Carbide Works

The Carbide Works about 1920 (AOT, PH30/1/2126)

The Carbide Works was established at Electrona in 1917 by James Gillies, the originator of the Great Lake scheme of hydro-electricity. Purest quality limestone was shipped from Ida Bay, reduced to lime by burning in a kiln, then roasted with coke in an electric furnace to produce high-grade carbide, calcium carbide, some ferro-alloys and carbon black products.

In 1923, the government foreclosed on Gillies, and ran the plant until it was taken over by the Commonwealth Carbide Company of London in 1934. Using newly available hydro-electricity, the works initially brought prosperity to the district by providing permanent employment for 150 men (including returned soldiers). The furnace was shut down in the early 1980s due to falling world market prices. After considerable public debate, the smelter was refurbished and silicon operations started in 1987. Overseas competition again led to the operation becoming uneconomic and the silicon smelter was finally closed in 1991.

Further reading: Davies Bros Ltd, 'Industrial Tasmania', Hobart, [1922]; J Hepper, Site concept plan: Electrona industrial land, Rosny Park, 1997.

Wendy Rimon