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Commemoration of mining history

Monday, 4th April, 2011

CELEBRATION: A massive 793C mining truck from the KGCM Super Pit heads down the main street of Kalgoorlie-Boulder during the annual St Barbara’s Festival Parade. CELEBRATION: A massive 793C mining truck from the KGCM Super Pit heads down the main street of Kalgoorlie-Boulder during the annual St Barbara’s Festival Parade.

Following my recent trip to Banska Stiavnica, Slovakia and meeting the Mayor of Rio Tinto (Spain), it got me thinking about hosting an annual event to commemorate and celebrate our mining history.

The community of Rio Tinto has an annual celebration to commemorate its history and celebrate its mining future.

The arrival of December for Rio Tinto is cause for celebration for the whole community and includes a complete program of events incorporating conferences, films, concerts and many other activities that has the support of the mining company. All the activities are centred on December 4, the Feast Day of Saint Barbara, Patron Saint of Miners.

According to legend, a young Barbara was turned over to the Roman authorities by her father after she declared she was a Christian. The Romans scourged her, but her wounds healed immediately.

She was taken before the brutal prefect Martinianus who gave her a choice. "Spare yourself and offer to the gods or else die by cruel torments."

Barbara replied; "I offer to my God Jesus Christ."

She was taken away, tortured and condemned to die. Dioscorus took his own daughter's life with a blow from his sword. Afterwards, he was struck by lightning and his body consumed.

Saint Barbara was martyred in 306 AD. The legend of the lightning bolt caused her to be regarded as the patron saint in time of danger from thunderstorms, fires and sudden death.

When gunpowder made its appearance in the Western world, Saint Barbara was invoked for aid against accidents resulting from explosions. She became the patron, not only to miners, but also artillerymen, builders, stonemasons, gravediggers and sailors.

St Barbara's feast day appears on the most ancient holy day calendars. The feast of St Barbara is celebrated throughout central Europe, in Spain, in mining areas of Latin America, and other places in the world.

This event is also celebrated in Kalgoorlie and the Hunter Valley every year.

Kalgoorlie's event, the Saint Barbara's Festival, forms a part of the annual Goldfields events calendar, solidifying the partnership between the mining industry and the community of Kalgoorlie-Boulder.

The Festival recognises the on-going socio-economic contributions the mining sector makes to the region.

In the Hunter Valley, the annual celebrations have grown considerably and in 2003 the Association of The Friends of Saint Barbara was incorporated. The aim of the association is to give people with an interest in the underground mining industry an opportunity to meet socially on December 4 each year, to share experiences and enjoy the companionship of others over a "feast".

The association also intends to provide a scholarship to a deserving candidate from the Hunter coal mining industry that will provide a unique opportunity to supplement their professional development.

December 4, is a great day for Broken Hill also to acknowledge its valuable mining history and future with other communities from around the world who share a similar heritage, so I am convening a meeting with interested parties.

I have invited mining companies, union representatives, people with a long term interest in the community and the Minister's Fraternal to meet so we can discuss a memorial service followed by a celebration of mining and what it holds for the future of Broken Hill.

I am hoping this will become an annual event that will start locally and extend to a national celebration in years to come.

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