There is little evidence in the sleepy village of Pioneer in
north-east Tasmania that it was once one of the most prosperous tin
mining towns in both Tasmania and Australia. The big producer, the
Pioneer Company mine, closed in 1930. The hole in the ground that the
mine left behind – Pioneer Lake – has been flooded and is
today stocked with trout and used for water sports.
Where Is it?
Pioneer is 119 km north east of Launceston and 8 km from the Tasman Highway.
Abandoned houses and mine workings a short distance away mark the
site of Garibaldi, a tin mining town that had many Chinese
workers. Other villages in the area are Herrick and Winnaleah. At
the 2006 census, Pioneer had a population of 144.
The town came into existence in 1877 when William Bradshaw (until 1955
the town was known as Bradshaw’s Creek) discovered tin at the
junction of Bradshaw’s Creek and Ringarooma River. In 1882
the Pioneer Tin Mining Company was formed to work the deposit. It
did not prosper but in 1900 a new tin lode was discovered and the
company then worked the seam continuously until it closed in 1932. At
the peak of the operation the mine employed over 100 people and by 1910
the Pioneer company was so profitable that it built its own dam and, at
Moorina, constructed its own power station which was used to power the
Although there were never more than 1,000 Chinese in the entire area
their contribution was vital. Many of them are buried in the cemeteries
in the area. The tiny school at Bradshaw’s Creek achieved
some fame when its one-time teacher, Joseph Lyons, subsequently entered
federal parliament and became Prime Minister of Australia.
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The township of Garibaldi on the Winiford River was first
settled in the early 1880s, but the discovery of tin saw its population
swell rapidly. By 1891 Garibaldi’s population appears to have
been at its peak when 35 cottages dotted the landscape. Like the
other tin mines in Tasmania’s north east, Chinese tin miners made
up the majority of the town’s population. Garibaldi
originally had a joss house which looked like a small hall with a
verandah. It had a wooden floor and contained a golden shrine, and a
carved float of a golden palace and incense burner.
After the mine closed, the population quickly dwindled and by 1936
only six houses remained. Over time, the buildings became
dilapidated and, in some cases, pulled down and the materials used
elsewhere. Some features of the former township are still evident
including part of the earthen main street, brick remains at the site of
former dwellings, garden boundaries, water races and four roasting
ovens. The historic heritage of the town’s Chinese tin miners has
been formally recognised with the permanent entry of the former
Garibaldi miners’ township in the Tasmanian Heritage
Register. Although none of the buildings of Garibaldi remain, the
site offers a rare archaeological example of a Chinese mining township