Broken Hill Mines – the Story – Chapter 4: Mining the Lode

We come now to the most complicated part of the story, as there are really six stories, as shown in Figure 14. The First Decade was followed by the three big ventures – Zinc Corporation, Broken Hill South and North Broken Hill taking the story to about 1980. The events of Recent Times are two parallel stories leading to the current situation.

Fig. 14  The six stories concerning the mining of the lode.

The First Decade

On April 25th 1885, the Syndicate of Fourteen amalgamated the seven leases as the Broken Hill Mining Company, but it was never registered. William Jamieson was appointed Manager of the company, with a salary of £500 per annum, and immediately resigned from his appointment as Government Surveyor. This company had insufficient capital to embark on any serious mining operations and so, very soon after amalgamating the leases and clearly in desperate need of funds, the syndicate floated a new company.

This company was called the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. That company and the Broken Hill Mining Company were combined and registered in Melbourne on 23rd July 1885 as the BHP Co. Ltd. and, by this action, the “Big Australian” had come into existence.

BHP was floated with a capital of 16,000 shares valued at £20 each. Of those shares, 1,000 were awarded, fully paid up, to the holder of each of the 14 syndicate shares. The remaining 2,000 shares were offered to the public at £9 each, and were snapped up.

This sale netted the syndicate £18,000 with another £22,000 on call. £3,000 was immediately used to repay syndicate members for expenditure they had personally funded. The company then had £15,000 to begin mining operations, and development was swift.

In late 1885, BHP commenced operations by open cutting on Blocks 11, 12 and 13 (Figure 15). Workers moved from Silverton to form a settlement near the broken hill. Within months, there was a ramshackle assortment of tents, shacks and huts but there was no water and no sanitation. The settlement was called Willyama. Soon there were shops, boarding houses, entertainment parlours and, of course, pubs – ultimately 55 of them.

According to one report, some of the first mined ore was sent to the Daydream mine (Daydream Silver Mining Company) for processing as, in 1885, the company had built a smelter (Figure 16), on the nearby Hen and Chickens mine (see Figure 1).

Fig. 15  The BHP Open Cut 1891.
Fig. 16  Daydream smelter on the Hen & Chickens mine site.

Originally this smelter only functioned for a short time before closing down due to lack of sufficiently high grade ore. It was reopened to process the BHP ore but in 1886 it closed down for good. As a consequence, BHP then sent 48 tons, 5cwt and 3qtrs of ore to Intercolonial Smelting & Refining Co. at Spotswood in Melbourne. Processing of that ore produced 35,605 ounces of silver – 734 ounces per ton. That result raised eyebrows. Sceptics asserted that the mine management had salted the ore with silver from somewhere else to ramp up share values, but they were, of course, wrong.

Around this time in 1885, William Jamieson visited Sunny Corner in New South Wales, the site of the only other silver mine in Australia. After investigating the on-site smelter there, he returned to Broken Hill and immediately took action to erect BHP smelters on the line of lode. The first smelter became operational in 1886, and expansion of operations was taking place on several fronts. A government railway was built across South Australia to link with the private tramway from Silverton. Workers poured in from South Australia to escape the recession there. Skilled workers came from all over the world, including smeltermen from the United States silver fields.

Eventually, BHP had 15 furnaces (Figure 17), with a weekly capacity of about 4,500 tons of ore, together with the associated ore crushers, ore beneficiation plant and, of necessity, sprawling waste dumps. During the first three years of operation BHP produced 3 million ounces of silver, which was over 30% of the world production. However, a downside of these developments was the noxious fume produced by the smelters.

Smelting of lead ore involved then as it does now, several processing stages. First the ore, together with included gangue, was crushed in ore beneficiation plant of crushers, mills and other machinery. It was then roasted to convert the lead minerals to lead oxide. Depending on the specific minerals present in the ore, various noxious gases were produced and vented to the atmosphere through chimneys or stacks. Ore containing sulphides released sulphur dioxide SO2, a well-known health hazard. The oxidised product of roasting was processed in a blast furnace with fuel and flux. Burning of the fuel provided heat, and a means of reducing the lead oxide to liquid metallic lead.

Fig. 17  BHP Smelters in 1888.

The flux combined with impurities to form a slag, and all of this produced more noxious gases. Finally, the lead and slag were tapped from the bottom (hearth) of the furnace and the silver, present within the lead, was extracted by one of several effective processes.

