Historical information

This particular specimen is found in Wolgan Valley, New South Wales. It could be linked to the abandoned oil shale mining sites in Wolgan Valley such as Newnes. Newnes was an industrial complex operational in the early 20th century is now partly surrounded by Wollemi National Park. It produced motor spirit, kerosene, and gas oil. Newnes's Torbanite oil shale rock contained around 350 litres of oil shale per tonne. The Torbanite was mined by the Commonwealth Oil Corporation Ltd.

Oil shale is a sedimentary rock and also a form of fossil fuel. It is often formed millions of years ago and usually contain fossilised remains of plants and/or animals. Oil shale is rich in kerogen that releases hydrocarbon when heated. These hydrocarbon can be used as an alternative petroleum or natural gas. The oil-shale rock was converted into oil by "destructive distillation"; the rock being heated until it broke down to form an oily vapour and an ash residue.


Oil bearing shale is one of Australia's national assets. There are many oil companies established in Australia. It reflects Australia's rich natural resources as well as connection to the Australia's engineering and oil industry. The booming oil shale extraction businesses can be traced as far back as 1920s.

This specimen is part of a larger collection of geological and mineral specimens collected from around Australia (and some parts of the world) and donated to the Burke Museum between 1868-1880. A large percentage of these specimens were collected in Victoria as part of the Geological Survey of Victoria that begun in 1852 (in response to the Gold Rush) to study and map the geology of Victoria. Collecting geological specimens was an important part of mapping and understanding the scientific makeup of the earth. Many of these specimens were sent to research and collecting organisations across Australia, including the Burke Museum, to educate and encourage further study.

Physical description

Piece of dark gray oil bearing shale with shades of light brown and fossilised leaves

Inscriptions & markings

Existing label:
Wongan Valley, NSW / Donor: Miss M. Cambell