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Mount Isa

Mount Isa
Mount Isa
Mount Isa is located in Queensland
Mount Isa
Population 22,013 (2014)[1]
Established 1923
Postcode(s) 4825
Elevation 356 m (1,168 ft)
Time zone AEST (UTC+10)
Mayor Tony McGrady
LGA(s) City of Mount Isa
Mean max temp Mean min temp Annual rainfall
31.8 °C
89 °F
17.3 °C
63 °F
454.3 mm
17.9 in

Mount Isa is a city in the Gulf Country region of Queensland, Australia. It came into existence because of the vast mineral deposits found in the area. Mount Isa Mines (MIM) is one of the most productive single mines in world history, based on combined production of lead, silver, copper and zinc.[2]

With an estimated population of 22,013 as at June 2014,[1] Mount Isa is the administrative, commercial and industrial centre for the state's vast north-western region. Although situated in an arid area, the artificial Lake Moondarra[3] 19 kilometres (12 mi) north of the city on the Leichhardt River provides both drinking water and an area for watersports, birdwatching and recreation. Locals often refer to Mount Isa as "The Isa".[4]

Due to the lead production in the city, Mount Isa has one of the most intensive air quality monitoring systems in Australia.[5] Concerns have been raised over childhood lead contamination and air pollution within the city.[6][7]


  • History 1
  • Heritage listings 2
  • Governance 3
  • Local industry and business 4
    • Tourism 4.1
  • Climate 5
  • Culture and sport 6
  • Demographics 7
  • Suburbs 8
  • Transport 9
  • Water infrastructure 10
  • Education 11
  • Media 12
    • Radio 12.1
    • Television 12.2
    • Newspapers 12.3
  • Notable people 13
  • See also 14
  • References 15
  • External links 16


The Attorney General of Queensland, John Mullan, officially opened the railway line on 6 April 1929
Smelter interior, 1932
Township, 1932
Main street, ~1936

The land around the present day city of Mount Isa was home to the Kalkadoon aboriginal tribe. The Kalkadoon tribe led a subsistence lifestyle on this land that the white settlers looked at as nothing but poor grazing land, with the odd mineral deposit. As settlers and prospectors pressed further into their lands the Kalkadoon tribe members set out on one of Australia's most successful guerrilla wars in a fight for their lands. Their success continued until at Battle Mountain in 1884, with what some historians have called a rush of blood, the tribe attacked a fortified position in large numbers and suffered terrible losses. The weakened state of the tribe made their land more vulnerable to the settlers and soon much of the land was lost. Armed patrols chasing the surviving tribe members and poor grazing lands for the settlers made times hard in the area over the following decades.

It is said that a lone prospector, John Campbell Miles, stumbled upon one of the world's richest deposits of copper, silver and zinc during his 1923 expedition into the Northern Territory, but many people do not know that he was taken to the deposits by a young aboriginal man by the name of Kabalulumana (for whom an Indigenous person's hostel in Mount Isa is named).[8] When Miles inspected the yellow-black rocks in a nearby outcrop, they reminded him of the ore found in the Broken Hill mine that he had once worked at. Upon inspection these rocks were weighty and heavily mineralised. A sample sent away to the assayer in Cloncurry confirmed their value. Miles and four farmers staked out the first claims in the area. Taken with friend's stories of the Mount Ida gold mines in Western Australia, Miles decided upon Mount Isa as the name for his new claim.

Mount Isa Post Office opened on 1 August 1924.[9]

A location for the town's hospital was chosen in 1929, with a small building completed the following year.[10] In 1931, a larger structure was moved to the site from the closed mining town of Kuridala.[10]

Heritage listings

Mount Isa has a number of heritage-listed sites, including:


Mount Isa at local level is part of the City of Mount Isa, at state level is part of the electoral district of Mount Isa in the Legislative Assembly of Queensland, and at federal level is part of the Division of Kennedy in the Australian House of Representatives. The mayor of Mount Isa, after the 2012 Election, is Tony McGrady. The Mount Isa City Council jurisdiction is one of the largest in the world in terms of area and takes in the border town of Camooweal, 188 kilometres (117 mi) to the north-west of Mount Isa and 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) from the border of the Northern Territory.

Local industry and business

Mount Isa's industry is largely dependent on mining.

Mount Isa is in the top two of the largest copper mining and smelting operations in the country.[19] Copper and lead are smelted on site, with copper anodes and zinc concentrate being transported 900 kilometres (560 mi) to the city and port of Townsville on the east coast. The lead ingots are transported to a refinery in Britain where the silver is extracted. The mine is the most significant landmark in the area, with the stack from the lead smelter (built 1978), standing 270 m tall, visible from all parts of the city and up to 40 kilometres (25 mi) out.

