From silver to steel : the romance of the Broken Hill Proprietary / by Roy Bridges Bridges, Roy, 1885-1952

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Bridges, Roy, 1885-1952
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Broken Hill Proprietary Company; Mines and mineral resources - New South Wales - Broken Hill.; Silver mines and mining - New South Wales - Broken Hill - History.
Summary
FROM SILVER TO STEEL THE ROMANCE OF THE BROKEN HILL PROPRIETARY. BY ROY BRIDGES. 4^ > i The Process “Blocks for this Book were made by PREBBLE & JAMES 193 Little Collins Street, Melbourne FROM SILVER TO STEEL COPYRIGHT BY GEORGE ROBERTSON & CO. PTY. LTD. 107-111 Elizabeth Street, (^Melbourne VIEW OF OUTCROP LOOKING NORTH FROM JAMIESON'S SHAFT, 1886. FROM SILVER TO STEEL The Romance of THE BROKEN HILL PROPRIETARY BY ROY BRIDGES George Robertson & Co. Pty. Ltd. 107-111 ELIZABETH STREET, MELBOURNE 1920 CONTENTS Chapter Page. I.—The Visionary Sea (1842-1845) 16 II. —The White Quartz (1867) 24 111. —The Mount Gipps Run (1866-1875) 29 IV, The Thackaringa Lodes (1876-1880) .. .. 34 V. —The Silver Barrier (1880-1883) 37 VI. —The Rise of Silverton (1880-1884) 41 VII. —The Silver Mines (1882-1885) 46 VIII. —The Boundary Rider (1883) 50 IX. —The Syndicate of Seven (1883) 55 X. —The Hill of Mullock (1883-1885) 59 Xl.—The Men of Silverton (1884-1886) 62 Xll.—The Game of Euchre (1884) 70 XIII. —The Broken Hill Company (1884) 74 XIV. —The First Survey (1884) 78 XV.—The Silver Chlorides (1885) 83 XVl.—The Surface Show (1885) 87 XVII.—The Camp on Broken Hill (1885) 93 XVIII. —The First Prospectus (1885) 104 XlX.—The Broken Hill Proprietary (1885) ... 108 XX.—The Rise of Broken Hill (1885-1887) .... 112 XXl.—The Fall of Silverton (1885-1890) 127 XXII.—The Battle of the Barrier (1887) 130 XXIII—The Burning of Francis Abigail (1888) .. 134 XXIV.—The Mine and the Ores (1886) 139 Chapter. Page. XXV. —The Flotations (1887-1888) 145 XXVI. —The Conquest of the Drought (1892) .... 153 XXVII. —The Great Strike (1892) 158 XXVIII. —The Report of J, B. Jaquet (1893) 169 XXIX. —The Open Cut (1891) 174 XXX. —The Fires Underground (1895-1906) .. .. 179 XXXI. —The Report of Schnabel (1892) 184 XXXII.—The Sulphides (1891) 188 XXXIII. The Gas Bubbles (1902) 200 XXXIV. —The Production of Spelter (1908) 210 XXXV.—The Explosives Association (1908) 218 XXXVI. —The Oversea Markets (1885-1914) 225 XXXVII. —The Associated Smelters (1915) 233 XXXVIII. —The Proprietary Mine (1919) 239 XXXIX. —The Port Pirie Shelters (1919) 245 XL, —The Steel Enterprise (1911) 251 XLI. —The Construction of the Steel Works (1913-1915) 261 XLII. —The Loan of £1,000,000 (1914) 267 XLIII. —The Opening of the Steel Works (1915) . 271 XLIV. —The Ship-Building Scheme (1917-1918) .. 275 XLV. —The Iron Ore (1919) 281 XLVI. —The Shipment of the Ore (1919) 290 XLVII.—The Newcastle Steel Works (1919) .. .. 295 XLVIII.—The Mount Gipps Homestead (1919) .. .. 306 CONTENTS LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS View of Outcrop Looking North from Jamieson’s Shaft, 1886 Frontispiece Facing page Captain Chas. Sturt 12 Outlook from the Barrier Ranges, from Sturt’s Narrative .. 16 Piesses’ Knob, 1844 18 Depot Glen, 1845 20 Depot Glen To-Day 28 Thackaringa, 1883 32 Thackaringa—Gipsy Girl Mine 36 Pioneer Mine in the Early ’Eighties 40 Old Day Dream Smelters 44 The Pinnacles 48 Residence of Mr. C. Rasp 54 George McCulloch and Charles Rasp 56 O’Connell’s Cottage To-Day 58 Barrier Ranges—The Hill of Mullock 60 Wm. Jamieson and G. D. Delprat 64 Round Hill, with Imperial Dam in Foreground 80 Philip Charley 84 The Old Chimney Stack 92 Fred. Dutton, Chairman London Board 96 Facing page Bowes Kelly, Present Chairman of Directors 114 Jamieson Shaft, Looking North-East 116 Poole’s Grave 118 Township of Broken Hill, 1889 122 Transporting Ore from Broken Hill, 1885-1886 126 Silverton Tramway, Opened 10th September, 1887 128 Silverton To-Day 130 Silverton, Looking North 132 Late A. R. Blackwood, First Chairman of Directors .. .. 140 Proprietary Mine in Late ’Eighties, Showing Smelters .. 