The flux for smelting was limestone, sourced in about 1889 from Tarrawingee (or Torrowangee) some 60km to the north (Figure 18). Initially the limestone was hauled to the mines, but later a light rail was built to the quarries. In 1898, when smelting was transferred from the mines to Port Pirie in South Australia, the quarries closed and Torrowangee is now a ghost town. The fuel was charcoal obtained from the surrounding forests.

Fig. 18  Map showing the location of the Torrowangee limestone quarries. (HEMA Australia Road Atlas).

By 1888 the population of Willyama had reached about 16 000, according to one authority, enough for it to become a municipality. Possible names for the city were proposed – Silver City and Mulga Town were two, along with what was possibly the first name – Mullinsville. Hugh Mullins had pegged a block of 20 acres on the location of the present central business district, and some of his colleagues thought to honour him in this way. But it was not to be, as Broken Hill was favoured, being an original name for the black rocky outcrop. Evidently, Broken Hill was also the name for one of the Mt Gipps paddocks. Incidentally, on 20th  January 2015, Broken Hill became the first Australian city to be included on the National Heritage List.

This now brings us to the timeline for the first decade.

  • 1883  The Syndicate of Seven pegged Blocks 10 to 16.
  • 1884  Central Broken Hill Silver Mining Co. Ltd. pegged Block 9 to the south of Block 10. (Block 9 was purchased by the Sulphide Corporation in 1895)
  • 1885  BHP Co. Ltd. began open cutting on Blocks 11, 12 and 13. Broken Hill South Silver Mining Co. Ltd. pegged blocks 5, 6, 7 and 8 adjacent to Block 9. North Broken Hill Silver Mining Co. Ltd. acquired Block 17 adjacent to Block 16 (see later).
  • 1886  Broken Hill Junction Silver Mining Co. pegged Block 39 north of Block 16.
  • 1887  BHP established a satellite company British BHP Co. Ltd. to exploit Blocks 15 and 16, and another satellite company BHP Block 14 Co. Ltd. to mine Block 14,
  • 1888  and a third satellite company BHP Block 10 Co. Ltd. to mine Block 10.
  • 1890  Broken Hill North Silver Mining Co. Ltd. pegged Block 40 adjacent to Block 39 and Australian Broken Hill Consols Co. pegged Blocks 96, 97 and 98.
Fig. 19  Old map showing the Consols leases 96, 97, 98.

The Blocks 96, 97 and 98 (Figure 19), were not on the line of lode but some 600 metres to the south east, covering an erratic silver channel that was worked from 1893 to 1903. Silver occurred as native silver and as the mineral dyscrasite (Ag3Sb, Figure 20), which was very rare worldwide but abundant in the Consols lode. Over 26 tons of silver was obtained during the 13 years of mining, with silver assays of many thousands of ounces per ton of ore, and one slug weighing nearly 1.5 tons. The lode has never been reworked and is currently a bulldozed flat area.

Fig. 20 Dyscrasite from the Consols lode.

The mining leases relevant to the timeline are shown in Figure 21 while Figure 22 shows all the leases pegged up until 1893 – at least according to two maps in the Mitchell Library. The broken hill rocky outcrops at either end of the original leases were inconspicuous, but both areas were pegged and mining gradually extended into these regions. It seems evident that the mining leases along the line of lode were named as Block numbers following the original No 12 pegged and named by Rasp. Most of the others seem to bear no relationship with these, and I have not been able to find any plausible explanation for the numbers.

Fig. 21  Map showing leases relevant to the first decade.
Fig. 22  Map showing all leases pegged up to 1893.

Turning now to briefly consider the seven men who were initially responsible for the wealth that was being generated – the Syndicate of Seven – what happened to them?

