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How to Explore the Historic Mount Isa Mines

on 27 September 2019 in Local news

Mount Isa is the clear winner when considering historical significance due to its extensive mineral-rich geolocation stretching from south of Cloncurry to west of Burketown. 

 

The city was brought to life by John Campbell Miles who discovered in 1923 from the rock samples from an outcrop that they were mineralised. Within two years, two open-air picture theatres and a provisional school were up and running, and many businesses were attracted to set up their presence in the booming city. 

 

After almost a century, the city's mining industry is still flourishing better than ever. Hailed as one of the largest mining and processing operation cities in the world, Mount Isa has contributed significantly to the Australian world's market share when it comes to minerals such as copper, lead and zinc. 

 

This rich history is precisely why you must explore the historic Mount Isa Mines to get a taste of this unique city.

 

There are many places worth visiting when you are at Mount Isa to get a taste of what the hardworking men and women of Mount Isa do for a living. 

 

The most popular mining tour in the area is the Hard Times Mine which runs seven days a week. 

 

You will first be asked to gear up in hard hats, cap lamps, bright orange overalls and gumboots before descending into the underground replica mine in the Alimak Cage lead by your guide who has worked as a miner for most of his life. 

 

As the air gets more still and headlamps finally illuminating the darkness, you will work your way through the tunnel and be enthralled by the loud and heavy machinery such as the boom drills and mucking units and the historical journey through the past and future of mining in the Outback. 

 

For the brave souls who want a true taste of the everyday working life of a miner, get your hands on the air-leg drilling equipment and feel the earth rumble beneath your feet. It is truly an educational opportunity for both adults and children.

 

Another must-visit iconic mining historical destination is Mary Kathleen. 

 

Situated halfway between Mount Isa and Cloncurry, it was originally a uranium mine with the flourishing community but was closed down about 50 years after it was first discovered due to all contracts filled. 

 

It then became the site of Australia's first major rehabilitation project of a uranium mine. By just standing at the Barkly Hwy entrance to the site, one can already feel the ghost town like atmosphere creeping up with a pitiful sight of only a few remnants of buildings remain. 

 

Mind you though that the site is private property but thanks to the generosity of its owner, it is now open to visitors. 

 

Following the partial bitumen road, you will arrive at the mine, some 5kms away, that resembles a deep bowl with a step ladder. Here, you will find a mysterious and unworldly shade of blue coloured soup displaying its toxicity and radioactivity many thanks to the washing of minerals from the mine walls.

 

To discover more about the history of how mining has evolved in this city, you must go for the Isa Experience. 

 

It houses entertaining exhibits that provide an in-depth perspective on the development of the mining industry. As you watch the video being played on the award-winning multi dual plasma screens showing how mining has evolved since its discovery in the early 1920s, you will grow an appreciation for the sweat and tears of the hard working miners. 

 

One of the bonuses of this trip is that it is located right next to the Outback Park which offers stunning landscapes – a central lagoon surrounded by native plants and a Lawn Hill forge inspired waterfall. 

 

Have a hearty lunch in a shaded spot and be accompanied by the lushness surrounding you after the Isa Experience.

 

This next destination is not only vital to the mining industry by providing water to the adjacent Mount Isa Mines mining lease, but it also doubles up as leisurely heaven for humans and wild animals. 

 

Lake Moondarra was initially a dam called Leichhardt Dam built for Mount Isa Mines in 1958. It is now accessible by cyclists and motorists via a sealed road from Mount Isa. 

 

Hike up the lookout and be mesmerised by the wonder created by humankind. Pack along with you some food for a well-deserved picnic by the water to relax and enjoy the scenery while the wild animals such as pelicans, galahs and ducks go about their daily lives nearby.

 

Another rather unusual destination to learn more about the history of Mount Isa mines is the Mount Isa Underground Hospital and Museum. 

 

The underground hospital was built by off duty miners from Mount Isa Mines. With the advent of World War II and subsequently the bombing of Darwin Hospital, precautions were required to protect the Mount Isa district hospital in the event of an air raid. 

 

The company supplied all equipment, and the construction was done by the miners who volunteered their time. Despite that Mount Isa was never hit by air raids, it still stands as a strong symbol on the unity of a remote mining community during difficult times. 

 

After the war, the underground hospital remained in use for less urgent purposes and the shelter as a dormitory for the nurses. Until today, all the old medical equipment and nursing instruments are still very well preserved.

 

All the above things to do and places to see are only a fraction of the exciting activities that you can do to learn more about the mining. 

 

Travellers are advised to stay at least two days at Mount Isa to truly experience and explore the historic mines. This should give you enough time to learn and understand its significance on how it has benefited the local community greatly. 

 

There is nothing more important than a cosy place to unwind after long mining-related excursions. Fortunately, Mount Isa is certainly not lacking in excellent accommodation. 

 

Places like the Isa Hotel has been highly regarded for its amazing amenities, excellent customer service, priority in comfort and top-notch mouthwatering steak in their Rodeo Bar & Grill. With everything that you would expect from a superior quality hotel, a stay at the Isa Hotel will undoubtedly enhance your Mount Isa experience. 

 

Image credit: Northern Star

The Whip > September 2019 > How to Explore the Historic Mount Isa Mines