146 Late William Knox, First Secretary 148 Stephen’s Creek Reservoir, December, 1911 156 Late W. R. Wilson 174 Patterson’s Open Cut, 1901 176 Proprietary North Smelters, 1887-1888 184 Proprietary South Smelters, 1887-1888 192 F. M. Dickenson, Present Secretary , 196 Coke Works, Bellambi, New South Wales 198 Proprietary Mine and Offices 204 First Fifty Tons Zinc Concentrates Produced at Broken Hill 212 First Spelter Furnaces in Australasia, 1908 216 First Refined Zinc (Spelter) Produced in Australasia .... 220 Lead Stacked at Port Pirie 224 Broken Hill, Showing Mines 238 Main Shafts, Concentration Mill 240 Zinc Concentration Plant 242 Port Pirie Smelting Works, 1911 246 LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS. Facing page Refinery, Port Pirie, 1911 250 Iron Monarch and Iron Knob 252 Late John Darling 254 Ironstone Quarry, Iron Knob 260 Site for Steel Works, 1912, Port Waratah 262 Blast Furnace, 1914 266 First Shipment of Ironstone from Hummock Hill to Newcastle, castle, 1915 272 Opening of Steel Works, Newcastle, 2nd June, 1915—The Official Luncheon .. .. 274 Stock of Munition Steel, 1916 276 Bloom Mill 278 Outcrop, Northern Portion of Iron Monarch 282 Site of Steel Works, March, 1914 286 Hummock Hill Jetty 288 Ore Bridges at Newcastle for Discharging Ironstone .. .. 290 Open Hearth Steel Furnaces, Newcastle 294 Rolling Mill 298 Rails and Joists for Australian and Other Markets .. .. 302 The Rod Mill, Newcastle 304 Steel Works, Newcastle, from Water Front 306 The “Haunted” House, Manager’s Residence, Old Mount Oipps Station 308 LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS. CAPTAIN CHAS. STURT. INTRODUCTION THE romance of the Broken Hill on the Barrier silver field of New South Wales is interwoven with the history of Australia for three-fourths of a century. Discovered in 1844 by Captain Charles Sturt on his expedition into Central Australia, the Hill, till nearly forty years thence, stood for no more in the minds of the men of outback New South Wales than a curious landmark on Mount Gipps sheep-station, and its wealth of silver and lead was not suspected through those years by shepherd, herd, drover or prospector. Only when the wild excitement of the gold rushes of the fifties had died down, and the miner was digging deeply and more deeply into the earth for the yellow ore, did the prospector set himself to solve the secret of the Barrier. About the Broken Hill in the late seventies and early eighties a rich silver field was laid bare; but the riches of the Silverton mines were no more than the spillings from the great treasure locked in the iron-cased hill. One September morning, young Charles Rasp, boundary rider on Mount Gipps Station, climbed through the scrub about the ridge going up from the rolling red plain, and, thinking the bluff a big outcrop of tin, led his boss and his mates on Mount Gipps to peg out the first blocks. The sinking of a little shaft and discovery of a silver slug revealed the first show of precious chlorides. The locks were off; the enchanted chest lay open—out of the mines upon the Broken Hill poured a stream of treasure. About the Hill was played through the first years of discovery covery a drama in which a few men—station manager, station hands, and mining surveyor—were the chief figures. Their venture, at first derided by the men of Silverton field—then at the zenith of its prosperity—brought fortune to five of them. The Broken Hill silver-lead mines, sunk on the block pegged out by the men of Mount Gipps, became as famous through the Australian States in the succeeding years as the mines of Bendigo and Ballarat in the gold rushes of the fifties. Their fame went over the world. At the base of the Broken Hill grew a great city. About the Hill burned fierce activities and bitter industrial strife. The Silver Hill sucked to itself the life of the Barrier. The City of Broken Hill drained into its streets the blood of the mining town of Silverton and the little townships which had arisen for a few years about the rich mines of the early eighties. The magical Broken Hill played a high part in the destinies of the Australian people through the last years of the nineteenth