  • David James – one of the dam-sinking contractors, and one of the original Syndicate of Three, kept his share long enough to become rich. He dabbled in horse racing, and in 1895 his horse Agraria won the Melbourne Cup.
  • James Poole – the other dam-sinking contractor, and one of the original Syndicate of Three, exchanged half his share with a passing drover for ten rather poor bullocks worth only £40. It transpired that the bullocks had been appropriated from the common by the drover who was none other than Sydney Kidman. Poole sold the other half share for £4,500 – a small fortune in those days but not nearly the fortune that some others made.
  • George Lind – the storekeeper, sold his share to Rasp and McCulloch for little profit, and disappeared into nowhere.
  • George Urquhart – the overseer, sold his share (possibly to Jamieson), died in 1915 and is buried in Broken Hill.
  • Phillip Charley – the jackaroo, was first to recognise silver chlorides, and kept his share to become very rich. In 1907 he purchased a Silver Ghost, and so was the first person to import a Rolls Royce into Australia.
  • George McCulloch – manager and part owner of Mt Gipps, was the mastermind behind the Syndicate of Seven, and kept his share to become very rich. He founded the first hospital in Broken Hill, became an active patron of Broken Hill arts, and helped establish the Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery. He imposed the condition that entry to the gallery must be free, and that condition is sustained to the present day. McCulloch retired to London, where he used his wealth to become a major patron of British art.
Fig. 23 Raspite.

Charles Rasp – kept his shares which, at the end of 1885, were worth £40,000, soon rising to £25,000,000 and ultimately to £60,000,000 – at least according to one reference. He was never a BHP Board member, possibly thinking that the notoriety might attract the attention of German authorities over his earlier desertion. He was, however, a director of several smaller companies. Without a doubt he was Australia’s Silver King. The lead tungstate mineral PbWO4 was named raspite in his honour (Figure 23).

To complete this part of the story, Rasp moved to Adelaide and married Agnes Maria Louise Kievesahl on 22nd July 1886 and a year later they bought Willyama, a property in Menindie, a suburb of Adelaide. It was rumoured that Rasp had buried a time capsule in the grounds but, despite many searches, it remains undiscovered. They renovated extensively and turned the house into a mansion where they entertained sufficiently lavishly for Agnes to became a socialite. The couple had no children, and travelled extensively overseas – which is puzzling considering Rasp’s fear of recognition. Rasp died of a coronary on 22nd May 1907 aged 60. He left only a small estate of about £40,000, having transferred assets to Agnes early in their marriage, and possibly having given substantial funds to his brother, Isidor, to help him avoid major troubles in the USA.

According to an account in Minerals of Broken Hill, Edition 2, Agnes and her maid, Anna Paech, left Australia in 1912 for Europe, where she tried to improve her social standing. She became engaged to

76-year-old Baron Richard van Eisenstein but he died a few days before the wedding. Then in 1914, in London, she married Count von Zedtwitz, who was later killed in World War I. The then Baroness and Anna returned to Australia in 1921, only to find that her property and assets had been confiscated under the Enemy Property Act. She appealed to Billy Hughes, the Prime Minister, and he intervened through a special Act of Parliament to enable her to recover her estate. She died in 1936, aged 79, leaving £120,000 and a yearly pension of £100 to Anna Paech. Willyama was sold in 2006 for $6,400,000. This account is not supported by other versions.

Returning now to the mining of the lode.

In the first years of mining, BHP owned the lease on the main arch of the boomerang shaped lode where the oxidised ore was very rich in silver, very easy to remove by open cutting, and very easy to smelt. As a consequence, BHP paid millions of pounds in dividends, and continued to do so until the company closed all leases in 1939.

Times were tough for the other mining companies. Those to the north and to the south did not have access to oxidised ore and had to go deep underground with shafts to extract (mostly) sulphide ore. This ore was not rich in silver, and was difficult to smelt. Then, in the mid-1890s, when BHP had extracted most of the oxidised material, that company too had to go underground for sulphide ore.

Sulphide ore presented the mining companies with a major metallurgical problem, because it was a mixture of galena and sphalerite. It was soon recognised that ore beneficiation was necessary to try to separate the two minerals, and ore dressing was commenced as early as 1894. The ore was crushed and gravity separation attempted using Wilfley tables and other such devices. Separation was partly effective and the galena, still containing significant amounts of sphalerite, was smelted leaving massive dumps of zinc ore concentrates contaminated with lead.

The real problem occurred in the lead blast furnaces. The roasted ore, fuel and flux were charged into the furnaces from the top and progressively moved down the furnace shaft. In the lower, higher temperature regions, zinc vapour was produced. The vapour rose and, in the cooler top regions, condensed to a solid, which partly blocked the gas passages, slowing all reactions. Lead recovery was reduced to only about 50%, and silver recovery was only about 65%. Collectively this was known as the SULPHIDE PROBLEM. All mines struggled through the effects of the problem, and the struggle was exacerbated by declining metal prices and lower grade ore. It was acknowledged that the galena and sphalerite must be separated, and that gravity-based processes were not the answer.

