Broken Hill, a difficult town that I’m glad I experienced, is a logical place for a 5 Compass mining museum. Silver was the first mineral found in the area, and The Broken Hill Proprietary Company formed to extract it. This company evolved into BHP Billiton, one of Australia’s top corporations and an international dynamo, in 2001. The main mining Company in the Broken Hill region today is Perilya, which still extracts silver, lead and zinc. Shortly before meeting Jack Absalom, I visited The Albert Kersten Mining and Minerals Museum, also called Geocentre, and, like TripAdvisor, judged it excellent.
The Geocentre is on the corner of Bromide and Crystal. Most of Broken Hill’s streets are named after metals and their compounds. Appropriately, its main street is not called Main but Argent. Our visit to the Geocentre started with a slick film that began with a bang, appropriately the Big Bang Theory. After it theorized how Planet Earth was formed, the film suggested that, since all other planets in our solar system seem waterless, water may have arrived on Earth via meteors. Millions of years were quickly explained and Ruth, Grant, Sherril and I were seeing single cell organisms in their infancy. Then a geologist appeared to explain how silver formed. Dinosaurs died. New minerals containing oxygen formed. It was well-done….really.
After learning that we were about to see the Broken Hill City Mineral Collection, we entered lots of displays that explained how local minerals were formed, mined, and used. Some, like Azurite, were quite colorful. I relearned in a display of flourescent minerals that their collective name derives from the mineral Fluorite.
This museum contains 2 curious treasures that get most of its visitors’ attention. One is a silver nugget weighing almost 93 pounds. Its size is somewhat deflated when the notes below it mention that others weighing up to one ton have been locally found. Two is “The Boundary Rider”, a sculpture crafted from pure silver. It was made by a jeweler from Adelaide named Henry Steiner and was shown to the public at the Royal Melbourne Colonial Exhibition in 1880. It was taken from its apparently German immigrant owner 35 years later under the Enemy Property Act. It also disappeared for 10 years during the Hitler Era.