In 2008 a

  • Mount Isa City Council
  • University of Queensland: Queensland Places: Mount Isa

External links

  1. ^ a b "3218.0 - Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2013-14: Population Estimates by Significant Urban Area, 2004 to 2014". Australian Bureau of Statistics.   Estimated resident population, 30 June 2014.
  2. ^ Mount Isa at Australian Explorer
  3. ^ Mount Isa Water
  4. ^ Official Mt. Isa page, using "The Isa" term
  5. ^ "Air quality in Mount Isa". Retrieved 30 March 2015. 
  6. ^ "Compelling new evidence shows Mount Isa mining emissions are contaminating the city and are the cause of childhood lead poisoning". 17 May 2013. Retrieved 30 March 2015. 
  7. ^ "Mining blamed for Mount Isa's woes".  
  8. ^ Kabalulumana Hostel
  9. ^ Premier Postal History. "Post Office List". Premier Postal Auctions. Retrieved 10 May 2014. 
  10. ^ a b c d Cook, Penny (2006). Discover Queensland Heritage. Corinda, Queensland: Pictorial Press Australia. p. 17.  
  11. ^ "Moonah Creek 'Hanging Tree' (entry 600040)".  
  12. ^ "Former Underground Hospital, Mount Isa (entry 601102)".  
  13. ^ "Tent House (Mount Isa) (entry 600742)".  
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Bower Bird Battery (entry 601863)".  
  16. ^ "Mount Isa Mine Early Infrastructure (entry 601182)".  
  17. ^ "Casa Grande (entry 601094)".  
  18. ^ "Hodgkinson's Marked Tree (entry 600741)".  
  19. ^ 1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2008
  20. ^ "Mount Isa Community: Lead Screening Program 2006-7" (PDF).  
  21. ^ "Xstrata mining emissions causing lead poisoning".  
  22. ^ Mackay, A.K., Taylor, M.P., Munksgaard, N.C., Hudson-Edwards, K.A., Burn-Nunes, L. (September 2013). "Identification of environmental lead sources, pathways and forms in a mining and smelting town: Mount Isa, Australia.". Environmental Pollution 180: 304–311.  
  23. ^ Lake Moondarra Fishing Classic. Retrieved 16 March 2013.
  24. ^ "Climate statistics for Mount Isa". Australian Bureau of Meteorology. Retrieved 30 December 2012. 
  25. ^ Australian Karting Association (Qld) Incorporated
  26. ^ Burns, Chris (17 March 2015). "'"Mount Isa symphony orchestra 'most remote in the world. Daily Advertiser. Retrieved 29 July 2015. 
  27. ^ Ugly girls welcome, says beer goggle capital
  28. ^ Outback mayor seeks "ugly duckling" women
  29. ^ Kira Cochrane (20 August 2008).The ugly face of Oz. The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 16 March 2013.
  30. ^
  31. ^ a b c "Frequently asked questions". Mount Isa Water Board. Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  32. ^ a b Barber, Jasmine (10 April 2013). "Running dry". The North West Star (Fairfax Regional Media). Archived from the original on 4 October 2014. Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  33. ^ "Level 2 Water Restrictions". Mount Isa City Council. Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  34. ^ Stephens, Kate (4 Feb 2014). "Drought threatens Lake Moondarra barra supplies".  
  35. ^ "Mount Isa Water Board". Mount Isa Water Board. Archived from the original on 4 October 2014. Retrieved 25 January 2015. 
  36. ^ "Bill Sweetenham: the bloke from Mt Isa saving British swimming". The Sydney Morning Herald. 13 August 2003. 


See also

Notable people

The North West Star is a local newspaper which is printed daily Monday to Friday. Also available is the The Courier-Mail, The Sunday Mail and Townsville Bulletin.


Digital Television transmissions have commenced in Mount Isa. New channels provided by the ABC and SBS can be received with a digital set top box or digital television. Additional channels from the commercial broadcasters that are available in most other areas of Australia are expected to commence transmission in 2011-2012. Analogue television transmissions will be switched off by 31 December 2013.

Five broadcast television services operate in Mount Isa — commercial stations Imparja Television and Southern Cross7 (formerly known as ITQ Channel 8, QQQ, QTV and QSTV- Queensland Satellite Regional Television), and the Government-owned ABC and SBS. Imparja has a programming affiliation agreement with the Nine Network. Aboriginal focused channel NITV (National Indigenous Television) broadcasts on UHF Channel 35.


