LEAD Action News

LEAD Action News vol 5 no 1  1997 ISSN 1324-6011
Incorporating Lead Aware Times ( ISSN 1440-4966) and Lead Advisory Service News ( ISSN 1440-0561)
The journal of The LEAD (Lead Education and Abatement Design) Group Inc.

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Going for Broke in Broken Hill

Extract from "A Mining Town’s Hopes to Regain Lost Glory", TIME magazine, 22nd January, 1996

Headquarters for Broken Hill’s Pasminco South Mine is a 60-year-old, bronze-trimmed Art Deco building, built in the days when enormous yields of silver, lead and zinc from the town’s 10 mines permitted such extravagance. But the future for Pasminco, owners of the mine, lies just up the road in a mundane prefab shack. Here regional manager Terry Barclay searches large-scale geology maps for new deposits to keep his company’s interests in Broken Hill - and the 108-year-old town itself alive. "I think it’s out there somewhere", he says. "Of course, in this game you have to be an optimist."

For more than a century Broken Hill, in far western New South Wales, has lived off a single boomerang-shaped ore body, 8 km long. Australia’s biggest mining houses - BHP, CRA, North Broken Hill - were built on profits from its dense galena - sphalerite ore. Three generations of miners made their town rich and rowdy - in 1915, Broken Hill had a population of almost 35,000, with three newspapers and 61 hotels. But the ore is running out, the population has dwindled to 20,000 and all mines but Pasminco South and the tiny Potosi Mine have closed. Barclay’s maps might be the last shot in Broken Hill’s locker.

So far the hunt has been fruitless. That’s hardly surprising: Broken Hill’s miners and geologists have been hoping for a second bonanza almost from the moment the first strike was made in 1883. Even though modern searching methods involve aeromagnetic surveys and high resolution maps, what might be needed is old-fashioned luck; the original ore find was made by one Charles Rasp, who located the 280 million tonne metal mass that built Broken Hill equipped with no more than a prospector’s guide he’s bought while on holidays in Adelaide.

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