century, the first years of the new century, and the years of the Great War. The Hill of Mullock —so the Silverton men named it contemptuously in the early days of the Barrier—rose to an international importance. For this broken-backed, iron-cased hill, projecting from the red sun-burnt sands and mulga scrub, proved to hold the richest silver mines of the world. The romance of the Broken Hill from 1885 till to-day is the romance of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. The Proprietary sprang from the first syndicate of seven on Mount Gipps Station, and the succeeding Broken Hill Company of fourteen. Within thirty-four years the Proprietary Mine on Broken Hill yielded 173,451,037 ounces of silver, 1,279,334 tons of lead, and 102,857 ounces of gold. It paid to its shareholders £10,564,388 in cash dividends, £568,000 in cash bonuses, £576,000 in cash from flotation of the British Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd. and £1,744,000 in shares in the companies floated from the parent company —a total of £13,452,388. It distributed £13,348,560 in wages. And this treasure —still seeming inexhaustible tible —has come out of the once despised Broken Hill, the Razorback, the Hill of Mullock. The Broken Hill Proprietary’s destiny has been crowned with fortune since the formation of the company in 1885. Its fortune forms the most romantic page of the Broken Hill romance. It developed wide markets in Europe and the East for its silver and lead. It established its famous refinery in South Australia the Port Pirie smelters. It acquired, through its need of ironstone stone fluxing for smelting, the Iron Monarch and the Iron Knob on the western shore of Spencer’s Oulf; and its possession gave to it an infinite store of ironstone higher in metallic content than any known deposit in the world. It determined in the years before the Great War on the foundation of its steel works at Newcastle. It obtained its plant from America and Europe before the submarine marine campaign dislocated the shipping services. The output of rails and structural steel from the Newcastle works was available able for Commonwealth and State Governments and Australian firms when the scarcity of freight checked importations from overseas. The Broken Hill Proprietary then had borne a notable share in the fortunes of the Commonwealth through the years before the war. It was to bear as great a share through the war years. It aided to link the Continent by rail from east to west. It rolled the steel plates for Australian ships. Its Newcastle steel works grew into a flourishing industry,—as its mine on Broken Hill had grown mighty. The romance of the Broken Hill is the romance of a little group of men on an outback station, of a rich mine that bore them to fortune, and of a city that sprang out of a sheep paddock into vigorous life. The romance of the Broken Hill Proprietary is its progress through years of unbroken fortune—from silver to steel. CHAPTER I. THE VISIONARY SEA (1842-1845). A BLACK, broken-backed ridge, bunched above the mulga scrub. The bluffs and the saddle of this ridge in Stanley’s ley’s Barrier Ranges are barren, corrugated, and burnished nished in the sunlight. Above the plain the broken ridge goes to a height of one hundred and fifty feet; it stands above sea-level eighteen hundred feet. The Barrier Ranges ride inland northnorth-east north-east for one hundred and fifty miles and more. Between range and range sweeps the desert —red sands, grey wastes, metallic, lic, arid and grassless through the burning drought. But for the gum trees by the watercourses, the mulga under the ranges, monotonous miles of salt bush and blue bush, the desert is dead through the hot months of the year. With native well and soakage dry, the blacks avoid the Barrier, though in the caverns riddling the base of the broken, burnished ridge rock wallabies abound. Only at times the kites fly eastward in a whirling cloud. The vegetation blackens and dries. The brickred red sand swirls through the broken Barrier, as the surf through reefs. North-west the stony desert burns like a lime-kiln. So through