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Notes on the Geography of Australia: Broken Hill: Photo 1

world pictures Australia: Broken Hill

We're standing atop the Block 10 Lookout, site of an ore concentrator built in 1903 for the Block 10 Mine, which was over yonder in what is now a huge pile of tailings. The mine sent its crushed ore here on the cableway anchored on your left. The tailings, the work of many mines besides the Block 10, lie atop the Line of Lode, a four-mile-long strip which has been picked over since the 1880s, originally by the lion called BHP and nowadays by the lesser carnivores, chiefly CBH (Central Broken Hill) and Perilya, the first Japanese and the second Chinese. That's globalization for you, though it must be admitted that the original BHP magnates left town as soon as they could and settled in Melbourne or the UK.

For a photo from this spot about 1900, complete with the Block 10 Mill intact atop the mine, see L.S. Curtis, The History of Broken Hill, 1908, p. 68.

Anecdote: A mining engineer later recalled George McCulloch, the brains behind the birth of BHP. McCulloch had been the manager of the Mount Gipps sheep station, whose territory included what would be recognized as the Line of Lode. In the early days, he would look after visitors "with plenty of boiled or roast mutton and a few potatoes, all washed down with tea... McCulloch was manager for his uncle and took his uncle's interests seriously. He would not spend an unnecessary penny either on himself or the station staff. It was not meanness, but a dour Scots determination to carry out his duties in the most efficient possible manner. He himself was kind and generous. It was a far cry from Mount Gipps in the 'eighties to the mansion in Queen's Gate, Kensington, London, where I met him again years later. The Proprietary had made him a millionaire, and he lived amid his collection of art, attended by a retinue of servants. Then one ate off silver and not its poor relation." (Broken Hill to Mount Isa: The Mining Odyssey of W.H. Corbould, p. 40.)

McCullough's life would have been different if it hadn't been for Charlie Rasp, a Mount Gipps boundary rider. In 1883, and contrary to McCullough's wishes, Rasp staked a claim to 297 acres in a narrow band along what he called the Broken Hill. He confessed what he had done, and McCullough forgave him: with five other employees, McCullough formed the Syndicate of Seven. The men thought they had a tin mine, but in 1885 silver was discovered and their property was reorganized as the Broken Hill Proprietary. (See Fifty Years of Industry and Enterprise: 1885 to 1935, Special Issue of the B.H.P Review, June 1935; also, Leonard Samuel Curtis, ed., The History of Broken Hill..., 1908.)

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