Broken Hill Mines – the Story – Chapter 6: The Collectors

Nearly all mineral enthusiasts, particularly those in Australia, will certainly have several, if not many, specimens from the Broken Hill lode in their collections. These specimens range from large museum quality pieces to cabinet, miniature and thumbnail pieces, and of course the very small microspecimens simply because many of the Broken Hill species occur only at this size level.

Several of the prominent collectors are worthy of mention.

Sir Maurice Mawby (Figure 34) was born in Broken Hill, and rose to be Chairman of Conzinc Riotinto of Australia, owner of Zinc Corporation and New Broken Hill Consolidated. He was an avid mineral collector and sympathetic to collectors, having said: “Let the men take minerals home. If you don’t, they will be only dumped into the chute and part of Australia’s mineral heritage will be lost.” If only other mine managers were as benevolent.

Fig. 34 Sir Maurice Mawby.

Albert Chapman (Figure 35) began serious collecting in the 1930s at Prospect Quarry in Western Sydney, in the New England area of NSW, and at Broken Hill. He used Broken Hill specimens for some of his most profitable overseas exchanges, and his Broken Hill collection was reputed to be the best in Australia. It was purchased in 1988 by the NSW Government, and displayed for a while in the Earth Exchange Museum in The Rocks area of Sydney. It is now the centrepiece of the collection of the Australian Museum, College Street, Sydney.

Fig. 35 Albert Chapman.

Milton Lavers (Figure 36) began collecting as a boy growing up in Broken Hill, where he played on the Block 10 and Block 14 mine sites. He worked for New Broken Hill Consolidated in the years of management benevolence, and amassed the best private collection on public display in the city. Milton passed away in 2014, and some of his collection was sold by public auction in December of that year. Much of the rest was sold at the Tucson Mineral Show, USA, in early 2015.

Fig. 36 Milton Lavers.

Howard Worner (Figure 37) was a metallurgist and, at the University of Melbourne, rose to be Dean of Engineering having responsibility for, among other disciplines, Mining and Mining Engineering. Thus, he was able to indulge his passion for mineral collecting sparked when he was growing up near the Lake Boga Granite Quarry in northern Victoria. Over the years he assembled a large excellent collection, the best parts of which he took to Wollongong in the 1980s after retirement. Ultimately, the collection was donated to the University of Wollongong where it is on public display. His Broken Hill minerals are a feature of that display. Howard was Co-Editor of the first edition of Minerals of Broken Hill, testifying to his knowledge of that locality.

Fig. 37 Howard Worner.

There are many other prominent collectors.

Edward Aldridge, proprietor of the Duke Of Cornwall hotel in Broken Hill, who acquired over 5,000 specimens which were later donated to the University of Sydney and various museums. The current location of those specimens is uncertain.

Professor Laurie Lawrence of the University of New South Wales had a superb collection, with many excellent Consols specimens.

Warren Sommerville assembled a huge private collection of minerals and fossils, for many years on display in a corrugated iron shed in Orange, but now housed in an excellent facility in Bathurst, New South Wales.

George ‘Specimen’ Smith, and other individuals, amassed collections that found homes in the Australian Museum, other museums, Schools of Mines, Geology Departments, Geological Survey Departments, mining companies and so on.

And finally there are collectors such as Trevor Dart, a high school teacher in Broken Hill, who every now and then is approached by a student – “Sir, my Dad has these old boxes of rocks under the house and he is gunna throw them out – do you want them?”.