Saturday, July 30, 2011

Mt Isa (the town) and Mt Isa Mines (the mine)

Michele -- Mt Isa. I’d heard about this place for years. Urbanites shun Mt Isa’s remoteness. It is in western Queensland, near the border with the Northern Territories and closer to Alice Springs than the east coast. Mining geologists praise Mt Isa’s richness of resources. The area has a vast array of zinc, lead, silver and copper deposits that make the Mt Isa Mines (MIM) one of the richest single mines in the world. Prosperity from this and other mines are a large reason why Australia, unlike much of the rest of the world, is enjoying a strong economy. The Mt. Isa mine and smelting operations are huge and tower over the town from the hills to the west of the river. Environmentalists criticize Mt Isa’s impact on the area. The area has naturally high lead levels but the smelting operations must contribute to the conditions. The smelting process also releases SO2 into the atmosphere. Employees appreciate Mt Isa’s prosperity. Positions go unfilled here as there are more jobs than qualified people. Many people work two weeks on and one week off and fly out to homes in Cairns or Brisbane for their weeks off. Because companies pay for the air tickets, it is expensive to fly to Mt Isa. Rooms there are hard to book. Geologists rave about Mt Isa’s great outcrops that reveal orogenic events from over a billion years ago and provide insights into the mechanisms of faulting at depth. The isolation of the town leads to high turnover but some people stay for a long time and love the opportunities and lifestyle.

Steve reported seeing a t-shirt that read “Happiness is Mt Isa in the rearview mirror.” Of course, it was worn by someone who chose to leave.

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