Can you believe it’s been 10 years since the Beaconsfield Mine disaster? We had reason to visit the town recently, on a tour of the Tamar Valley Wine Region. Beaconsfield is about 40kms north of Launceston on the western bank of the Tamar River. It’s a lovely little place worthy of a visit for many other reasons too, but specifically remembered just now for the tragedy.

Beaconsfield Mine Disaster - Beaconsfield Mine and Heritage Centre
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Beaconsfield Mine Disaster: 10 year anniversary

Remembering the Beaconsfield Mine Disaster

Just before 9.30pm on ANZAC Day in 2006, a magnitude 2.2 earthquake struck the northern Tasmanian town and triggered a massive rockfall in the gold mine. Almost a kilometre below ground at the time, 14 shift workers managed to escape to the surface. Larry Knight was tragically killed and famed duo Brant Webb and Todd Russell were left trapped in a very confined space for an agonising fortnight.

Beaconsfield Mine Disaster - Tasmania
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Beaconsfield Mine and Heritage Centre, Tasmania

No one knew that Webb and Russell had even survived the collapse until five days had passed. Another nine tormenting days dragged by – with the world watching the dramatic rescue operation – before the surviving pair emerged triumphant from the rubble.

Other Memories from Beaconsfield

Bizarrely, the Beaconsfield Mine disaster also gave Australia its current Labor leader. At the time, Bill Shorten was the president of the Australian Workers’ Union and he shot to prominence during media coverage from Tasmania as the spokesperson for the search and rescue effort.

Beaconsfield Mine Disaster - Park
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Park opposite Beaconsfield Mine and Heritage Centre, Tasmania

On 7 May 2006, as Richard Carleton was covering the Beaconsfield Mine disaster for Channel Nine, the veteran journalist  suffered a massive heart attack during a press conference. Shortly after questioning the mine’s manager about safety issues at the site, Carleton collapsed. Sadly, he didn’t survive the ambulance ride to the Launceston General Hospital.

Beaconsfield Mine Disaster - Miner's Diner
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Miner’s Diner, Beaconsfield Tasmania

What are your memories from the mine disaster? We send our thoughts to the Beaconsfield community as they commemorate the anniversary.

If you’re keen to learn more, you could visit the Mine Rescue exhibition at the Beaconsfield Mine and Heritage Centre. Publicity for the prominent tourist attraction in the Tamar Valley reveals…

The Mine Rescue exhibition tells the incredible story of the rescue of miners Todd Russell and Brant Webb. The exhibition recognises the rescuers and the innovation that took place in the effort to retrieve Todd Russell and Brant Webb from the 950 metre level depths of the mine. Included in the exhibition are stories of how the community united in the crisis, how the town coped with the influx of media, and Beaconsfield’s recovery after such a significant event. A multisensory simulation of the rock fall allows visitors to experience the conditions of the underground tomb where the miners waited for two weeks to be rescued.

Beaconsfield Mine Disaster - Todd Russell and Brant Webb
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Search and rescue effort on show, Beaconsfield Mine & Heritage Centre

Beaconsfield Mine and Heritage Centre is located in West Street, Beaconsfield. Phone (03) 6383 1473 for details or follow Beaconsfield Mine and Heritage Centre on Facebook.

Beaconsfield Mine and Heritage Centre - Gold Mine Shaft
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The Beaconsfield Gold Mine shaft behind the winder house at the Heritage Centre
Image Credit: photo by Dan Fellow of Tasmania Photos

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