The period from 1875 to 1900 is one of great economic, social, and technical interest to the historian of coal mining in Queensland. The preceding fifty years had established that coal deposits were widespread in the Colony but there had been little effort or need to work them. The situation changed rapidly in the final quarter of the century when there was a twelvefold increase in production and the establishment of a pattern of mine proprietorship based largely on individual or family ownership which was to be a feature of the industry for the next fifty years.
The present volume follows the technical and economic evolution of the industry which is set against a background of rapid sociological change. The pace of economic development was fast but links between the demand for more coal and the efforts of the people who were trying to open or run the mines to produce it were so direct and pervasive that personal attitudes became as important as technical efficiency in determining the course of events. The period is unfortunately beyond the memory of the present generation and personal accounts of what occurred must be treated with reserve, particularly because the amount of supporting documentation which has survived in the form of personal letters or diaries is very small. In this volume considerable use has been made of contemporary newspapers in piecing together the histories of the various operations, despite the recognized inaccuracies which can occur in journalists' reports. A detailed biography is included so that the reader can make his own judgment of the reports if he wishes.
The technicalities of mining have been kept to a minimum in order to make the text easily understood by the general reader. At the same time sufficient detail has been retained to provide an appreciation of the problems facing the owners and miners of the period. For the technically minded the bibliography gives ready access to detail, although such readers must expect to be confronted on many occasions by ambiguities or omissions which will cloud the picture rather than clear it. In some cases it would not be surprising if the thoughtful reader came to a conclusion which differed markedly from that reached by the author, proving that there is still plenty of room for further research on nineteenth century coal mining in Queensland.
Many people and organizations have contributed to the volume and the author is extremely grateful to them for the assistance which was so willingly offered. Once again he is deeply indebted to the officers of the Titles Office, especially Mr Glen Topfer, for guidance through the complexities of property ownership in Queensland. The State Archivist and his staff gave expert help on many occasions, particularly Mrs Ruth Kerr, as did the staff of the Oxley Library and its Chief Librarian, Mr Colin Sheehan. Many hours were spent in the various libraries of the University of Queensland and the staff were unfailingly courteous and helpful but special mention should be made of the Fryer Librarian, Ms Margaret O'Hagan, for her expert advice.
The value and interest of the field work was enhanced by the company of the late Mr Jim Wood on a number of excursions and the author was fortunate to have the sympathetic support of the companies over whose land they roamed, particularly the New Hope Collieries Group and Rhondda Collieries Proprietary Limited in Ipswich. The Blair Athol Coal Project joint venture generously arranged for the author to visit the Blair Athol field, accompanied by the chief geologist to the project, Mr Ken Preston. The Queensland Press Ltd was kind enough to donate most of the photographs taken from the "Queenslander".
Once again the chapter dealing with the Burrum (chapter 8) relies heavily on the detailed research and scholarship of Mr David Bailey who generously made his records available. Mrs Margaret Lee, who was research assistant to the project, wrestled endlessly with enormous masses of material and I am particularly grateful to her for putting it in an assimilatory form and also spending many hours on the bibliography. Special thanks go to Mr Mark Whitmore for his expert assistance with the art work and photography as well as many valuable discussions, but my greatest gratitude is to my wife who for many months has devoted her time to typing, edit- ing, and organizing the text. The volume would never have been finished without her untiring support and assistance.
Finally, full acknowledgment is made to the three organizations which financed the research and the publication of this volume. They are the Queensland Coal Owners' Association, the Australian Heritage Commission, and the Utah Foundation. It has been a pleasure working with them, and their unwavering support and encouragement deserve special mention because without them the work would never have been started.