Tag Archive | mining



Only 26 km from Broken Hill is the historic almost-ghost town of Silverton. Its origins also lie in the silver mining industry and in fact, silver was discovered there first.  In 1885, 3000 people lived there. Now there are 50, mostly artists and people who cater to the tourist trade.

When the mines became established at Broken Hill, Silverton slowly fell into decline, and indeed, some of its houses were moved to the larger town by train or teams of donkeys, camels or bullocks. Those that remained fell into disrepair, so that now there’s a cluster of only the most tenacious left.

It’s an interesting place to wander around, and there are some quirky characters living there. The streets, or what’s left of them are extremely wide, and an occasional vehicle disturbs the dust which billows around in eddies and whorls. A couple of stray donkeys slowly amble along looking for a handout, but they won’t let you pat them, eyeing you suspiciously as they keep just one step ahead. The riverbed is completely dry with powdery red dirt imprinted with the easily recognisable marks of passing kangaroos, and bluebush plains stretch as far as the eye can see. In the winter, the season of our visit,  a keen wind wraps itself around sightseers.


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The visitor to Silverton can enter any of several galleries or the local cafe, or simply ramble around the streets.  St Carthage Catholic church is now privately owned by artists and is  in remarkably good condition, and the old Silverton Gaol contains a museum full of memorabilia.


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And look, there’s a garden! The café owner tells me how difficult it is to have a garden here, even though they’re on town water (from Broken Hill) and how she carries water from the shower or the washing up to give a small amount to her plants, just enough to keep them going. She has planted only things that are particularly hardy and they look as though they’re doing well. There are a lot of eccentric additions and a barking dog to keep people from getting too close. Manicured lawns won’t survive here, nor frothy flowers or clipped hedges..



The hub of the town is the Silverton Hotel which was used in the making of the movie ‘Mad Max’. In fact, quite a lot of movies have been made in Silverton: ‘Wake in Fright’, ‘A Town Like Alice’ and ‘Razorback’, to name a few. We had a beer there, just to say we had.

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Into the Outback

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Following our March road journey to Melbourne and back, and encouraged by the enjoyment we experienced on that occasion, we set out  just over two weeks ago to South Australia, a trip that covered 4500km, and provided us with many wonderful experiences,  from strikingly diverse scenery to dining on delicious seafood and much else in between.

I’ve long wanted to visit Broken Hill, the outback city almost on the border between New South Wales and South Australia. Approximately 900km away from where we live, this city is, for us, a two day car trip through semi-arid country on a long grey ribbon of road.

Broken Hill is Australia’s only heritage listed city. In addition to its long mining history, there are many old buildings of significant interest (including twenty pubs), houses built of corrugated iron or local stone and mining apparatus all set in a vast landscape. Visible from anywhere in the centre of the city is a hulking hill of tailings called the Line of Lode, from the top of which the visitor can see the city,  the mines and the surrounding semi-arid countryside.

View from the Line of Lode, Broken Hill
View from the Line of Lode, Broken Hill

Silver, lead and zinc are mined here, and have been for more than 130 years but the supply is running out and the population dwindling. There were 35 000 people living in Broken Hill in the 1950s: now there are 17 800. Once there were 70 pubs: probably most of them are still there, but many of them are empty, idle buildings. They still have their charm though, with their wide verandahs stretching out over the footpaths and their intricate lace balconies. Below is the Palace Hotel (still very much patronised) which featured prominently in the movie  'Priscilla, Queen of the Desert'.


This the old convent, where we stayed.
This the old convent, where we stayed.
View of the city from the Line of Lode
View of the city from the Line of Lode

One of the most amazing things about Broken Hill is that after driving just a few minutes in the car in any direction, it’s possible to be out in the sere countryside,  and from the top of the Line of Lode mullock (or tailings) mound the view is boundless: red earth and  harsh scrubby country with an overarching blue sky in every direction. Dramatically crowning the mound is the Miners’ Memorial. Constructed from steel, its rusty colour echoes that of the surrounding landscape and commemorates every miner who lost his life working here: just over 800 of them.

The Miners' Memorial. Broken Hill
The Miners' Memorial. Broken Hill
A rose for every miner.
A rose for every miner.

The photo above illustrates just how close the city is to the bush.  This emu has dropped into the suburbs to see if it can find something to eat!

So far this year, Broken Hill has had 18.4 ml of rain.  Less than one inch, in seven months.  The reliable eucalypts go on doing their thing, but a  majority of houses lack any kind of  garden and definitely have no lawn, merely bare dirt in front of the house.  However,  it is possible to garden in this climate- more about that in another post.

A typical Broken Hill cottage
A typical Broken Hill cottage

Broken Hill is a fascinating city: for its rawness, the tenacity of its people (and many of them are doing it hard) its architecture, its industry and its remote position in the almost-desert countryside.  Although there is a lot more to see there and I could easily have stayed longer,  I'd satisfied my curiosity up to a point,  and it was worth the long drive.  But we had to move on.  We had more ahead of us!