Archive | Global Mining History

Mount Isa community reflects on 95 years as Australia’s ‘kindergarten of mining’ – by Harriet Tatham (Australian Broadcasting Corporation – February 22, 2018)

http://www.abc.net.au/

Founded on land belonging to the Kalkadoon people, one of Queensland’s longest-running mining towns has today turned 95. Known for its soaring plumes, spinifex, red dirt and heatwaves, mining is the lifeblood of Mount Isa — a fact the remote community steadfastly defends.

“Mount Isa really was the enduring strength of the mining industry,” long-time resident and former mayor of 18 years Ron McCulloch said. In an era of environmental consciousness, Mr McCulloch said the city could attract some criticism in 2018, but he did not believe the spirit had been lost.

“Nowadays I think people are much more motivated by wealth and looking after themselves more than looking after the city, so I think there’s been a little bit of a downturn in the affection people have for the mining industry and the city itself.” Continue Reading →

[Australia Mining History] French nuclear test tensions threatened Olympic Dam expansion plans, declassified Cabinet documents reveal – by Peter Jean (The Advertiser – December 31, 2017)

http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/

IT WAS a government destined to be swept from power at the 1996 election. Prime Minister Paul Keating was focused on the Working Nation program to kickstart the economy and negotiating a defence treaty with Indonesia. Other issues — including public outrage over French nuclear testing in the South Pacific — became thorns in the Government’s side.

THE FRENCH NUCLEAR TESTING

KANGAROO meat and other exports to Europe could be jeopardised if Australia took a hard line against French nuclear testing in the South Pacific, the Keating cabinet feared in 1995. A ban on uranium exports to France could also have put at risk a potential $1 billion expansion of South Australia’s Olympic Dam.

The resumption of underground nuclear testing in French Polynesia sparked boycotts of French businesses in Australia and plunged the Labor government into a diplomatic and political crisis. Continue Reading →

Stalin’s legacy lives on in city that slaves built – archive, 1994 – by James Meek (The Guardian – December 29, 2017)

https://www.theguardian.com/

At the end of the second world war, as Europe was preparing to celebrate its victory over fascism, the Soviet authorities arrested an entire school of teenage girls from western Ukraine, named them enemies of the people, took them to an Arctic concentration camp and forced them to expend their youth in slave labour.

Half a century later Galina Skopyuk is still there. She is a prisoner of circumstances now rather than a prisoner of Stalin, but beginning her 49th winter in a land where the winters are nine months long is hard. “I’m always hoping to leave. I don’t want to die here. But I don’t have any chance,” she said.

Mrs Skopyuk is one of the few living links between the present-day city of Norilsk and the dark years of its creation, starting in 1935, when Stalin willed thousands of political prisoners hither to claw a city out of the tundra in a metal-rich volcanic crater. Continue Reading →

Norilsk, Stalin’s Siberian Hell, Thrives in Spite Of Hideous Legacy – by Robert G. Kaiser (Washington Post – August 29, 2001)

https://www.washingtonpost.com/

Is there any stranger human habitation on Earth than this?

In Norilsk, 200 miles above the Arctic Circle, the sun does not rise for three months a year, the winter temperatures remain under 30 degrees below zero, and the air is, literally, the dirtiest on the globe. Yet there is a full-blown city of 230,000 here, whose citizens are fierce local patriots with a romantic sense of their own uniqueness.

They live in a place created by zeks, political prisoners who populated Joseph Stalin’s gulag — perhaps 100,000, or even 200,000 died in its building; the exact number is lost or buried in still-sealed archives. They were inmates in an unimaginable chamber of horrors, a community of prison camps designed to create nickel and copper industries, and to kill people. It succeeded impressively on both counts.

Modern Norilsk is populated by descendants of those prisoners, among many others, and the city remembers its horrific past. This is unusual in Russia, where forgetting is easier. On the busy streets of Norilsk in August, with pretty women on parade and children chasing each other on bikes and in-line skates, that past seems so remote as to be unreachable. Continue Reading →

Norilsk Journal; Comes the Thaw, the Gulag’s Bones Tell Their Dark Tale – by Steven Lee Myers (New York Times – February 24, 2004)

http://www.nytimes.com/

The bones appear each June, when the hard Arctic winter breaks at last and the melting snows wash them from the site of what some people here — but certainly not many — call this city’s Golgotha.

The bones are the remains of thousands of prisoners sent to the camps in this frozen island of the Gulag Archipelago. To this day, no one knows exactly how many labored here in penal servitude. To this day, no one knows exactly how many died. The bones are an uncomfortable reminder of a dark past that most would rather forget.

”Here it is generally thought that the history of the camps is an awful secret in the family,” said Vladislav A. Tolstov, a journalist and historian who has lived in Norilsk all his life. ”We all know about it, but we try not to think about it.” Continue Reading →

Mining’s Bohemian boomtown: The tiny mining town of Joachimsthal was an inspiration for many famous scientists – by Cecilia Keating (CIM Magazine – December 04, 2017)

http://magazine.cim.org/en/

Despite its low profile today, Jáchymov, a small spa town in the mountains of Bohemia in northwest Czech Republic, has an illustrious history. For more than four centuries, its mines were central to scientific discoveries made, and research done, by Georgius Agricola, Marie Curie and J. Robert Oppenheimer, including the discoveries of several minerals and elements.

Rich silver deposits were discovered in the town in 1512 and over the ensuing decades thousands arrived to exploit them, with the town’s population jumping to 18,200 in 1534, up from 5,000 in 1520. It was christened Joachimsthal (meaning “St. Joachim’s Valley”) in 1520 by its rich owners, the Counts of Schlick.

The Schlicks quickly became one of Europe’s richest families, and started minting coins out of the area’s silver called thaler – the origin of the word dollar. Coins were shipped to Leipzig, an important trading hub, and were accepted across Europe. Continue Reading →

Memorial to hundreds killed in England’s biggest mining disaster (Yorkshire Post – May 7, 2017)

http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/

THE explosion made the ground shake for miles around, and flames erupted from 300 yards below. All around Barnsley – it was just before Christmas – “black snow” and burning wood fell out of the sky.

The apocalyptic scenes of December 1866 claimed 361 lives in England’s worst coal-mining disaster. The Oaks Colliery Disaster, which wrought so much devastation, was remembered yesterday as over a thousand people joined a huge procession, which bought the town to a standstill, for the unveiling of a new memorial.

In a poignant connection with the past, a steam buzzer, used to alert people of a disaster, was sounded before 20 descendants – including a Texan Sir William Jeffock, who bought his family across from the US – stepped forward to unveil the sculpture.  Its centrepiece is “Kitty” whose eyes are fixed directly on the colliery, as her child clings terrified to her shawl. Continue Reading →