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Heritage listing for Radium Hill

Saturday, 27th May, 2017

All that remains of the Radium Hill mine which was closed in 1961. All that remains of the Radium Hill mine which was closed in 1961.

By Andrew Robertson

It’s been a long time coming for at least one former resident but Radium Hill, the site of Australia’s first uranium mine, has now been recognised for its heritage value.

The South Australian government yesterday announced the ghost town and cemetery 110km southwest of Broken Hill off the Barrier Highway has been included in the SA Heritage Register.

According to the government, the site demonstrates the evolution of uranium mining in that state and “its strong association with post-war nuclear technology”.

Former resident and long-time president of the Radium Hill Historical Association, Kevin Kakoschke, yesterday welcomed the site’s long-overdue recognition.

Apart from being the nation’s earliest uranium mine, Mr Kakoschke said Radium Hill was also unique in that it was established not by a mining company but a cartel of governments who were hungry for the powerful fuel it contained.

“The British government, the American government, the Australian government and the state government of South Australia, they did the whole lot from go to whoa, producing uranium as the end product,” he said.

While mining activity at the site first pegged by prospector Arthur John Smith commenced back in 1906, it wasn’t until after the Second World War that Radium Hill came into prominence, as the Atomic Age started and uranium was being sought, and the township was formed in the late 1940s.

Up to 1000 residents lived in the town which boasted churches, houses, schools, swimming pools and a cemetery but little over a decade later it was abandoned after the mine closed in 1961, and most of the buildings and structures were subsequently demolished or removed.

Mr Kakoschke, who worked at the mine from 1953 until its closure and was married at the town’s Uniting Church, said former residents still returned to the ghost town each year for a reunion.

“Since 2001 we’ve interned the ashes ... of 37 ex-Radium Hill people who wanted to be buried back there.” 

Over a dozen interpretative photos have also been erected to give visitors “a pictorial representation” of what the town was like.

“We’ve also put in 14 or 15 historic plaques.”

Now the site finally boasts a heritage listing which according to Mr Kakoschke, who now lives in Adelaide, has been almost 30 years in the making.

“It’s been a long time getting there.” 

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