Most weeks, Peter Fleming hauls three cubic metres of Castlemaine slate out of the deep quarry where he has worked for 34 years. Sometimes, he strategically drills holes into the ground, deposits explosives, sets the fuse, and retreats to safety. The explosion is more thump than thunder, but the gorgeous rock extracted is a pleasure to behold. “And it always looks better away from the quarry, when it is laid and cleaned,” Peter says.
Building with gold
Castlemaine slate, boasting golden earthy hues, is much sought by architects and landscapers, especially those keen on using local products with enormous character. Three cubic metres weekly, though, was not enough for the new RACV Cape Schanck Resort: builders needed about 20 cubic metres a week for the drystone walls and paving, so production was ramped up, bringing in 900 cubic metres over 14 months.
The quarry outside Castlemaine where Peter (pictured) works has been going since 1953, starting as the Maltby family business but changing hands to Yarrabee & Castlemaine in 2005. It is the only site where Castlemaine slate can be sourced. Local quarries such as Mount Granite at Harcourt or the Pyrenees Quarry specialise in other stone.