the long summer the plains are scorched, glittering ing with schist and lime, waterless, yet haunted in the heat with the mirages of silver waters like blue sunlit seas. Through the drought these plains are the playground of the desert winds. Before the blast coming white-hot from the furnace of the Central Desert the sand is blown up in monstrous pillars. Pillars of flame-red shape between plain and dazzling sky, the colour ever deepening; the columns whirling higher, to merge at length in OUTLOOK FROM THE BARRIER RANGES FROM STURT’S NARRATIVE. one stained canopy—indigo, blood-purple streaked with fire. Day —but the cloud blackens over the shining heaven. Day—but the darkness of the night drops as a pall. The sun is dead; the canopy dull from the purple to a smoky blackness. A vast smoke cloud obscures all light and form—wind-tortured scrub, the burnished broken ridge. Moan of the storm; intensity of sulphurous phurous heat; the lightning quivering along the Barrier. The rain bursts from the clouds. The lightning writhes in silver fire from peak to peak. The thunder breaks with the shock of earthquake. Muddy torrents surge down dead watercourses. courses. The scrub is lashed with flying sand and rain. The parched plains suck the waters, yet are left thirsting when the clouds sweep onwards; and the sky clears to blue, and the sun burns again. After the storm the desert is transformed into a green garden. The plains of fine loam and powdered lime are converted into vast forcing beds. Through all the months of drought the grass seeds and the flower seeds, brown with the dust, have preserved served the germ of life. Magically the plains grow green with grass and blossom with flowers of many colours, from the splendours dours of purple and scarlet of the desert pea to the pale tints of the iris. But, the sun burning on through the months, the grass withers away, and the colours of the flowers are merged in the monotony of sand and salt bush. On an October morning in the year 1844, two men leaving the exploration camp, under the shade of the gum trees by Stephen’s Creek, rode over the plain to the Broken Hill. The elder — a lean and sunburnt man of about fifty years of age, sitting stiffly in the saddle, his eyes shaded by a wide cabbage-tree hat —was Captain Charles Sturt, formerly of the 39th Regiment of the Line, and head of an expedition purposed to probe the mystery of the heart of the Continent. The younger—a short, stoutlybuilt built figure, clad, like his leader, in sweat-stained shirt, riding breeches and high boots, but with a dark blue forage cap perched on his head—was James Poole, Sturt’s second in command. B About the base of the ridge tbe mulga scrub grew so thickly that the two, having dismounted, were compelled to hew their way up through the scrub. Painfully they forced a passage, and, having climbed at last to the highest point upon the hill, scanned the countryside with their glasses.* It was the hope of Captain Sturt that from such an eminence it might be possible to make out the blue inland sea on which Poole, riding up into the Barrier ahead of the exploration party some days before, believed that he had looked; but the two peered out now over red sands, miles of salt bush, and, south-east, blue ranges cut like Pyramids. They caught no glimpse of the shimmering waters of a sea with many islands —such as Poole declared that he had seen far off. Only the mirage flickered —like silver waters. Before Sturt and Poole no white man had set foot upon the Barrier. As yet there was no lure of gold or silver to lead men to the ranges. No stockman seeking pastures rode into the country of the drought. The Garden of Australia Felix, discovered by Sir Thomas Mitchell, lay open to the squatter. The existence of the Barrier was known, indeed, before Sturt’s expedition. In the year 1843 Captain Frome, Surveyor-General of South Australia, tralia, had marked on his fine map,f showing the progress of exploration in the colony “a succession of apparently barren ranges running nearly north and south.” Frome himself had recently undertaken an expedition to determine the