A process called Froth Flotation was suggested as a possible solution. This process, known since 1781, was tried but, being very crude, was not effective, initially. Figure 24 shows a basic froth flotation cell. The vessel contains water with added chemicals, into which air is bubbled through an agitator. Finely crushed lead/zinc ore is fed into the vessel at the top to form a slurry with the water. Depending on the particular chemicals in the water, the galena particles or the sphalerite particles attach preferentially to the surface of the bubbles and float to the top, where they are scraped into a concentrate launder. The other sulphide sinks to the bottom and is removed as tailings.

Fig. 24  Representation of a froth flotation cell and process.

The requirement at the time was for a cell design and slurry chemistry that could effect a highly efficient separation of the two minerals. The Sulphide Corporation had experimented with the process at Cockle Creek near Newcastle in New South Wales, but apparently with little success. Around that time, an American consulting mining engineer was in Melbourne acting for a group known as the “Hills Syndicate”. He was Herbert Hoover, later to become the 31st President of the United States and, evidently, it was this Syndicate that developed a workable froth flotation process that became available to the mines. The process was crude, and several mines were nearly bankrupted, but they survived, and froth flotation was progressively improved until it is now a very widely used sophisticated chemical engineering process.

The story of the first decade is now complete and, although we have gone beyond 1895, the setting for emergence of the three major companies is in place.

The Zinc Corporation

Upon development of the workable froth flotation process, the Hills Syndicate bought the rights to treat the 6 million tons of contaminated zinc concentrates on leases 33, 92, 5, 6, 88 and 87 (see Figure 25). Around this time, the Syndicate morphed into the Zinc Corporation which, in 1911, purchased the leases to Broken Hill South Ltd Blocks 5, 6, 87 and 88 to guarantee availability of ore when processing of all dumps was completed. In 1936 the Corporation set up a London based company, New Broken Hill Consolidated, specifically to explore and exploit the southern mining leases pegged in the 1880s, and held by the Corporation and Barrier South Ltd. Thirteen years later the company name was changed to Consolidated Zinc Corporation which, in 1962, merged with Rio Tinto Co. to form Rio Tinto Zinc Corporation (RTZ). The main subsidiary of RTZ was Conzinc Riotinto of Australia (CRA). Then, in 1971, New Broken Hill Consolidated joined the CRA consortium to become the Australian Mining and Smelting Co. Ltd. Seventeen years later this company merged with North Broken Hill Ltd. to form a new company called Pasminco Ltd., which we will come back to soon.

It is worth noting that in 1995 RTZ became the Riotinto Group which now owns the Western Australian ventures Hamersley Iron and the Argyle Diamond Mine.

Fig. 25  Leases relevant to the Zinc Corporation.

Here is the timeline for the Zinc Corporation.

  • 1905 Zinc Corporation formed to process dumps on Blocks 5, 6, 33, 92, 87, 88
  • 1911 then acquired mines on Blocks 5, 6, 87, 88 to maintain sources of ore
  • 1936 formed New Broken Hill Consolidated (NBHC)
  • 1949 Zinc Corp. became Consolidated Zinc Corporation
  • 1962 merged with Rio Tinto Co. to form Rio Tinto Zinc (RTZ) with the main subsidiary of Conzinc Riotinto of Australia (CRA)
  • 1971 NBHC joined with CRA to form Australian Mining & Smelting Co Ltd
  • 1988 AM&S Co Ltd and North Broken Hill Peko Ltd (see later) combined to form Pasminco Ltd   and incidentally:
  • 1995 Rio Tinto Zinc became the Riotinto Group

North Broken Hill

In December 1883, Block 17 was pegged as the Cosmopolitan Mine but, soon after, the lease was sold on to a Melbourne based syndicate for £15,000 and renamed the North Broken Hill Silver Mining Company Ltd. In 1904 it purchased the Victoria Cross Mine on the adjacent lease to the north east and, in 1912, it became North Broken Hill Ltd. Then followed 30 years of acquisitions of leases. The first acquisition was British BHP Co. Ltd. on Blocks 15 and 16 in 1923, then Broken Hill Junction Silver Mining Co. Ltd. on Block 39 in 1929 (bought from the Sulphide Corporation which had acquired it in 1923), and then Broken Hill Junction North Silver Mining Co. Ltd. on Block 40 in 1931. Finally it acquired BHP Block 14 Co. Ltd. together with several leases to the north east in 1942. The relevant Blocks are shown in Figure 26. Running into financial difficulties, the leases on Blocks 14, 15, 16 and 39 were sold to Broken Hill South in 1962.

