The Mount Morgan Fireclay Caverns - taken in late February 2019.
The Mount Morgan Fireclay Caverns - taken in late February 2019. RRC

Historic attraction given green light to open after 8 years

IT HAS BEEN closed for eight years but Mount Morgan's Fireclay Caverns have been granted the official tick of approval to open back up to the public.

A project began in November last year when the council began discussions with the State Government to take over the site.

The State Government had previously said safety issues were so severe that remotely controlled drones had to be used to conduct assessments.

Engineering and consultancy firm Cardno was engaged by the council to do a risk assessment.

READ HERE: 4WD trails, dam jetty among plans to boost Mt Morgan

It was noted in the RRC monthly report that approximately $29,925 had been spent on the project, including the work of the safety assessment.

MIRANI SUPPORT: All four Mirani candidates have pledged their support for the reopening of the Mount Morgan Fireclay Caverns.
MIRANI SUPPORT: All four Mirani candidates have pledged their support for the reopening of the Mount Morgan Fireclay Caverns. Contributed

Cardno completed the work in April and it was announced at this week's council meeting there are a number of viable options to allow the caverns to re-open.

Mayor Margaret Strelow and all councillors were elated to hear the good news.

Cr Strelow said while it was exciting, it was the first step in what will be a long journey.

She said council believes it is affordable and feasible but the first "roadblock” has been cleared.

"I wish this was a 'tomorrow project' but we know government processes are a lot slower,” she said.

"We want to get people there as quickly as we can because we know that Mount Morgan is hurting.”

RARE ATTRACTION: The Fireclay Caverns at Mount Morgan has given visitors an amazing experience as they can see dinosaur footprints on the ceiling.
RARE ATTRACTION: The Fireclay Caverns at Mount Morgan has given visitors an amazing experience as they can see dinosaur footprints on the ceiling. Contributed

Prior to the caverns closing, Mt Morgan had around 8,000 visitors a year and it was reported after they closed the numbers dropped to less than half.

Earlier fears of the extreme danger have been quelled and there are a number of options on how they will move forward.

"We still have some conversations about access and there are a lot of layers to this,” Cr Strelow said.

READ HERE: Mt Morgan mum escapes near fatal crash on dangerous CQ road

An important feature in opening the caverns is that it does not hinder the gold mine's ability to open again.

Cr Strelow still has hopes this would be possible after the mine closed in 1990.

If the mine was to re-open for work again, the possibilities for the community would be endless, not mention the sustainable employment, she said.

"We would see a working mine as important as a tourist attraction,” she said.

"It would be a complete package for the Mount Morgan community.”

WISHLIST: The reopening of the Mount Morgan Fireclay Caverns was one of Rockhampton Regional Council's election priorities.
WISHLIST: The reopening of the Mount Morgan Fireclay Caverns was one of Rockhampton Regional Council's election priorities. Contributed

Cr Strelow is adamant when they do open the caverns, they want to do it "very well and the right way”.

The Fireclay Caverns also offer a unique product as most tourist attractions across Queensland are built around the beach or the ocean whereas this in in the mountains of the bush.

"It's half an hour off the Bruce Hwy and a junction to other highways, to have a significant dinosaur track in a setting of a historic, fascinating mine setting - it's a tourism product you could only dream of normally,” she said.

"We have so much to offer, we have all of the ingredients, gold, dinosaurs, a beautiful Queensland town, the home of the Silver Wattle.”

Cr Strelow would like to see Mount Morgan linked to the dinosaur trail at Winton and out west and the Fireclay Caverns could be the start.

A further detailed report is expected to be tabled at the next council meeting.

FIRECLAY CAVERNS HISTORY

  • The Fireclay Caverns is not a cave but a mine.
  • The caverns were excavated between 1886 and 1927 for clay to supply local brick production.
  • The unique rooftop markings were discovered during the gold rush in 1952, after miners excavated a hill which was once a Jurassic lake.
  • A surveying crew were having lunch when they noticed 50 oversized emu-like footprints.
  • Hundreds of the dinosaur imprints were found spread across the cavern ceiling.
  • The impressions are mostly of three-toed, bipedal dinosaurs, possibly Theropods.
  • The prints were authenticated by palaeontologists in 1954.


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