Journal article

Reconstruction of historical riverine sediment production on the goldfields of Victoria, Australia

Peter Davies, Susan Lawrence, Jodi Turnbull, Ian Rutherfurd, James Grove, Ewen Silvester, Darren Baldwin, Mark Macklin



A significant but previously unquantified factor in anthropogenic change in Australian rivers was the release of large volumes of sediment produced by gold mining in the 19th century. This material, known historically as ‘sludge’, rapidly entered waterways adjacent to mining areas and caused major environmental damage. We interrogate detailed historical records from the colony of Victoria spanning the period 1859 to 1891 to reconstruct the temporal and spatial distribution of sediment volumes released by mining activity. Based on these records, we estimate that at least 650 million m3 of material was released into rivers in the 19th century, exceeding natural sediment yield to rivers by an a..

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