In 1976 the company became North Broken Hill Holdings Ltd., which took over the company Peko Wallsend in 1988 to become North Broken Hill Peko Ltd. This is the company that later merged with the Australian Mining & Smelting Co. Ltd. to form Pasminco Ltd.

Fig. 26  Leases relevant to North Broken Hill Ltd.

Here is the timeline for North Broken Hill Ltd

  • 1883 Block 17 pegged by the Cosmopolitan Mine
  • 1885 North Broken Hill Silver Mining Co Ltd. acquired Block 17
  • 1904 then purchased Victoria Cross Mine on Block 43
  • 1912 became North Broken Hill Ltd.
  • 1923 acquired British BHP Co Ltd. on Blocks 15, 16
  • 1929 acquired Broken Hill Junction Silver Mining Co Ltd. on Block 39 from Sulphide Corporation which had acquired it in 1923
  • 1931 acquired Broken Hill Junction North Silver Mining Co Ltd. – on Block 40
  • 1942 acquired BHP Block 14 Co. Ltd. & additional leases to the east
  • 1962 Blocks 14,15, 16, 39 sold to Broken Hill South Ltd.
  • 1976 became North Broken Hill Holdings Ltd.
  • 1988 took over Peko Wallsend to become North Broken Hill Peko Ltd. merged with Australian Mining & Smelting Co. Ltd. to form Pasminco Ltd.

Broken Hill South

This company started off as Broken Hill South Silver Mining Co. Ltd. by pegging the Blocks 5, 6, 7 and 8 in 1884. In 1911, as we have seen, it sold Blocks 5 and 6 to the Zinc Corporation then, in 1918, changed its name to Broken Hill South Ltd. The years from 1940 to 1962 was a period of acquisition of additional leases.

First, the Central Mine on Block 9 in 1940 then, after BHP closed down all its leases in 1939, the leases on Blocks 10, 11, 12 and 13 in 1943, followed by the leases on Blocks 14, 15, 16 and 39 from North Broken Hill in 1962. At this time Broken Hill South held the leases to the entire line of lode (Figure 27), but financial problems in 1972 led the company to close down all those leases.

Fig. 27 Leases relevant to Broken Hill South Ltd.

Here is the timeline for Broken Hill South Ltd

  • 1884 Broken Hill South Silver Mining Co. Ltd. pegged Blocks 5, 6, 7, 8
  • 1911 sold blocks 5, 6 to Zinc Corporation
  • 1918 became Broken Hill South Ltd.
  • 1940 acquired Central Mine on Block 9
  • 1943 acquired BHP leases on Blocks 10, 11, 12, 13
  • 1962 acquired British BHP on Blocks 15, 16, acquired Block 14, and Junction Mine on Block 39
  • 1972 closed; leases transferred to Minerals, Mining & Metallurgy Ltd. (see later)

Turning now to all the mines, it is well known that in the early years the miners were seriously exploited by the mine owners, and 360 lives were lost between 1894 and 1913. An unsuccessful strike erupted in 1909 in an attempt to improve working conditions but, 10 years later, a second and prolonged strike that lasted 18 months had a positive outcome for the workers. Their rights became recognised, safety conditions were improved, and the working hours became acceptable.

In between these actions, all contracts with German smelters were cancelled at the outbreak of World War I, leading to decreased production and increased unemployment. But the mines survived.

Most of those mining operations were underground through numerous shafts such as shown in Figure 28. Nevertheless, the first operation in 1885 was development of the BHP open cut into the oxidised zone, see Figure 15. This mine was variously called “the Proprietary”, “the Prop” and “The Big Mine”, by the locals and somebody once said or wrote about digging into that zone: “the excitement of seeing vughs lit up like a fairyland by the miner’s lamps can only be imagined today”. As far as I am aware, there are no photographs or artist’s impressions to show what that might have looked like. What a shame.

