Home » Towns » Tasmania » North West Tasmania » Savage River, TAS
Print

Savage River, TAS

Mining township on the Tasmanian West Coast

Savage River is an iron ore mining town created specifically to house the workers from the Savage River Mine. It is located 25 km from the former mining town of Corinna where there are two cruises along the Pieman River and a number of other eco-orientated activities available to people who want to experience both the wilderness of the Tasmanian west coast and watch waves which, driven by the relentless power of the Roaring Forties, have not touched land since South America.

Location

Savage River is located 99 km south-west from Burnie via Waratah Road and Ridgley Highway. It is 242 km west of Launceston, 413 km north-west of Hobart via the Lyell Highway and 154 km north of Queenstown. The tiny town of Corinna on the Pieman River is 25 km south-west.

^ TOP

Origin of Name

Although it is tempting to think that 'savage' was a description of the river, it is equally likely that the river was named after Job Savage, a storeman at the Pieman River sometime before 1881.

^ TOP

Things to See and Do

Savage River Mine
The huge Savage River open cut iron ore mine is located to the north of the township. The region's magnetite mineralisation was discovered in 1877 by a State Government surveyor, Charles Sprent. Given the low quality of the ore (about 38 per cent iron) and the difficulty of getting the mineral to the coast for processing or export it was considered too difficult and uneconomic and so no mining occurred. The knowledge that there was a valuable deposit of iron at Savage River meant that in 1926 Hoskins Iron and Steel (it later became Australian Iron & Steel and amalgamated with BHP) carried out a survey but it wasn't until 1956 that the Australian Bureau of Mineral Resources explored the deposit. Drilling was undertaken in 1957 and 1959 and in 1965 Roy Hudson's Industrial and Mining Investigations Pty Ltd joined with Japanese and American mining interests and the project was developed. The town of Savage River was built between 1965-67. Pickands Mather & Co International (PMI) developed an open cut mine and an 85 km pipeline was built to Port Latta on the north coast of Tasmania. By 1966 the mine was supplying Japanese steel mills with up to 2.4 million tonnes of pelletised iron ore every year. The plan was to supply a total of 45 million tonnes over a twenty year period. Ownership of the Savage River project was transferred to the Tasmanian Government in 1997. It changed hands a number of times in the next decade until, finally, in 2009 it was acquired by the Burnie-based mining company, Grange Resources. At the time it was believed the mine would continue until 2023 but in December, 2013 it was announced that exploration drilling had increased the deposit from 49 million tonnes to 107 million tonnes. At the moment Grange employs 600 people directly in mining and smelting plus contractors. Grange has a contract with China's largest steel mill, Shagang, until 2023.

It is possible to inspect the Savage River Mine. Contact (03) 6443 4105 for details.

Corinna and the Pieman River Cruises
You can't get much more isolated in Tasmania than Corinna. This historic mining town, which once had a population of 2,500, is now little more than a ghost town with an ecotourism component. It is located at the southern end of the Tarkine, the largest temperate rainforest in Australia and is at the northernmost point where the huon pine grows.

Cruises on the MV Arcadia II (the only huon pine river cruiser operating anywhere in the world) depart at 10.00 am every day and return at 2.30 pm.

The Corinna website notes: "For all guests who take the journey on the Arcadia II to Pieman Head, the return trip is an unforgettable experience. The skipper provides commentary on the unique history, flora and fauna, and takes the Arcadia close enough to the banks for guests to actually touch the ancient rainforest, including many specimens of huon pine. On the journey, it is not uncommon to see platypus and sea eagles, and always possible to see the rare and endangered slender tree fern.

For more information check the website - http://www.corinna.com.au/river-cruises/. It is essential to times and availability with the operators on (03) 6446 1170.

Savage River National Park
This is one of the most isolated parks in Australia. It has no facilities, is inaccessible, has very poor roads and is deeply dissected by steep river valleys. For more information check out http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/indeX.aspX?base=3744

^ TOP

History

* Prior the European settlement the area around Savage River was inhabited by members of the Peerapper Aboriginal language group. They were known as the Tarkiner.

* Explorers sailing down the coast found that the magnetite mineralisation interfered with their compasses. They didn't realise the magnetite was at Savage River some 25 km inland from the coast.

* The Pieman River was probably named after from the notorious Irish convict Alexander 'The Pieman' Pearce who, in 1822, with seven other convicts escaped from Macquarie Harbour. They lost their way in the dense rainforest and it was suspected that Pearce had eaten some of his fellow convicts.

* In 1824 Pearce escaped from Sarah Island accompanied by another convict, Thomas Cox. Once again Pearce found himself without food and, to solve the problem, he killed and ate Cox. When he was finally recaptured near the King River, Pearce admitted to eating Cox and confessed to cannibalism during his first escape. This was known because when he was captured he still had bits of Cox's hands and fingers in his pockets. He was subsequently executed in Hobart.

