Not only did mining set up the entire social and economic base for what has become Australia’s first National Heritage Listed City, but the discovery of the ore body by Charles Rasp in 1883 and the formation of the Syndicate of Seven and BHP in 1885 triggered some of the greatest mining wealth ever seen in Australia.
Mining at Broken Hill has now entered its third century and has generated incredible metal production and wealth for the Australian economy over that time. The company that started it all, BHP, or Broken Hill Proprietary Limited, is now part of one of the biggest companies in the world.
However, the story of Broken Hill’s famous mines is far more complex and compelling than just economic wealth. They have created employment in Broken Hill, and in many secondary industries throughout Australia, and the mining operations here allowed increased settlement in other remote regions of western New South Wales.
A community was created in Broken Hill. One that has survived the often-brutal boom and bust life of an isolated outback pioneer-town and developed a unique character all of its own.
Over the years, the people of Broken Hill have endured the terrible toll of illness and accidents that are a consequence of mining. Industrial disputes, particularly the great strikes of 1892, 1909 and 1919 divided the community and led to massive hardship, but in the process helped create improved conditions for workers. Economic booms, depressions and recessions have become a feature of life in Broken Hill.
These factors have created a resilient and self-sufficient community with an independent spirit, loyalty to each other and a cynical regard for authority.
The Outback Archives contains numerous records that illustrate the complex aspects of the mining story of Broken Hill. They include early photographs, records of the mining companies and managers associations, and records of unions and the Australian Labor Party. These are supported by newspaper accounts going back to the earliest local newspaper, the Silver Age. Browsers and researchers can get a glimpse of the rich, complex and often divided history that makes Broken Hill so fascinating.