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Iron Mine and Blast Furnace

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  • 791px the first casting at the lal lal iron works slvb The first casting at the Lal Lal Iron Works, 1878. State Library of Victoria (IAN28/11/78/196)
Ironmine Road, Lal Lal VIC 3352

Features

  • Remains of historic iron mine
  • Blast furnace
  • Picnic tables
  • Wood fire BBQ
  • Camping
  • Toilets
  • Bushwalking tracks
  • Birdwatching
The iron mine and blast furnace is located in the Bungal Historical Area, Lal Lal VIC (Moorabool Shire). It's a scenic 20 minute drive from Ballarat.

There's a peaceful picnic area complete with picnic tables, fire pits and crude wood fire barbecue, a large toilet block, and plenty of room for camping.

Alongside the picnic area you will find the remains of the iron mine. A sign across the road from the picnic area indicates the mine site, head straight into the bush and follow a ditch which gradually deepens and opens up into the remains of the iron mine.

A circuit walk begins at the picnic area (or alternatively at a car park around the corner on Thynes Road), and takes you on a short scenic walk along the hillside to the impressive blast furnace. The walking track is narrow and has some small obstructions, it is not wheelchair or pram accessible.

You can view the blast furnace from a wooden platform with a railing, and there are several interesting information signs about the Lal Lal Iron Company, the blast furnace itself, the former blacksmith's shop, and the men who lived and worked there.

The following is a statement of significance from the Victorian Heritage Database

Statement of Significance
Last updated on - March 3, 2000

Victoria's only attempt at mining and smelting iron ore took place at Lal Lal in the latter stages of the nineteenth century. In the mid 1870s, the Lal Lal Iron Company installed mining machinery, erected a large blast furnace and constructed a tramway to convey ore from the mine. For a brief time in the early 1880s, the Lal Lal Company had over 100 men engaged in mining and smelting the iron ore, gathering limestone (flux) and firewood, and manufacturing charcoal. The company also operated a foundry at Ballarat. The Lal Lal Iron Works had ceased operations by the end of the 1880s.

The Lal Lal Iron Mine and Smelting Works is of historical, archaeological and scientific importance to the State of Victoria. The site is already listed on the Register of the National Estate.

The Lal Lal Iron Mine and Smelting Works is historically and scientifically important as the site of the State's only attempt to smelt iron ore with a blast furnace. The significance of the site is enhanced by the substantial remnants of the blast furnace being the only one of its type surviving in the southern hemisphere.

The Lal Lal Iron Mine and Smelting Works is scientifically important for its illustration of local adaptation of imported iron smelting technology. The design of the furnace, construction materials, and smelting technique used at the site harking back to 18th century European iron smelting technology. The site is archaeologically important for its potential to yield artefacts and evidence which will be able to provide significant information about the technological history of mining.

The following text is displayed on information signs at the Iron Mine and Blast Furnace in Lal Lal:


HEAT, SMOKE AND MOLTEN METAL

Into the top of the furnace went measured amounts of iron ore, coke and limestone.

At the bottom was a fire that reached temperatures up to 1850 degrees celsius, helped by powerful blasts of piped air.

As the iron ore gradually dropped down through the furnace and melted, it separated into molten iron and slag ... and was removed through vents at the bottom.

It's all quiet here now but think back to a time when the furnace roared, with smoke and cinders. The steam engine throbbed and the skips (or carts) clattered by.

And throughout it all was the acrid smell of molten metal.


THE HARD SLOG TO GET AHEAD

Along this tramway, men pushed skips of iron ore from the nearby mine to the blast furnace.

Up to 160 men worked and lived here during the 6 years of commercial operation ... from 1878 to 1884.

For the first few years, iron production was fairly stop-and-start, but when in full swing the furnace was a place of hard slog but with reasonable pay for the times ... about £3 ($6) a week.

This was a place of labouring men, who lived in small timber huts. And for the few with families, across the river at Bungal, was a school.


THE BLACKSMITH'S LIFE

In front of you is the hearth of the long gone blacksmith's shop.

The building was made of timber poles, with a corrugated iron roof ... held down with rocks.

And in this corner of the building was the forge with bellows, used to repair machinery, horseshoes, picks and other tools.

But what was the blacksmith's life like?

Like all the other workers, it was a life of heat, noise and long days. Meals of damper & boiled mutton, and pint pot cups of billy tea.

The first casting at the Lal Lal Iron Works, 1878. State Library of Victoria (IAN28/11/78/196)



DID YOU KNOW...

  • Bushwalking is an excellent way to get outdoors and exploring nature.
  • Evidence of the mid-late 1800's gold rush can be found throughout the Victorian goldfields in the form of abandoned mine shafts and tunnels, mullock heaps, buildings and ruins, circular puddling troughs, remains of cyanide vats, and quartz kilns.
  • Camping is a great way to explore the Victorian Goldfields. Many campgrounds are located close to interesting attractions and historic sites, and the Goldfields region is certainly not lacking in fascinating things to discover. 
  • There are hundreds of fantastic barbecue areas throughout the Victorian Goldfields. Some are in parks/playgrounds, others are scattered throughout the bush. Many barbecue areas are located alongside amazing attractions and walks, so go out for a barbecue and get exploring!
 

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