker to the town of Leigh Creek on the other side of the ranges. At that time the town was brand new, the population shifted from old Leigh Creek, now a giant hole in the ground, dug up for coal.
The town was sterile, souless from all appearances, many of the buildings prefabricated. But interestingly different from the bluestone and sandstone historic towns that we had been passing through on the trip.
We went on a guided tour of the mine and were overwhelmed by the size of the machinery in use. Dump trucks with tyres taller than the height of a person.
As we walked along we were allowed to pick up some pieces of coal. I cracked them open to see the imprint of ancient leaves. It truly brought home to me that this was fossil fuel, made from the stuff of life that had died hundreds of millions of years ago.
What a contrast between the town and the reason for its existence!