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Notes on the Geography of Australia: Broken Hill: Photo 4

world pictures Australia: Broken Hill

The BHP at first tried smelting locally, which denuded the surrounding country of wood and left it prey to ferocious dust storms. The company shifted from smelting ores to merely concentrating them and then shipping the concentrates by rail, at first to the coast for export but by 1915 for refining on the coast at Port Pirie, almost 300 miles away. Here's what's left of the concentration mill, built in 1897.

The technical development of the mine relied heavily on American expertise. Two years after the creation of the company, for example, the board of directors sent one of its members--W.R. Wilson, the only director with a mining background--to the U.S. Wilson visited the Comstock Lode in Nevada and hired W.H. Patton to be general manager at Broken Hill. Patton had been the manager of the Consolidated Virginia Silver Mining Company. Wilson also visited Colorado and its Pueblo Smelting and Refining Works and headhunted H.H. Schlapp to take charge of the B.H.P. smelter. The conversion of the mine from underground operations to an open pit took place under Patton's successor, John Howell, a Canadian who had come to California during the gold rush of 1849.

The body of ore, by the way, is shaped like a bow set string down, so BHP naturally worked the shallowest part, at the center of the Line of Lode. That section was worked out by 1940, and BHP moved on to greener pastures elsewhere in Australia and the wider world. The deeper ends of the bow, both and north, have been sporadically worked since then.

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