  • AM 666 4LM (commercial)
  • FM 100.9 Mob FM (commercial-70% country)
  • FM 101.7 ABC Classic FM
  • FM 102.5 Hot FM (commercial)
  • FM 103.3 4TAB (horse racing)
  • FM 104.1 ABC Triple J
  • FM 104.9 ABC News Radio
  • FM 105.7 Radio Rhema (religious)
  • FM 106.5 ABC Local Radio
  • FM 107.1 ABC Radio National

The following radio stations are available in the Mount Isa region:


Mount Isa Community Advice & Info Facebook Page:


The residential campus of Spinifex College is unique in the fact that it is the only State-run boarding-type school in Queensland and it caters to all the outlying towns and cattle-properties as far away as the gulf. Mount Isa is also home to the School of the Air, a unique-to-Australia way of schooling isolated students in Australia's vast lightly populated country areas. The city also holds the main campus of the Mount Isa Institute of TAFE, offering courses in a wide range of fields, including mining, agriculture and trades. In addition, James Cook University has a presence, with the Mount Isa Centre for Rural and Remote Health in the Base Hospital complex.

And Early Childhood Education:

  • Good Shepherd Catholic College (private)
  • Mount Isa School of Distance Education (to grade 10)
  • Spinifex State College - Three campuses, Junior from grade 8 to grade 10, Senior from grade 11 to grade 12, and Residential; for students who don't have a high-school in their region and need to leave their place of residence to access years 8-12.

And three high schools:

Mount Isa has eight public primary schools and three private primary schools:

Mount Isa State School, 1929


On 22 January 2015, Lake Moondarra was at 85.3% capacity.[35]

Water has traditionally been processed using a natural filtration process involving reed beds in a large isolated lagoon, which, after disinfecting, produced water to acceptable standards under the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.[31] However, the prolonged drought has produced climatic conditions that have caused blooms of blue-green algae in Lake Moondarra, Lake Julius and the Clear Water Lagoon, necessitating the temporary introduction of a large filtration plant to remove the algae.[31]

Due to a prolonged drought, water levels in Lake Moondarra have become very low. In April 2013, it was forecast that Lake Moondarra would be reduced to 40% of capacity by July 2013, which would trigger the need to supply additional water from Lake Julius. The increased cost to the Mount Isa Council for water was estimated to be $800,000 per year ($114 each for 7000 households).[32] Water restrictions in the town were escalated in April 2013 to reduce water consumption.[33] Boating on Lake Moondarra would be restricted if water levels reduced to 20% for safety reasons as the lower water levels would reveal obstructions.[32] The fish in the lake will be at risk if Lake Moondarra falls to 10% capacity.[34]

Mount Isa's water is supplied from Lake Moondarra, 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) from Mount Isa, and from Lake Julius, 60 kilometres (37 mi) from Mount Isa. As it costs approximately twice as much to supply water from Lake Julius, the water is normally drawn from Lake Moondarra. However, during periods of drought, it becomes necessary to draw water supplies from Lake Julius. The three major water users are the Mount Isa Mines, Incitec Pivot and the Mount Isa City Council (which in turn supplies residents and smaller businesses).[31]

Panorama of Lake Moondarra from lookout above Transport Bay. July 2014. Mount Isa, Queensland.

Water infrastructure

Long distance rail services
Preceding station   Queensland Rail   Following station
toward Townsville
The Inlander Terminus

The city is served by QR passenger train The Inlander, which travels overnight to Townsville twice a week in each direction.

Mount Isa Airport has regular daily services to Brisbane, Cairns and Townsville, as well as once-weekly services to Darwin and the Gold Coast, in addition to other services to remote Outback communities in western Queensland. The primary carriers which service Mount Isa and district are Qantas/QantasLink - Brisbane and Townsville; AirNorth - Darwin and Gold Coast; Regional Express - Townsville. In November 2009, it was announced that Skytrans and Westwing Aviation will commence flights in and out of Mount Isa to and from cities on the coast, commencing in February 2010. Regional Express (REX) also announced flights between Mount Isa and Townsville starting after December 2009. Virgin Australia (VA) began services in August 2012 and offers return services from Brisbane on weekdays.

Mount Isa city and surrounds are serviced by a 35 vehicle taxi service. A taxi service known as "Isa-Curry" express transports passengers to and from the neighbouring centre of Cloncurry to Mount Isa and back again, usually for shopping and medical requirements. Additionally, many of the city's clubs have courtesy buses to and from their establishments that run seven days a week and into the early hours of the morning. Greyhound Australia has a depot in Mount Isa, with coach services to and from Townsville, Brisbane and Tennant Creek. Palmer's Coaches is another Coach Company that currently services Mount Isa. These services include charter services for the schools of Mount Isa, mining companies and the general public.


