Broken Hill, New South Wales

From Academic Kids

Broken Hill is an isolated mining city and Local Government Area in the far west of outback New South Wales, Australia, with a population of 21,000. It is located near the border with South Australia on the crossing of the Barrier Highway (#32) and the Silver City Highway, in the Barrier Ranges. It is 220 metres above sea level and has a average rainfall of 235 mm and summer temperatures that hit well over 40° C. The closest large city is Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, which is more than 500 km to the southwest.

Broken Hill has been called the 'Oasis of the West, 'Silver City' and the 'Capital of the Outback.' Although over 1100 km west of Sydney and surrounded by semi-desert the town still manages colourful park and garden displays to surprise the unsuspecting visitor.

Named after the broken hill on which iron ore was first discovered in 1883 by a boundary rider named Charles Rasp, Broken Hill is Australia's longest-lived mining city. Its massive orebody, formed about 1800 million years ago, has proved to be the world's largest silver-lead-zinc mineral deposit. The orebody is shaped like a boomerang plunging into the earth at its ends and outcropping in the centre. The protruding tip of the orebody stood out as a jagged rocky ridge amongst undulating plain country on either side. This was known as the broken hill by early pastoralists. There has been a significant decline in the mining industry over recent years.



The desolate landscape surrounding Broken Hill is like driving towards a painting of soft mauve and sage hues. As the mineral resources in the Broken Hill area have dwindled, tourism has become increasingly important to the city's economy. The town is known as a center for artists, and a number of galleries line the streets.

It is here that the red Kangaroos run two hundred kilometres in a night chasing a thunderstorm, and the unique Sturt Desert Peas bloom in dark red soils. Magnificent clear blue skies and the magic light are also much loved by film makers from Mad Max to The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

Beyond the Darling River on the edge of the sundown, is where they used to say you would find Broken Hill, as if there was nowhere further to travel in Australia. Perhaps it was the feeling of suddenly being confronted by such vast space, like an inland sea rolling into the sunset.

It is also known for its input into the formation of the labour movement in Australia, and has a rich union history. Broken Hill is a major base for both the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia and School of the Air and the town and its surrounding are frequently used by film-makers for shooting movies, television programs, video-clips and commercials.

South east of the town is the Kinchega National Park which encloses the Menindee, named after the nearby town, and Cawndilla Lakes. Wilcannia is a small town situated on the Darling River, to the east of Broken Hill. It has many attractions of historical visit. The area is a fascinating place to visit with many contrasts.

As a result of Broken Hill's location on the New South Wales/South Australia border, far from any major New South Wales town and closer to Adelaide than Sydney, it has a strong psychological connection to South Australia. It uses Australian Central Standard Time, the same as South Australia; is in the (08) Western/central area code; and its local television station, Central GTS/BKN, covers both Broken Hill and parts of South Australia.


Broken Hill was founded in 1883 by a boundary rider called Charles Rasp who patrolled the Mt Gipps fences. In 1883 he discovered what he thought was tin but when the samples came back they were silver and lead instead of tin and the ore body they came from became the largest and richest of its kind in the world. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company (BHP) was founded by the Syndicate of Seven to mine the ore body of Broken Hill in 1885. In 2001 BHP merged with the Billiton company to form BHP Billiton.


The city isolation was a big problem till the Adelaide narrow gauge railway link was finished in 1888. Since the New South Wales Government would not allow the South Australia railway to cross the border, the last 30 km was built by a private company as a tramway, the Silverton Tramway. The construction of a 4 ft 8½ in (1435 mm) rail link from Sydney came in the 1920s.

In 1970 the 3 ft 6 in (1067 mm) gauge railway from Port Pirie to Broken Hill was converted to 4 ft 8½ (1435 mm), thus completing the standard transcontinental gauge line from Sydney to Perth.

The Silverton Tramway is so named because it was originally intended to serve the mining town of Silverton, however by the time that the railway reached that town, it was already being eclipsed by the newer and bigger mine at Broken Hill.


In the early days there was water shortage and the mines and the people fought for water, so they would ship water on trains from the Darling River till 1952, when Broken Hill's demands for a permanent water supply were met with the completion of the pipeline to Stephen's Creek. Dams on the Darling River channel water to Broken Hill, making it an oasis amid the harsh climate and topography of the Australian outback.

Like many 'outback' towns Broken Hill was built on precious metals, having once had the world's richest deposits of lead, zinc and silver. Although now depleted somewhat, mining still yields around two million tonnes annually. Some mine tours are available. Sheep farming is now one of the principal industries in the area and there are considerably more sheep than people -almost 2 million Merino sheep.

Electric Power

At Broken Hill, there is since 1986 a HVDC back-to-back station with a maximum transmission rate of 40 megawatts. It was built in 1986 and consists of 2 static inverters working with a voltage of 8.33 kV.


Broken Hill is also one of the stops of The Ghan and Indian Pacific Railway, luxury trains which are two of the classic train journeys. The GHAN goes from Adelaide to Darwin via Alice Springs, and The Indian Pacific from Sydney to Perth via Adelaide. The luxury trains take several days to traverse Australia but these are truly trips of a life time. As of 2005 there is a weekly CountryLink Xplorer service between Broken Hill and Sydney.


Dust storms are a common problem in the desert but the ingenious people of Broken Hill created reserves to surround the town thus protecting the encircled town from the worst of the storms.

Famous Broken Hill-ians

Pro Hart - Famous Australian Artist
Jack Absalom - Famous Australian Artist
Trevor Butler - Australian Big Brother 2004 Winner
June Bronhill - Internationally Acclaimed Soprano Opera Singer


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