* In 1877 the region's magnetite mineralisation was discoveredby a State Government surveyor, Charles Sprent. Given the low quality of the ore (about 38 per cent iron) and the difficulty of getting the mineral to the coast for processing or export it was considered too difficult and uneconomic and so no mining occurred.

* Corinna was settled in 1891 and proclaimed a town in 1894

* In 1926 Hoskins Iron and Steel carried out a survey to determine the value of the magnetite in the area.

* In 1956 that the Australian Bureau of Mineral Resources explored the deposit and drilling was undertaken in 1957 and 1959

* In 1965 Roy Hudson's Industrial and Mining Investigations Pty Ltd joined with Japanese and American mining interests to develop the project.

* The town of Savage River was built between 1965-67.

* By 1966 the mine was supplying Japanese steel mills with up to 2.4 million tonnes of pelletised iron ore every year. The plan was to supply a total of 45 million tonnes over a twenty year period.

* Ownership of the Savage River project was transferred to the Tasmanian Government in 1997.

* In 2009 the Savage River mine was acquired by the Burnie-based mining company, Grange Resources. At the time it was believed the mine would continue until 2023.

* In December, 2013 it was announced that exploration drilling had increased the deposit from 49 million tonnes to 107 million tonnes. Grange Resources currently has a contract with China's largest steel mill, Shagang, until 2023.

^ TOP

Visitor Information

There is no Visitor Information in Savage River. The closest is the West Coast Visitor Information Centre located on the wharf at Strahan near the Huon Pine Sawmill, tel: (03) 6471 7488

^ TOP

Useful Websites

There is no specific website for Savage River. For Corinna there is the very useful http://www.corinna.com.au/river-cruises/

^ TOP
Got something to add?

Have we missed something or got a top tip for this town? Have your say below.

7 suggestions
  • When were the houses removed, and where to? Lived there from ’67-69. Kate Poole

    Kate Poole
    • I cannot account for all houses but my parents actually purchased our family home from Savage River in the mid 90s and it was trucked up to Sister Creek and rebuilt. I would say the rest were probably auctioned off and relocated too.

      Jenna
    • I bought my house from Philosophers Drive at an auction in the late 1990’s, and had it transported to my rural property in Swansea. Another house ended up just one block from me. There were lots of houses sold on the day, all wrapped in orange plastic as the cladding – presumably asbestos cement – had been removed. I think the school was still there at the time, I remember the relatively posh manager’s house going for about $17,000.

      Sue Gebicki
  • Yes please – a bit more history as per Kate’s question – when were the houses removed? I guess the school went about the same time as the houses? There was also a cycle racing track when we were there. We lived there (in a mine subsidised house) from 1975 to 1978. One of our children was born there in the Savage River hospital in ’76.

    Bob Johnson
    • The School is still there. It is now living quarters for many of the workers on the mine. The school oval is where some of the boys and girls from the mine play with their drones. The “Lodge” is still there as well. It is the dry-mess (dining hall), wet-mess (bar) for the workers, and some accommodation for contract workers. There are now many normal mining dongas that the workers are also housed in.
      There are no facilities for tourists/visitors at all. It is purely a mining camp.

      Kat
  • Lived there for 22 years. Believe there is a Savage River house on the road out of Penguin along the coast towards Ulverstone. It’s been bricked up as the old boarding was made of asbestos and had to be removed from the houses before being taken out of Savage River.
    Dad knows where a few others are.
    I went down there with my wife just for a look at the old place some years ago, wasn’t much to find but I did find the location of my old house that I grew up in (found the power pole that used to be in the front lawn) most of the streets are still visible but not all accessible by car and others only by foot.
    Kat is correct in that the school is still there but has been converted into a barracks for the miners, relocatable dongas on what used to be the shopping centre, The pub / Motor Inn is used as a mess hall and barracks .
    Apart from that the only original buildings that still stand are some of the brick teacher’s houses around the back of the school and brick units above what used to be the school sports ovals, the service station which was Ampol but does not serve petrol to the public any more, Police station (closed, no longer in use ), the community house and sports hall next to what used to be the shops (polished basketball court is in a really bad way with lots of damage, such a shame) , the fire station is still there and saw what was left of the old tennis courts .
    Some other remnants remain such as some old fencing scattered here and there but I did find a piece of concrete (pocket size) that would have made part of my original carport slab of my house so I souvenired it for a bit of nostalgia .
    Did find that the old swimming pool is actually still there – just filled in with rock and gravel .
    Really missed that place, it was such a great place to grow up in, taught you self reliance , resilience and respect for community which is so lacking these days .

    Peter Luyks