dimensions of the mysterious Lake Torrens, and had journeyed as far north as *Sturt’s visit to the Broken Hill is confirmed, apart from the reference in his narrative of an expedition into Central Australia, by a statement of Dr. John Harris Browne, surgeon to the expedition. In 1889 Dr. Browne was a fellow-passenger with Mr. William Jamieson (of the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd.) on a steamer bound for India. Learning that Mr. Jamieson had come from Broken Hill, and observing that he understood that “silver had been found there,” Dr. Browne informed Mr. Jamieson that Sturt’s party had camped on Stephen’s Creek, and that Sturt had ridden over to the Hill. The drawing of the outlook from the Barrier Ranges, published in Sturt’s Narrative, was taken from the top of Broken Hill. On his return Mr. Jamieson tested from the summit of the Hill the accuracy of the drawing, and was impressed with its fidelity. tßritish Parliamentary Sessional Papers, 1843. PIESSES’ KNOB, 1844. Mt. Serle. In the course of his explorations he had caught a glimpse of dim ranges afar. And the blacks about the Moorundi Station of young Edward John Eyre told of a river flowing from a distant range into the River Darling. Beyond it was a dreary waste of hills and sand, with little game for the hunter, and water only in scattered native wells. Yet it was rumoured among the colonists —on some tradition of the blacks, or story of a great lake —that inland there lay a vast sea beyond the desolation of plains and arid ridges. What actually lay hid in the very heart of the Continent —mountain, or plain, or rolling bush, or inland sea —no man might say with certain knowledge. Only the hot wind blowing eastward to Moorundi suggested burning desert. Young Eyre himself had suffered cruelly on his journey from the north-west in the year 1840—before he was driven back from Mt. Hopeless. From the peak on 2nd September, 1840, he had looked out upon Lake Torrens—like an impassable sea. Just such a visionary sea as in October heat of 1844 James Poole—ill-fated assistant of Sturt on this journey to the Stony Desert—peered out on from the Barrier. And Frome, too, had been beaten back, although he had at least been within reach of the Barrier from the west. Ho explorer had solved the riddle of the heart of the Continent. No white man had come nigh the iron-capped Broken Hill. Shattered in health from the vicissitudes of exploration on the Darling, the Murray and the Murrumbidgee, and from the revolting charge of the penal settlement at Norfolk Island, Captain Charles Sturt was living in 1844 on his estate near Adelaide. He was then in his forty-ninth year. His restless spirit was not yet content with high achievement. The mystery of the heart of the Continent lured him constantly, as the riddle of the rivers had lured him in his early days in New South Wales. Accounts of hardship in the drought-stricken area to the north and perilous adventures with savage blacks, borne back to him by Eyre and Frome, in no way restrained him. In 1839 he had become Surveyor-General of South Australia; but in October of the same year he had exchanged his post for the Office of Commissioner missioner of Lands for the Colony. He had long been in communication munication with the Home Office regarding the continuance of exploration towards the interior, offering himself to lead an expedition. Early in 1844 a despatch from Lord Stanley, Secretary tary of State for the Colonies, reached Sir George Grey, Governor of South Australia. The terms of the despatch were explicit. The expedition to be organised under the leadership of Captain Sturt was to endeavour to reach the centre of the Continent, in order to discover whether mountains or sea existed there, and if the former to determine the direction in which the rivers flowed. On no account was Captain Sturt to attempt to follow the rivers down to the north-west. The expedition was to proceed by way of Mt. Arden; but, as this route was already discredited by the experience of Eyre, Sturt decided to proceed up the Da
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