Mount Morgan - Culture and History


Mining began at Mount Morgan in 1882 and has continued for over 100 years. The town was named after Frederick, Edwin (Ned) and Thomas Morgan who, on 22 July 1882, pegged out a goldmining lease on Ironstone Mountain (later renamed Mount Morgan). At the time of their claim the Morgan brothers were all living in Rockhampton.

Europeans had been in the area since the 1850s and a local stockman, William Mackinlay, discovered that the Ironstone Mountain was gold-bearing around 1870 but kept his discovery secret, hoping to sell his knowledge.

The Morgans with some Rockhampton businessmen formed a six-man partnership to mine the mountain. One of the partners in the syndicate was Thomas Skarrat Hall, whose brother's widow donated some of the Mount Morgan fortune to a fund which established the famous Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne.

Another partner was William Knox D'Arcy, who, having made an incredible £6 million from his share in the mine by 1889, went to London and later made another fortune when he financed oil drilling in what was then Persia (now Iran). It was the latter venture which led to the formation of the famous BP Company.

The Mount Morgan syndicate lasted until 1886 when the Mount Morgan Gold Mining Company Limited was formed. The town was officially proclaimed in 1890 and in 1898 the railway reached the town.

By 1902 gold, silver and copper were being mined. Throughout the twentieth century the mine has enjoyed the fluctuations typical of the mining industry. Production peaked before World War I but declined after the war and by 1927 the company was in liquidation. Up to that time nearly 140 000 tonnes of copper and 1.66 million grams of gold had been extracted from the mine.

The newly-formed Mount Morgan Ltd bought the mine for £70 000 in 1929 and started open-cut excavations. Peko Wallsend purchased the enterprise in 1968 and, by the 1970s, the mine's production of copper was second only to that of Mount Isa.

When it closed in 1981 the mine had produced 225 000 kg of gold, 50 000 kg of silver and 360 000 tonnes of copper in a 99 year period. Today the operations largely focus on extracting gold from the tailings.

The result of all this activity is that what was once a large mountain is now one of the largest artificial holes on earth. It is over 2.5 km long and over 300 m deep.

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