Groundwater extraction on the goldfields of Victoria, Australia

Exploitation des eaux souterraines dans les gisements aurifères du Victoria, Australie

Explotación de aguas subterráneas en los yacimientos de oro de Victoria, Australia

澳大利亚维多利亚金矿的地下水开采

Extração de águas subterrâneas nos campos de ouro de Victoria, Austrália

Abstract

Groundwater supply systems constructed by gold miners in Victoria during the nineteenth century were highly significant in the historical development of water law and water licensing in Australia. Alluvial gold mining required large volumes of water to separate gold from washdirt, but surface flows often failed in seasonally dry conditions. Drought in the mid-1860s prompted miners on the Ovens goldfield in north-east Victoria to exploit groundwater to increase supplies, despite limited scientific understanding of this resource at the time. Analysis of historical plans held by Public Records Office Victoria has revealed numerous ‘source of supply’ tunnels dug by miners to extract groundwater in the area. By the early 1880s, miners were using up to 31 ML of groundwater per day, with much of the water transferred between creek and river catchments. These activities represent an early, large-scale and significant intervention in the hydrogeological environment, several decades prior to economic development of the Great Artesian Basin in northern Australia. Understanding the nature and scale of groundwater use in this period provides vital social and historical context for modern debates about groundwater modelling, extraction and management.

Résumé

Les systèmes d’approvisionnement en eau souterraine construits par les mineurs d’or au Victoria au cours du 19e siècle ont joué un rôle très important dans l’évolution historique de la loi sur l’eau et des licences d’utilisation de l’eau en Australie. L’exploitation de l’or alluvial a nécessité de grands volumes d’eau pour séparer l’or de la boue mais les eaux de surface ont souvent fait défaut lors de conditions saisonnières sèches. La sècheresse du milieu des années 1860 a incité les mineurs du champ aurifère d’Ovens, dans le Nord Est du Victoria, à exploiter les eaux souterraines pour augmenter leur approvisionnement, en dépit d’une compréhension scientifique limitée de la ressource à cette époque. L’analyse des plans historiques détenus par le Bureau des Archives Publiques du Victoria a révélé de nombreux tunnels servant de « sources d’approvisionnement », creusés par des mineurs pour exploiter les eaux souterraines de la région. Au début des années 1980, les mineurs utilisaient jusqu’à 31 ML d’eau souterraine par jour, dont une grande partie était transférée entre les bassins versants des ruisseaux et ceux des rivières. Ces activités représentent une intervention ancienne, de grande échelle et importante au sein de l’environnement hydrogéologique, plusieurs décennies avant le développement économique du Grand Bassin Artésien, dans le Nord de l’Australie. Comprendre la nature et l’ampleur de l’utilisation des eaux souterraines durant cette période fournit un contexte social et historique essentiel aux débats actuels sur la modélisation, l’exploitation et la gestion des eaux souterraines.

Resumen

Los sistemas de abastecimiento de aguas subterráneas construidos por los mineros de oro en Victoria durante el siglo XIX fueron muy importantes en el desarrollo histórico del derecho de aguas y la concesión de licencias de agua en Australia. La minería de oro aluvial requería grandes volúmenes de agua para separar el oro de la arena, pero los flujos superficiales a menudo fallaban en condiciones estacionalmente secas. La sequía de mediados del decenio de 1860 impulsó a los mineros del yacimiento aurífero de Ovens, en el noreste de Victoria, a explotar las aguas subterráneas para aumentar los suministros, a pesar de los limitados conocimientos científicos sobre este recurso en esa época. El análisis de los planes históricos de la Public Records Office en Victoria ha revelado numerosos túneles de “fuente de suministro” excavados por los mineros para extraer aguas subterráneas en la zona. A principios del decenio de 1880 los mineros utilizaban hasta 31 millones de litros de agua subterránea por día, y gran parte del agua se transfería entre las cuencas de los arroyos y los ríos. Estas actividades representan una intervención temprana, en gran escala y significativa en el entorno hidrogeológico, varios decenios antes del desarrollo económico de la Great Artesian Basin en Australia septentrional. La comprensión de la naturaleza y la escala de la utilización de las aguas subterráneas en este período proporciona un contexto social e histórico vital para los debates modernos sobre la modelización, la explotación y la gestión de las aguas subterráneas.

摘要

19世纪,维多利亚州的金矿工人建造的地下水供水系统在澳大利亚水法和取水许可的历史发展中具有重要意义。冲积层的金矿开采需要大量的水才能将金与洗金泥分离,但是在季节性的干旱条件下,地表水流往往不能满足要求。 1860年代中期的干旱促使维多利亚州东北部Ovens金矿的矿工利用地下水来增加用水供应,尽管当时对该资源的科学了解有限。维多利亚州历史档案馆对历史计划进行的分析显示,矿工挖了许多“供应源”隧道,以开采该地区的地下水。到1880年代初,矿工每天使用多达31 ML的地下水,其中大部分水在溪流和河流流域内运动。这些活动是对水文地质环境的早期大规模的重大干预,比澳大利亚北部大自流盆地经济发展早几十年。了解这一时期的地下水使用特性和规模,为有关地下水建模,开采和管理的现代争论提供社会和历史的素材。

Resumen

Os sistemas de abastecimento de água subterrânea construídos por garimpeiros em Victoria durante o século 19 foram altamente significativos no desenvolvimento histórico da lei e licenciamento da água na Austrália. A mineração aluvial de ouro exigia grandes volumes de água para separar o ouro da sujeira, mas os fluxos de superfície frequentemente falhavam em condições sazonalmente secas. A seca em meados da década de 1860 levou os mineradores no campo de ouro de Fornos, no nordeste de Victoria, a explorar as águas subterrâneas para aumentar os suprimentos, apesar da compreensão científica limitada desse recurso na época. A análise dos planos históricos mantidos pelo Escritório de Registros Públicos de Victoria revelou numerosos túneis de ‘fonte de suprimento’ escavados por mineradores para extrair água subterrânea na área. No início da década de 1880, os mineiros usavam até 31 ML de água subterrânea por dia, com grande parte da água transferida entre as bacias hidrográficas e ribeirinhas. Essas atividades representam uma intervenção precoce, em larga escala e significativa no ambiente hidrogeológico, várias décadas antes do desenvolvimento econômico da Grande Bacia Artesiana no norte da Austrália. Compreender a natureza e a escala do uso das águas subterrâneas nesse período fornece um contexto social e histórico vital para debates modernos sobre modelagem, extração e gerenciamento de águas subterrâneas.

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This study was supported by funding from the Australian Research Council (Grant No. DP160100799).

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Davies, P., Lawrence, S., Turnbull, J. et al. Groundwater extraction on the goldfields of Victoria, Australia. Hydrogeol J (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10040-020-02196-w

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Keywords

  • Australia
  • Groundwater development
  • Mining
  • Water supply
  • History of hydrogeology