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1 June 2005

Broken Hill

Broken Hill was once a vibrant mining town, but these days, the mine's not as big, and young people have been leaving the town. But there are now signs that Broken Hill might be about to boom again.

PAUL McCARTHY: Broken Hill may be a long way from anywhere else but once it was almost the heartbeat of Australia.

Today it may be a shadow of its former self but the sun is not about to set on the silver city.

There's a new buzz around as geologists take another look. New technology and rising mineral prices have fueled a surge in exploration and another bonanza may not be far off.

BOB JOHNSON (HAVILAH RESOURCES CHAIRMAN): There's enormous potential in and around Broken Hill including those parts of South Australia that we're in. The geological potential has long been recognised but now we've got the tools and the techniques maybe to uncover the mysteries that lie here.

PAUL McCARTHY: Low-flying planes are being used to survey ground like this with computers helping work out what lies hundreds of metres beneath. Aeromagnetics have helped Havilah Resources uncover a deposit worth around $90 million a year for at least 10 years and hundreds of jobs will follow.

PAUL McCARTHY: Broken Hill was founded in 1883, virtually by accident when Charles Rasp came across silver.

Thousands of fortune seekers were attracted to the town. It's debatable whether Broken Hill is a mine within a town or a town within a mine.

At one stage 33,000 people lived here. It's spawned three of Australia's biggest companies, including BHP. But after the boom came the bust. And the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

The town that once had the highest per capita earnings in New South Wales now has the lowest and the 18 to 24-year-olds have been leaving the city.

Many of them are now coming back. The optimism began with the arrival of Perilya who bought the mining leases three years ago. Although it employs only 550 workers, the new kid in town is the only company still mining the once-famous line of lode.

MARK MANLY (PERILYA GEOLOGIST): Well, it's unlikely you'll see 10,000 guys underground again. That's the sort of workforce that was here in the 50s but that's just a factor of the way mining occurs nowadays. If you find something large now you just don't have that many guys employed, but we should be able to keep the town at the size it is if we can have some success for hopefully 10 years or more.

PAUL McCARTHY: This year the town attracted more than two-and-a-half thousand visitors for its St Patrick's races. Tourism has sustained Broken Hill through the mining decline and is still seen as vital for the future - something the miners of old could never have contemplated.

With 200,000 visitors a year the tourism industry already provides 1,100 full-time jobs. It might not be Las Vegas but combined with the mining resurgence, locals who've kept their money on Broken Hill now think they've backed a winner.

story notes

Broken Hill
Broken Hill is a long way from any cities. Itís in far western New South Wales, right out in the Australian outback.

a shadow of its former self
The saying to be a shadow of your former self means to be not as good as you were before. It means that Broken Hill is not as big and important as it used to be.

Example: Since his injury he hasn't been a shadow of his former self.
Click here for more idioms and common expressions.

sun is not about to set on
The saying the sun is about set on something means that itís just about to end or be finished. So even though Broken Hill is not as big as it used to be, itís not finished yet.

Example: The sun is about to set on his long and illustrious career.
Click here for more idioms and common expressions.

silver city
Charles Rasp found silver at Broken Hill. Thatís why itís called the silver city.

came across
To come across means to find by chance.

Example: You can come across some good buys in junk shops.
For more about the phrasal verb come across, follow the link.
more information: come across

boom came the bust
Boom and bust is a phrase that means good times and bad times. A boom is a time when things are going well, usually economically. Itís when businesses are doing well, and people are making money. A bust is a time when things are going badly. Businesses are closing and people arenít working.

the bigger they are, the harder they fall
This saying means that the bigger or more important something is, the worse things are when they go wrong. A big, booming town like Broken Hill is very badly affected by a bust.

Began is the past tense of the irregular verb begin.
more information: begin

Here bought is the past tense of the irregular verb buy.
more information: buy

It might not be Las Vegas
He means Broken Hill isnít as big a tourism destination as Las Vegas, but the industry is still booming.

kept their money on
To keep your money on something means to keep supporting it. Itís from the idea that if youíre betting on horses, you might stop putting money on a losing horse.

Example: I'd keep my money on house prices going up.
Click here for more idioms and common expressions.

backed a winner
To back a winner means to bet on a winner, or to support something that does well. To back means to bet money on a horse.

Example: We backed a winner by investing in a successful movie.