Darcy McFadden's images of an asbestos mine in Baryulgil. Photo Contributed
Darcy McFadden's images of an asbestos mine in Baryulgil. Photo Contributed Marc Stapelberg

PHOTOS: Look inside a community's asbestos hell

TWO Aboriginal men stare confidently into the camera as they go about their routine jobs at a mine site.

Nothing seems strange about the old photograph, until you realise the men are surrounded by asbestos dust.

The picture, believed to be taken in the late 1960s or early 1970s at the Baryulgil mine, illustrates how normal it was back then for people to work with deadly material.

One of the men is topless, his arm covered in dust.

Neither of them is wearing any kind of protective gear, let alone masks.

And yet the link between cancer and exposure to absestos had already been confirmed by 1943, according to the Absestos Disease Foundation of Australia.

 

Darcy McFadden's images of an asbestos mine in Baryulgil. Photo Contributed
Darcy McFadden's images of an asbestos mine in Baryulgil. Photo Contributed Marc Stapelberg

Former Baryulgil GP Dr Ray Jones said in his estimate 90% of former workers at the mine site died of absestos related cancers.

It's unknown whether the two men pictured are still alive.

 

Darcy McFadden's images of an asbestos mine in Baryulgil. Photo Contributed
Darcy McFadden's images of an asbestos mine in Baryulgil. Photo Contributed Marc Stapelberg

The photos were taken by former Northern Star photographer Darcy McFadden during a visit to the James Hardie mine at Baryulgil.

Mr McFadden, who worked at the Star from 1947 until 2000, said people in the area were "completely ignorant" about the dangers of asbestos at the time.

"As you went in to Baryulgil, it was actually (spread) all over the roads, just like a thin dust," Mr McFadden said.

"I remember quite plainly going into the mine and breaking a piece up, it was like breaking up a stone... a fibrous stone. It was a stringy type of thing.

 

Darcy McFadden's images of an asbestos mine in Baryulgil. Photo Contributed
Darcy McFadden's images of an asbestos mine in Baryulgil. Photo Contributed Marc Stapelberg

The type of asbestos mined at the site was white asbestos, which was considered less deadly than the dreaded blue asbestos, or brown asbestos.

However, it's now known that even white asbestos can cause a host of different cancers, as well as mesothelioma - just at lower rates than blue or brown asbestos.



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