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04 - Rocky Bay Quarry

Rocky Bay Quarry

The remaining fringe of limestone in the form of a small mountain that looks like it should have an interesting cave, is believed to be the edge of the former quarry that once existed here.


Known as the Rocky Bay Quarry, it was mined for its limestone from 1892 to construct “road bases, buildings, ballast for ships and for the manufacturing of lime”. It was also used to build the Fremantle Harbour’s north mole. Limestone was transported to the port project by both rail and barge, with the jetty located at the bottom of Stone Street.


Limestone is a rock formed millions of years ago through deposits of air and water, accumulated of “shell, coral, algal and other ocean debris”. When limestone is subject to a process of extreme heat, it changes from calcium carbonate to calcium oxide, known as lime.


Lime is used in a huge variety of applications, from construction to making our everyday life safer through the water we drink, the air we breathe, increasing the purity of steel, glass production, paper production, plaster and mortar etc.


It took approximately five years to build the Fremantle port, finishing in 1897 and in combination with the many uses and buildings the limestone was quarried for, it saw the depletion of six of the Seven Sisters (limestone hills). Only Buckland Hill remains today.


Despite the main sources of this area’s history originating from publications produced by the Town of Mosman Park’s, there are at times, a number of conflicting statements, however small and trivial they might be. In their Municipal Inventory of Heritage Places, it is stated that the owners of the Rocky Bay Quarry in the late 1880s was the Eastern Railway (a main railway route that first opened in 1881 and still continues today) and Fremantle Harbour Trust (now the Fremantle Port Authority).


The Mt Lyell Mining and Railway Company later ‘acquired’ the land and at the time, are stated as having a fertiliser factory located on an adjacent property. No doubt, the definition of acquired encompasses a number of meanings associated with ‘obtaining’ something but feels like it largely connotes more of a permanent purchase.


On Mosman Park’s information sign number seven titled The Fertiliser Factory, it states that the Public Works Department operated the Rocky Bay Quarry and leased the land, being a seven-hectare quarry site, to the Mt Lyell Chemical Works company in 1909, where they would build a fertiliser factory.


The Public Works Department was the State Government Agency responsible for “providing and maintaining public infrastructure such as dams, water supplies, schools, hospitals, harbours and other public buildings”. They were formed on January 1, 1901 until 1984.


The Mt Lyell Chemical Works produced acids and superphosphate fertilisers for farming, which were essential for crop propagation, due to the lack of nutrients in Western Australian soils.


In 1927, they merged with Cumming Smith and Company, the only other fertiliser company in Western Australia. British Petroleum (BP) acquired a third of the company in 1964, which led to the company changing their name to Cumming Smith British Petroleum (CSBP).


Five years later, the company moved to Kwinana. This was partially a result of pressure from the State Government to rid the area of any industrial sites as the nearby housing estates were expanding. They left behind extensive contamination of the soil from the heavy metals and chemical by-products used to manufacture fertilisers. Waste had also spilled into the river and the foreshore.

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