Pioneer, Tasmania


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 equipment.


The tiny settlement of Moorina was originally a tin mining centre. It now has a virtually non-existent population. The only interesting landmark in the town is the solitary Chinese headstone and small 'oven' in the cemetery (turn off the main road - it is clearly signposted) which recall the fact that in the late nineteenth century hundreds of Chinese arrived in the area to work in the tin mines. Moorina was once known as Krushkas Bridge (after the Krushka brothers who settled in the area and opened the Derby mine) but was later renamed Moorina, after Truganini's sister.

Transport hub of the Tin Rush, with roads that were wet enough to 'bog a duck', this was the site of a Chinese monument and burning tower. The interpretive marker will hold you enthralled, with stories of success and despair, transport of the precious tin, and of bodies! Find out why the European graves all face east, while the Chinese graves all face west, and the intriguing ritual of the second burial.

Moorina is home to what was the oldest operating electricity generator in Australia. Moorina Power Station opened in 1909 and was decommissioned in 2008. In 1900, the Pioneer Tin Mining Co. was formed to extract tin (cassiterite) from Tertiary alluvial deposits found in abundance in the far north-east of Tasmania, at Pioneer. At the time there was only one dedicated power station in Tasmania (Duck Reach, near Launceston) which was entirely devoted to street lighting and the general needs of the city of Launceston.

The station is housed in a small 10-by-15-metre corrugated galvanised iron building, which at one point had several out-buildings nearby. Most of these buildings remain including two 1908 houses, a 1939 build engineer's residence and a machine shed. There is limited public access to the area (Amos Road). Water for operations is supplied from a dam across the Frome River 1.6 kilometres due south from the powerhouse itself. The concrete-faced rockfill dam was the first of its kind in Australia. From station engineering records the structure is 18 metres high and 197 metres long, following alterations carried out in 1911. From the dam a water race of 2.7 kilometres and penstock conveyed water to the power station itself, where is passed through the machinery inside.

The Pioneer tin mine closed in the mid-1980s, and since then the plant has been owned and operated by Moorina Hydro Pty. Ltd., with a crew of two. In 2008 the power station was closed due to the high cost of upgrading equipment.


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.

Crossing Davids Creek on the Herrick to Legerwood run

The first railway line through the area was opened on 9 August, 1889, connecting Scottsdale to Launceston. This was extended to Branxholm on 12 July, 1911 and neighbouring Herrick in 1919. Herrick was named after Jerry Herrick who was the foreman at the Anchor Mine.



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 in Tasmania.

Trail of the Tin Dragon

The Trail of the Tin Dragon has been developed to create a trail of experiences between Launceston and St. Helens that tell the tale of our past mining history. Spanning the rugged North-East,the Trail of the Tin Dragon winds its way through stunning scenery and historic townships. The Trail tells the story of tin mining in the North East of Tasmania, focusing on the European and Chinese miners who sought their fortune and risked all for this most remarkable metal.

The Trail of the Tin Dragon is the untold story of the North East of Tasmania. It is a Chinese story. It is a story of Tin mining, of boom and bust, flood and drought, riches and poverty, hope and despair. It is a story of racial hatred and racial harmony. A story of human transience and the power of nature. The trails begins at Launceston, and passes through Branxholm, Derby, Moorina, Pyengana and St Helens. In Western legends and myths, the dragon is usually depicted as a medieval fire-belching monster, representing evil, or a beast to be vanquished by moral force and valour. For the Chinese, the dragon symbolizes goodness, strength, fertility and change.