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Mount Morgan @ The Coalface

Perched in the rugged terrains of Central Queensland, the historic Mount Morgan Mine not only carved out vast quantities of minerals from its depths but also moulded the lives of those associated with it.

Established in 1882, this mine emerged as an icon of the Australian mining industry, producing significant amounts of gold, silver, and copper until its closure in 1990 after 108 years of operation.

The story of Mount Morgan begins with the Morgan brothers, Frederick, Thomas and Edwin, who teamed up with key businessmen from Rockhampton to exploit the gold-rich ore of Ironstone Mountain.

The formation of the Mount Morgan Gold Mining Company Ltd in 1886 marked the start of structured mining operations. The initial years challenged the syndicate with inefficient gold recovery methods, which led to the innovative adoption of the chlorination process, dramatically increasing gold recovery and setting a precedent in mining technology.

Mount Morgan @ The Coalface
Miners working underground in the Mount Morgan Mine, 1903. Photo credit: State Library of Queensland.

Despite encountering a devastating underground fire and flooding in 1925, which precipitated its liquidation two years later, the mine underwent a rebirth as Mount Morgan Limited in 1928 and transitioned to open-cut mining by 1932. This adaptation underscored the mine’s resilience, characterising its operational lifespan during which approximately 262 tonnes of gold, 37 tonnes of silver, and 387,000 tonnes of copper were extracted.

Mount Morgan was renowned for its technological innovations, particularly in ore treatment. The initial use of a ten-head stamp battery evolved as the ore proved resistant to simple amalgamation. The syndicate’s relentless experimentation led to the adoption of the chlorination process, which achieved up to 95% gold recovery, a significant improvement over earlier methods.

Facilities like the Lower and Upper Works became integral to the mine’s operations, utilising techniques that would later include the groundbreaking froth flotation process introduced by Mount Morgan Limited, enhancing both the efficiency and profitability of the mine.

The photograph of miners at Mount Morgan Mine in 1903 – which was probably from the Department of Mines – reveals a diverse workforce drawn from across Australia and abroad.

Mount Morgan @ The Coalface
Processing plant of Mount Morgan Mines next to the Dee River. Photo credit: State Library of Queensland.

These miners, including many Chinese labourers, faced gruelling conditions. The diversity and the daily realities of the miners’ lives are vividly depicted in photographs housed at State Library of Queensland, forming a visual narrative of the era.

Mount Morgan profoundly influenced the surrounding community. The wealth generated from the mine contributed to the economic development and architectural heritage of the region, particularly noticeable in the migration of structures to Rockhampton.

Today, the legacy of Mount Morgan is celebrated through exhibitions and historical compilations that reflect on its past contributions and the enduring spirit of its community.

The depth of Mount Morgan’s history is preserved through an extensive array of archival materials at State Library of Queensland’s John Oxley Library. These collections, comprising annual reports, mining journals, personal accounts and detailed maps, provide a comprehensive historical record. They highlight the mine’s evolution from primitive beginnings to a technological leader in the mining sector.

For enthusiasts and scholars interested in exploring the intricate tapestry of Mount Morgan’s past, additional resources can be accessed through State Library of Queensland and local libraries. These platforms offer not just a glimpse but a deep dive into the legacy of a mine that shaped the economic and social contours of its community.

Mount Morgan @ The Coalface
Panoramic view of the diggings, the town of Mount Morgan and the country behind. Photo credit: State Library of Queensland.

A big thank you to the wonderful team at State Library of Queensland for assisting @ The Coalface to uncover the story and history behind these historic photos, allowing us to celebrate the rich heritage of the Mount Morgan Mine.

*Information in this article taken from The State of Queensland (Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Water) 2006. 

For more detailed information on the history of Mount Morgan and additional insights into the mining operations and community impact, visit the Mount Morgan historical website at www.mountmorgan.org.au

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