Historical information

Bituminous coal is the most common type of coal, abundantly found in ancient coal deposits which can be dated back millions of years. Often referred to as soft or black coal, this specimen exhibits a high carbon content, ranging from 76-86%. It also holds a relatively high energy density (27 MJ/kg) meaning that it releases significant amounts of energy when burned. Bituminous coal is most commonly used for electricity generation, as well as in the production of steel.

This particular piece of coal was collected as part of the Geological Survey of Victoria in the nineteenth century. It originates from Cape Paterson, a seaside village located in South Gippsland, Victoria (located on Bunurong Country). The discovery of bituminous coal in this locality was first made in 1826 by explorer William Hovell. More discoveries were gradually made over the following decades and in 1859 the Victorian Coal Company commenced the first active coal mining operations in the state by sinking a number of shafts and bores near the area of Cape Paterson. Evidence of this coal-focused past can be found today at the State Coal Mine Museum in the nearby town of Wonthaggi.


This specimen is significant as it was collected from the locality of Cape Paterson in Victoria, an area that has since become historically instrumental in the mining of coal and other substances in the state of Victoria.

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

A solid hand-sized piece of bituminous coal with a shiny black-grey surface and jagged edges.

Inscriptions & markings

Existing Label:
Locality: Cape / Patterson, VIC.