- the 'Silver City
' - is a town in the far west of the Australia
n state of New South Wales
, some 1160 km from Sydney
via the Great Western, Mitchell and Barrier Highways. In fact it is in the same time zone
and shares the same phone prefix
as nearby South Australia
Willyama aborigines had lived in the area before European settlement, but only transitionally due to the lack of water supplies. The explorer Charles Stuart, looking for an inland sea, passed by the area and named it 'Broken Hill' after an oddly shaped topographical feature. Pastoralists would eventually make it to the barren region in the 1860s, but it was not until a boundary rider called Charles Rasp noticed in 1883 that the oddly shaped topographical feature held tin deposits. He took some samples, discovered that it was actually silver chloride, and he quickly claimed sixteen acres of the hill. A syndicate of seven was set up and in 1885 they hit upon a rich vein of silver in what turned out to a massive seven kilometre by 220 metre wide silver-lead-zinc lode. They formed the The Broken Hill Proprietary Company (BHP), which became Australia's largest company until more tech-y companies became more capitalised on the ASX.
Charles Rasp, it should be mentioned, was not the simple man he made himself out to be. His real name was Hieronymous Salvator Lopez von Pereira, of Portugese aristocratic stock who was born in Saxony, studied economics in the Baltic states and fled to Australia to avoid fighting in the Franco-Prussian War.
The BHP mines attracted labourers, prospectors and other people of all nationalities and ilk, and so a municipality was eventually founded in 1887 out of all the ramshackle hotels, hootches and saloons. The population shot up from nil in 1886 to 20,000 in five years, leading to problems like dysentry and typhoid because of the unsanitary conditions. Over the next few decades hundreds of men would die in mining accidents, lead poisoning and lung disease.
In 1888 a train spur was built connecting Broken Hill with Adelaide - it was not until 1927 that the town would be connected to the rest of New South Wales.
On New Year's Day in 1915, Broken Hill became a minor theatre of war. Two local Turks loyal to the Ottoman Empire, which the British Empire was at war with, went on a rampage, shooting up a party of picnickers, killing six civilians. A posse of police, soldiers and rifle enthusiasists hunted them down, killing them in a shoot-out.
BHP stopped mining in Broken Hill in 1940, although some smaller companies like Pasminco still have a presence. Broken Hill's population is around 20,000, and declining slightly.