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Preserving our history

Monday, 8th January, 2018

The North Mine concentrator closed in the 1980s. A long-term strategy will be developed by government to ensure the rehabilitation and preservation of historic buildings and structures at the North Mine and the rest of the Line of Lode. PICTURE: Andrew Robertson The North Mine concentrator closed in the 1980s. A long-term strategy will be developed by government to ensure the rehabilitation and preservation of historic buildings and structures at the North Mine and the rest of the Line of Lode. PICTURE: Andrew Robertson

By Andrew Robertson

A plan to ensure historic buildings and other relics at the North Mine survive the resumption of mining there has been welcomed by the city’s heritage adviser.

Thirty-two items of “historic heritage significance” have been identified at the zinc, lead and silver mine, where production is set to recommence this year.

Seven of these could potentially be affected by new mining activity, according to the state government which is redoubling efforts to protect the hundreds of historically significant structures right along the Line of Lode.

It has established a steering committee that will be charged with ensuring a “whole of government approach” to the rehabilitation and preservation of historic buildings and structures at the South, Rasp and North mines.

Led by the Department of Premier and Cabinet, the Broken Hill Rehabilitation Steering Committee will be made up of representatives from a number of government agencies, along with City Council and the BH Environmental Lead Program.

As part of its development consent for the North Mine, Perilya will have to put in place measures to protect and monitor the seven structures in potential peril before developing a long-term strategy with the steering committee.

Heritage consultant Paul Davies said the decision to not force Perilya to implement the potentially onerous measures before being allowed back into the site was sensible.

“I think it’s a really good consent. From a heritage perspective it recognises there are things there that are of significance and clearly protects them in the interim and then puts the framework in to sort of work out how to manage them longer term,” he said.

Since coming on board as Council’s heritage consultant last year (replacing long-term adviser Liz Vines), Mr Davies has visited the Rasp Mine a number of times and provided advice to owner CBH Resources.

He is yet to step foot on any of Perilya’s mine leases but Mr Davies said it was clear the city possessed an enormous amount of mining-related infrastructure of historical significance. 

But not every bit of it could or should be kept, he said, and the challenge was working out which items were worth preserving, and how.

“They’re not easy issues, there’s a lot of material, a lot of big buildings (and) structures that are difficult to reuse for anything, but are a key part of the history of Broken Hill,” Mr Davies told the BDT.

“So coming up with an overall strategy for all the sites in time is going to be the really big challenge for everyone. But I think this is a great way to start.”

Then there’s the vexed issue of public access. Most of the historic buildings and structures on the Line of Lode are off-limits to people because they are on working mine leases.

But Mr Davies said one day mining would come to an end and when it did opening the mines up to visitors would only enhance the city’s mining tourism which, he said, was “underplayed”.

“One of the things that would be great to see and I’m really keen to implement is a more focussed mining heritage tour of Broken Hill.”

In the meantime the reopening of the North Mine has ensured that mining, not tourism, will continue to be the major driver of the city’s economy for years to come.

But what comes next is just as important, Mr Davies said.

“How the city positions itself for the next stage of life, which is probably going to be around cultural tourism and other things that can offer, I think is a huge challenge and it’s a really good one.

“Anything that Broken Hill can do as an entity, as a place, to actually look after its future by keeping sites and (secure) funding has got to be absolutely essential for its future.”

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