A boundary rider, Charles Rasp, laid the foundations in Broken Hill that took Australia from an agricultural country to an industrial nation. In 1885 he discovered a silver lode and formed the Broken Hill Proprietary Company (now goes by the name BHP Billiton), which ultimately became Australia’s largest company and an international giant.
Early conditions in the mine were appalling. Hundreds of miners died and many more suffered from lead poisoning and lung disease. This gave rise to the other great force in Broken Hill, the unions. Many miners were immigrants, but all were united in their efforts to improve conditions. The Big Strike of 1919–20 lasted for over 18 months, but the miners achieved a 35-hour week and the end of dry drilling.
Today the world’s richest deposits of silver, lead and zinc are still being worked here, though zinc is of greatest importance. However, all of the mining operations are slowly being wound down and the gold of tourism is replacing the silver of the ground.