Beneath the copper ‘tablecloth’: History of the Mount Hope mines, northwest New South Wales

Ken Mcqueen

Research output: Contribution to journalOther Journal Articlepeer-review


Copper was discovered near Mount Hope in 1873 by Robert Fisher a shepherd on Coan Downs station. Further prospecting discovered other nearby copper deposits and later, areas of gold mineralisation. The main Mount Hope copper mine was worked intermittently until 1919. Further south, the Mount Hope South and Great Central copper mines were worked between 1881 and 1898. Minor, sporadic gold production occurred at Mount Allen, Mount Dromedary and Mount Solitary after 1891. Copper mining at Mount Hope was characterised by short periods of success and profit with intervening lulls of inactivity and financial loss. This history reflected the fluctuating copper price and a production cost structure hampered by difficulties inherent in the remote, semi-arid location and the style of operations. The break-even point for profit was frequently too close to the prevailing copper price. The story of Mount Hope also highlights the importance of railways to the success of early mining in remote areas of Australia. If the railway had reached Mount Hope in the 1890s operations would have been more profitable and possibly more persistent. The towns that developed near Mount Hope were almost totally dependent on the mines for their existence. Mining history and community history were thus particularly entwinned with dramatic fluctuations in population following the erratic fortunes of the mines. Despite a precarious existence, or perhaps because of it, the towns of Mount Hope and South Mount Hope had a strong community spirit. Under the leadership of several key personalities, residents made strident efforts to improve facilities and living conditions in a very trying environment. Securing and maintaining schooling for their children was an ongoing battle.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-107
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Australasian Mining History
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2021


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