In Memoriam – Mt. Lyell Mine Disaster 1912
On October 12, 1912 at the Mt. Lyell Mine in Queenstown, a fire broke out in the timber pumphouse. On the surface the fire could have been easily extinguished without endangering any lives but in the confines of the underground mine the smoke, fumes and lack of oxygen were deadly causing the trapped men to perish. Despite frantic efforts to save them, 42 men lost their lives.
In Memoriam – Mt. Lyell Mine Disaster 1912 is an acknowledgement of those lost lives. Using the work as an epitaph, the victim’s names, ages and places of birth are commemorated in gold paint as are the notes sent up from the stranded miners and goodbye notes left for their loved ones. As in all mining tragedies, there is no doubt that a part of everyone was trapped along with the men and In Memoriam – Mt. Lyell Mine Disaster 1912 is a homage to the loss of those 42 sons, husbands and fathers.
In Memoriam – Mt. Lyell Mine Disaster 1912 is also a landscape memorial showing the mountains of Queenstown stripped bare for financial gain, leaving it with the appearance of a deserted moonscape. Diminishing gold resources resulted in a shift to copper mining and it was the copper smelters, fuelled by the surrounding timbers, which polluted the area with sulphur fumes and left the landscape sparse for many decades. The layers of gold and copper paint in the work are a metaphor for the environmental devastation that the mining created and although the landscape is still imbedded with some scars, the vegetation is now regrowing.