Bygone Bywong Town a boom-time bust
As Australia's minerals boom closes in on the Canberra region, a remnant gold mining settlement and former tourist attraction north of the city fades from existence.
On the site of an 1895 gold mining settlement, Bywong Town became an educational attraction for about three decades until it stopped operating recently.
Joe Azzopardi, a former Canberra builder and potter has lived next door to Bywong Town for 30 years. He knew previous operators Norman and Joyce Moore, who travelled from Queanbeyan daily to run a kiosk and host coach tours from schools.
Mr Azzopardi and another neighbour, Pauline Chambers, say about 10 years ago the crown lease was sold to a private buyer.
They believe the heavily timbered block on the Millynn Road will be sold later this year.
Attempts to contact the owner and an occupant of the land have proved unsuccessful. Decaying huts and old tools languish at a time when mining is resurging all around Canberra.
NSW Department of Primary Industries has approved eight exploration licences this year, is reviewing another 10 and last year approved 12 licences and 11 in 2010.
Chinese-backed CGNM Resources is searching for copper and gold over 200 square kilometres near Hall.
TriAusMin is raising $100 million to build a processing plant for re-treating tailings at Woodlawn, east of Canberra near Tarago. Near Braidwood, Perth gold company Cortona will resume underground mining at Majors Creek, hoping to generate $125 million over its initial six-year life. University of NSW's school of mining and engineering associate professor David Laurence said strong commodity prices had kept interest high.
Professor Laurence said new technology enabled minerals to be extracted from ore that were too hard to get to the first time around.
''It's an evolutionary process. Remote sensory using satellite imaging means exploration is easier than ever before,'' he said.
''Back in the day, someone had to be on the land, toiling with a pickaxe.''
TriAusMin managing director Wayne Taylor said this sort of technology was unavailable when Woodlawn closed in 1998.
''Finer grinding equipment will allow us to recover minerals from the tailings of the previous owners.''
At Bywong they had no such luxuries. Today a blacksmith's and wheelwright's shop, large garage, old dray, lean-to shelters, cooking utensils and ghostly-old tents stand among pale grey gums.
Now retired at Moruya, Mr Moore wrote a book, Bywong - A History in Novel Form of the Story of Bywong which former Canberra Times cartoonist Geoff Pryor illustrated.
Going back to the mine's first operator, Pop Shepherd, the book remembers characters like Florrie the cook who was coaxed into riding in a single ore trolley which ran along a 45 centimetre-wide rail track. She was pitched head first into a mine shaft, but escaped serious injury.