Grassy is a former mining township on the east coast of King Island in Bass Strait. The name is descriptive of the place.
In 1911 a prospector found a mineral specimen which he thought contained tin but which was scheelite, a tungstate of calcium. The King Island Scheelite Development Company NL began treating ore in 1917, and continued for three years. The mine was revived in 1937, and open-cut mining supplied tungsten for hardened steel during the second World War and the postwar years.
A company town was developed. In 1966 it had 135 company dwellings, a hall, a cinema, sports facilities, a golf course and a workmen’s club, for a population of 540, of whom 170 were employed by the company. Water was reticulated from two reservoirs on the Grassy River. A school was provided, which had one hundred pupils in 1966.
Overburden from the mine was used to construct a breakwater for the Grassy harbour and to widen the shoreline beyond the mine.
The harbour can take cargo vessels, and is used to run the annual Queenscliff to Grassy yacht race. Fuel is imported in bulk from vessels to tanks at the Naracoopa jetty, twelve kilometres northwards.
The scheelite industry is ruled by world export prices and in 1990 falling prices resulted in the closure of the mine. The town was evacuated of most of its population. Several houses were removed to other population centres, some have become derelict and a small population resides in the rest. A general store services the local community and the school buildings are used for community purposes. The harbour is still used (1998), but the open cut mine is filling with water.
Grassy has attractive forested land around it, in contrast to the undulating grassland on the sandy west side of King Island. Narcoopa and Yarra Creek Gorge, north of Grassy, have considerable scenic value with holiday facilities and some permanent residents. Naracoopa is the site where a New South Wales exploring party met the French Baudin expedition in 1802 and took possession of King Island. It has also been the site of sand mining, evident form the blackish shoreline immediately northwards.
Grassy’s census populations have been 87 (1921), 352 (1947), 767 (1971) and 253 (1986).
- Edgecombe, Jean, “Discovering King Island, Western Bass Strait,” the author, 1993.
- Hooper, R.H., “The King Island Story”, Peko-Wallsend Ltd., 1973.
- “King Island Scheelite Mine, Grassy, King Island, Tasmania 1937-1966”, King Island Scheelite (1947) Ltd.