Chillagoe smelters

As I mentioned before, another local tourist attraction is Chillagoe smelters. It adds to better understanding the history and culture of the region, and is beautiful in its own way.

Chillagoe smelters are an important part of Queensland’s industrial heritage and contributed significantly to the economic development of the north.

Mining in North Queensland was established during the 1870s with the Palmer River and Hodgkinson gold rushes and, from the early 1880s, in mining at nearby Herberton and Irvinebank. The Chillagoe area – home to local Aboriginal Wakamin and Kuku Djungan peoples – remained mostly undisturbed by Europeans until the late 1880s, when prospectors discovered copper, silver, lead, zinc and gold. This shaped the future of the Chillagoe area – and of North Queensland.

In late 1890s John Moffat succeeded in securing investment for large-scale development of the Chillagoe copper field. Capital was raised to purchase the mining leases, build smelting works and construct a private railway from Chillagoe to the railhead at Mareeba, thereby connecting Chillagoe with the port of Cairns.

The Chillagoe smelters preserve evidence of the technological advancements made in mineral processing during the era, and the innovations adopted to meet local conditions.

Chillagoe smelters employed over one thousand people at the peak of production in the early 1900s – by 1908, Chillagoe boasted a population of more than 1500 people and ten hotels. The Chillagoe company operated the smelters from 1901 until they closed at the outbreak of world War I in 1914. Struggling financially, the smelters had been hampered by the geology of the field – shortage of ore and complexity of minerals – and over-capitalisation.

The Chillagoe smelters were unprofitable, and dogged by political scandal, but they created thousands of jobs – boosting North Queensland’s prosperity for 50 years.

The Chillagoe smelters remained closed during the war and, in 1919, ownership was transferred to the Queensland government. Low copper prices in the 1920s led to their closure in 1927 but, in 1929, they were operated as an instrument of the State’s welfare policy – to create work in the depressed mining districts. The smelters operated until 1943, by which time other smelters had been built closer to other ore-producing areas, such as Mount Isa. Most of the plant and buildings were sent to other mines, or were sold in 1952.

The Chillagoe smelters never made a profit in any year of production, but their flow-on effect for regional employment and the survival and growth of heavy industry in North Queensland was significant. In addition to creating thousands of jobs, the enterprise established the largest network of private railways in Australia, providing transport throughout the region over enormous distances, and helped keep mines and businesses open in the north for almost half a century.

Between 1901 and 1943, the Chillagoe smelters treated 1,250,000 tons of ore and produced:
– 60,000 tons of copper (over 37 years),
– 50,000 tons of lead (over 25 years),
– 6,500,000 ounces of silver,
– 175,000 ounces of gold.

The three chimneys surviving at the Chillagoe smelters are unique as a group and symbolise the important cultural heritage of this site. The tall roaster chimney was part of the lead-sulphide pre-treatment area. Because the ores to be smelted contained various minerals, pre-treatment was necessary before separating out the metals. Waste gases from the roasting plant escaped up the brick chimney.

Today the chimneys, smelter flues and slag dump are all that remain to convey the grand scale of operations that were once so important to development of the north.

And now, I’d like to share with you different kind of information. It relates to the LGBT situation in the country where I lived and studied for half year, long time ago, but which I still remember quite well for its beauty, culture and specific socio-political situation (with communist ideology, like the Soviet Union). The name of the country is Cuba. Its people are friendly and fun-loving.

The information below was taken from Pink News.

The big news is that Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel has said he is in favour of legalising same-sex marriage in the country.

Speaking on TV Telesur, he said he was in support of recognising marriage “between people without any restrictions” to help eliminate “any type of discrimination in society”.

In April this year, Diaz-Canel took over as president from Raul Castro, the brother of Fidel Castro.

Cuba is in the process of updating its Soviet-era constitution, as part of a package of reforms intended to modernise the country.

The landscape for LGBT+ rights has changed dramatically in Cuba in recent years, in part, due to a campaign by Mariela Castro, the daughter of Raul and the niece of Fidel.

She is the director of the state-run National Centre for Sex Education (Cenesex) and since 2008, gender reassignment surgery and hormone replacement therapy have been available free of charge under the country’s national healthcare system.

Under Fidel, who rose to power in 1959 after leading a revolution that toppled the corrupt government of Fulgencio Batista, LGBT+ Cubans suffered persecution and discrimination.

In 2010, Fidel apologised for the treatment of the LGBT+ community, telling Mexican newspaper La Jornada: “If someone is responsible, it’s me.”
I’d like to add that I heard the passionate presentation Mariela Castro gave at the OutGames (basically gay games) human rights conference in Montreal in 2006. I was quite impressed by it. Cuba appears to have progressed a lot in respect of LGBT rights since then. A very welcome development indeed!

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