Fig. 28   Diagram showing the locations of some of the mining shafts.
MineNo.Shaft Name
New Broken Hill Consolidated Ltd1Service Shaft
 2Haulage Shaft
 3Main Shaft
 4Block 5 Shaft
 5Old Main Shaft
South Mine6No 5 Shaft
 7No 4 Shaft
 8No 7 Shaft
 9No 3 Shaft
 10No 1 Shaft
 11No 2 Shaft
Central12Old Kintore Shaft
 13Old Main Shaft
 14Kintore Shaft
Block 1015Campbell Shaft
 16Harvey Shaft
 17Kelly Shaft
Proprietary18Weatherly Shaft
 19Macgregor Shaft
 20New Macgregor Shaft
 21Drew Shaft
 22McBryde Shaft
 23Wigg Shaft
 24Dickenson Shaft
 25Knox Shaft
 26Jamieson Shaft
 27Stewart Shaft
 28Delprat Shaft
 29Patterson Shaft
 30Darling Shaft
 31McCulloch Shaft
 32Rasp Shaft
 33Wilson Shaft
Block 1434South Shaft
 35Main Shaft
 36North Shaft
British37Blackwood Shaft
 38Howell Shaft
 39Eyre Shaft
 40Thompson Shaft
 41King Shaft
Junction42Browne Shaft
 43McIntyre Shaft
 44Marsh Shaft
Junction North45Main Shaft
North46Main Shaft
 47New Main Shaft. North Mine No 1 Shaft
 48Victoria Cross Shaft. North Mine No 2 Shaft
 49North Mine No 3 Shaft
Key to the shafts in each of the mines in Figure 28.

Our story of mining the lode has now taken us to around 1970–1980, and we turn to the two stories of the events of recent times.

Recent Times – the North and South operations

You will remember that in 1988 the Australian Mining & Smelting Co. Ltd. combined with North Broken Hill Peko Ltd. to form a new company they called Pasminco Ltd. This company continued to operate the South mine as Pasminco Southern Operations, and the North mine as Pasminco Northern operations until 1993, when the north mine was closed down. In 2002 Pasminco collapsed, and the leases were acquired for $90 million by Perilya Ltd, a Perth based company. In 2003, and under new management, the South mine was operated as Perilya Southern Operations, and the North mine was reopened as Perilya Northern Operations. Additional reserves were announced, and production immediately increased with 450,000 tonnes of lead and 800,000 tonnes of zinc being produced over the next eight years. Then came the Global Financial Crisis in 2008, resulting in closure of the North mine. The current situation is that the South mine continues to operate, and the North mine is under care and maintenance.

Recent Times – the Central Operations

It has been established that in 1972, Broken Hill South Ltd. closed all operations on Blocks 7 to 16 and Block 39. Those leases, together with several others collectively, became Consolidated Mining Lease 7 (CML 7) which was subsequently worked by four companies.

First, CML 7 was acquired by Minerals, Mining & Metallurgy Ltd. (MMM), a subsidiary of Poseidon Ltd., the company involved in the nickel bubble in the 1970s. In 1973 MMM commenced mining low-grade ore in the Blackwood open cut on Block 15 and in the Block 14 open cut (Figure 29), on Blocks 14 and 15. Two years later, the Kintore open cut (Figure 30), on Blocks 9, 10 and 11 was started. These three open cuts, and a fourth on Blocks 17 and 40, that was prepared but evidently not operated, are shown in Figure 31.

Fig. 29  Block 14 Open Cut.
Fig. 30  Kintore Open Cut.
Fig. 31  Diagram showing the locations of the Kintore (K), Block 14 (B), Blackwood (Bl) and North (N) open cuts.

The mines on Block 14 were very rich in cerussite which formed attractive associations with minerals such as smithsonite, malachite, azurite and silver halides. Possibly the best cerussite specimen in the world, a stunning 32cm reticulated piece shown in Figure 32, came from this Block and is displayed at the Australian Museum in Sydney. At one time it was thought to have been found in the open cut, but as the provenance predates the beginning of that mine the specimen must have been found underground.

In 1991, MMM ceased operations with the leases reverting to Poseidon Ltd. which, by that time, had merged with Normandy Mining Investments Ltd., a subsidiary of Normandy Mining Ltd., the largest gold mining company in Australia. Although Normandy Mining Ltd. was nominally the second company to mine CML 7, the actual mining operations were carried out by Mr Ted Williams and his sons. This family owned Pinnacles Mines Pty. Ltd. located some 10km south west of Broken Hill. Mining there began in 1959, and to 1986 had produced about 200,000 tonnes of lead and zinc ore.

