Thieves vandalise mill

Collie Mining Heritage Group's Kevin Dyer was advised of the theft and damage on Saturday
Collie Mining Heritage Group's Kevin Dyer was advised of the theft and damage on Saturday

THIEVES tore two power transformers off their concrete bases and tipped them over, pouring oil onto the ground at the former Gunns mill site.

The units were stripped of their copper wire for sale, said Kevin Dyer of the Collie Mining Heritage Group.

He was alerted to the damage at the weekend. When he arrived on Saturday, the spilled oil was lying in huge puddles on the ground. It has since soaked in, causing a considerable environmental problem, Mr Dyer said.

Police and the Department of Environment and Conservation were notified of the theft on Monday.

Those transformers would have been worth $10,000 each,Mr Dyer estimated.

They had remained untouched for some time after the mill closed but since the power was turned off they have been attacked, like the mill’s switchboard, which had also been stripped of its copper wire.

Tracks on the ground indicated the transformers had been pulled over by a tractor, he said.

Mr Dyer is bitter the site had not been handed over to his group and local businessmen for a combined museum and industrial site.

They would have appointed a caretaker and restored the damage, he said.

The group had wanted to place older mining machinery there and would have run milling demonstrations, which was needed under lease conditions for the forest site.

Mr Dyer claimed that during a meeting, DEC Wellington district manager Drew Griffiths said the industrial museum proponents could have the site and appoint a caretaker, but changed his mind two hours later. Mr Griffiths is on leave until August so was not available this week to comment on this claim.

We are trying to preserve our heritage,Mr Dyer said.

The grain alcohol plant was similarly neglected because both sites had not been placed on the shire’s heritage list, he claimed.

A displeased Department of Environment and Conservation officer said the mess was pure vandalism.

The site was still a Gunns lease and the department had contacted the company about a clean-up.

The mill was not a free access site and DEC officers were looking to find where access was gained to close it off again, he said.

The officer-in-charge of Collie Police Station, Snr Sgt Rod Boehm, said the offenders were wanted in relation to the stolen copper wire and for vandalism.The thieves obviously knew what they were doing,he said.