The NSW town is in a hurry to transition from mining and power generation – but attracting new industries has its own pitfalls
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Lithgow, with its coalmines, power stations and cauldron-like geography, used to be a lure for young public health officials, keen to study the effects of the heavy pollution. Nestled on the western edge of the Blue Mountains about two hours from Sydney, the gritty industrial town hosted Australia’s first steelworks. Residents were given coal for next to nothing to burn during the cold winters.
“The place was just full of smog,” says Chris Jonkers, now an activist with the Lithgow Environment Group, whose father worked in the nearby state coalmine for about nine years before its closure in 1964. “He’d come home black every day.”