Fig. 32  32cm Reticulated cerussite from Block 14.

The family sub-leased the Kintore and Block 14 open cuts from Normandy and trucked ore to the Pinnacles Mine for processing, but the high cerussite content of the Block 14 product presented considerable difficulties. In 1996, it was estimated that the reserves were about 28 million tonnes, with better than 6% lead, 9% zinc and 55g of silver per tonne. During this phase of mining, mineral collectors may remember having access to the Kintore and Block 14 dumps at the Pinnacles Mine for a daily fee of $20. The sub-lease was terminated when Normandy Mining Ltd. ceased operations in 2000, having been taken over by the multinational Newmont Mining Corporation, the world’s largest gold producer.

Redfire Resources, a general mining company formed in 1989, then acquired the leases and became the third company to mine CML 7. One year later, in 2001, the name was changed to Consolidated Broken Hill (CBH).

In 2008, when commodity prices collapsed due to the Global Financial Crisis, mining was halted. At that time of inactivity, a new mining proposal for CML 7 was being planned, and was approved by the New South Wales Government in 2011. In 2012 the Rasp Mine was officially opened on CML 7 to become the fourth to mine the site.

This venture was possible simply because there is a substantial amount of acceptable grade ore remaining in, and in the vicinity of, the lode.

This material comprises the following (see Figure 33).

  • The Western Zone or Western Mineralization, of 2.2 million tonnes of better than 10% lead plus zinc, discovered in 1913, then extensively drilled but remaining un-mined. It is 40m wide, to the west of, and parallel with, the main lode.
  • The Centenary Lode of more than 5 million tonnes discovered at considerable depth in 1975 by structural geologist Tim Hopwood.
  • The Fitzpatrick and 2K lodes, at considerable depth, off the north-east end of the main lode.
  • The many part-lenses and remnants containing less that the 15 to 20% lead plus zinc cut off remaining from earlier mining operations.
  • The large regions between known ore lenses and also the outside of those lenses.
  • The high-grade zinc lenses in the south west part of the lode (CML 8)
  • The remnants after mining of only the lead lodes on CML 7.
Fig. 33 Some of the remaining parts of the Broken Hill deposit as viewed from the south.

The objective of the Rasp mine is to remove the Western Mineralisation, the Centenary Lode and the pillars of high-grade ore remaining in the main lode. A new decline, from a portal at the northeast end of the Kintore open cut, is under construction to provide access to the ore bodies.

Tailings are being dumped into the Block 14 and Blackwood open cuts. Mining is mechanised, with a cut-off of 6% lead plus zinc, and ore beneficiation by heavy media separation has been designed to remove the gangue. It is expected that 650,000 tonnes will be mined annually, with concentrates produced by plant located in the Kintore pit. These are railed to Newcastle for shipping to smelters in Australia and overseas.

We now turn to the current situation. As of the late second decade of the 21st century, only two mines are active – Perilya Southern Operations and the Rasp Mine. Perilya is now 100% owned by Shenzhen Zhongjin Lingnan Nonfemet Co. Ltd., the third largest zinc producer in China. In earlier years, that company held 53% of the shares and was working to acquire the remaining 47% to give stability of the future and employment in the mine. Those shares were acquired on 19 December 2013. In 2015 the Rasp Mine was reported as owned by Toho Zinc Co. Ltd., the third largest zinc company in Japan, and which took over CBH Resources in 2010 as a wholly owned subsidiary. In a report on the mine, dated April 2017, current ownership is stated to be Broken Hill Operations Pty. Ltd. (BHOP) – a wholly owned subsidiary of CBH Resources Limited. It appears that these two listings are the same.

The bottom line for the mining of the Broken Hill lode is that nearly 30,000 tonnes of silver have been produced, and over $300,000,000,000 of wealth have been generated. Had the original Syndicate of Seven had the funds to take freehold title of the leases, all that wealth would have gone to the mine owners. However, the Syndicate had only the funds to cover leasehold, and the owners have had to pay Royalties to the NSW Government since mining began. Among other things, those Royalties funded the change in the Australian economy from rural to industrial and led to the formation of the world’s two largest mining companies – BHP Billiton and the Riotinto Group. Had the Royalty money not been available to the NSW Government, the history of Australian development would most likely have been vastly different as would world mining operations – the monumental consequences alluded to in Chapter 2.