  • Breakaway Estate - Semi-rural acreages
  • Fisher
  • Healy - Residential suburb, site of Healy State School
  • Healy Heights - New suburb, development ongoing, with several houses finished.
  • Lanskey
  • Menzies – includes Buchanan Park events complex, Stables and Racecourse.
  • Mornington
  • Mount Isa City - The Central Business District
  • Mount Isa East – has own post office and smaller shopping centres
  • Pioneer – includes TAFE campus, Spinifex Senior Campus and Ten-Pin Bowling complex
  • Ryan – mostly industrial, includes army and State Emergency Service barracks
  • Spreadborough - mostly bushland and light industry. The notable Spreadborough family still resides in the area.
  • Sunset - Home to Sunset State Primary School, and some shopping facilities
  • The Gap
  • Townview - Home to Townview State Primary School
  • Winston
  • Happy Valley, Queensland - includes Happy Valley State School, St Joseph's Catholic Primary School, and Captain James Cook Park
  • Kalkadoon - includes Mount Isa Airport and Kalkadoon Park
  • Mica Creek – includes CS Energy Mica Creek Power Station
  • Miles End - includes Mount Isa train station
  • Parkside – Mount Isa's largest and oldest suburb. Contains the Irish Club, Parkside Flats complex, and Playway Park
  • Soldiers Hill – All streets and parks named after war locations and soldiers, such as Kokoda Road and Gallipoli Park
  • Hilton - More commonly known as Mineside, on the same side of the railway line as Mount Isa Mines and the Incitec Pivot Sulphuric Acid plant. Employee housing, particularly for managers and visiting staff from Xstrata, Casa Grande; a white brick mansion built for the visit of Queen Elizabeth II; now used for the annual Casa Grande Ball, and some mine operations.

The Leichhardt River divides the city into areas known as "mineside" and "townside". Xstrata, the power station and the Airport are on the mineside, whilst the majority of the city, including the CBD and Base Hospital are on the townside. In recent years, population increases associated with the mining boom has increased demand for accommodation and land. The city has begun to spread out, with new suburbs in the south-east and north of the city being planned or developed. It is planned these expansions will cater for more than 40,000 people over the next 10 to 20 years.[30]

Mt Isa Street, 1962
Mining in 1951


Franchises such as McDonald's, KFC, Hungry Jacks, Pizza Hut, Subway, K-Mart, Best and Less, Donut King, Coffee Club, Blockbuster, Harvey Norman, Bunnings, Boating Camping and Fishing, Dick Smith Electronics and EB Games have established stores in Mount Isa, as well as many smaller locally owned businesses, many in the Mount Isa Village Shopping Complex and Simpson Central Arcade in the Central Business District.

The ratio of males to females living in Mount Isa is reputedly five to one. Former Mayor John Molony drew international press attention in August 2008 when he told the Townsville Bulletin newspaper that Mount Isa's gender imbalance made it a good place for "not so attractive" women to live.[27][28] However, the most recent census found that men actually comprise only 52.6% of the population and that the five-to-one figure is an exaggeration.[29]

Mount Isa had a June 2014 estimated resident population of 22,013 housed in approx. 9,000 dwellings, making the city the largest and most populous in Queensland's vast western interior, and one of the largest centres in outback Australia. The district population is 30,942 and incorporates the Cloncurry, Boulia, Burketown, Carpentaria, Doomadgee, Flinders, Mornington and Richmond shires.


In the July of 2015, Mt Isa formed its own Symphony Orchestra, acclaimed as the "most remote in the world". Inaugurated on the 23rd July, the event attracted several stars of the music world, including world famous jazz musician James Morrison. Morrison also figured in the premiere of Matthew Dewey's 'Symphony of the Inland Sea', composed for the occasion.[26]

The local theater group, the Mount Isa Theatrical Society, also known as MITS, often holds plays and musicals, at least once every few months.

The city is known for its annual Rodeo and Mardi Gras street parade every August. There is also an annual Multicultural Festival in early September.

In September 2008, plans were made to build a massive motor sports complex on the city's north-eastern outskirts. This complex was to include a drag-racing track, a BMX track and a mini-stadium that can seat 2,000 people.

Mount Isa also has a cinema complex, situated in the inner city on Rodeo Drive, that contains three air-conditioned cinemas, a skate park/aquatic centre and a multi-purpose sporting complex for basketball and other indoor sports. Mount Isa's events complex, Buchanan Park, opened in May 2007, can hold up to 6,000 people and is used for special events such as concerts and expos. It is also the home of the city's annual show and rodeo.

Rugby League, Cricket, Netball, Soccer, Rugby Union, Australian Rules Football and Tennis are the most common sports but Shooting, Field Hockey, Squash, Softball, Basketball and Ten-Pin bowling are also present. Mount Isa has a Go Kart Club[25] situated off Duchess Road on the southern side of town.

Culture and sport

Climate data for Mount Isa
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 45.9
Average high °C (°F) 36.3
Average low °C (°F) 23.8
Record low °C (°F) 15.4
Average rainfall mm (inches) 118.8
Average rainy days (≥ 0.2 mm) 10.2 9.3 6.0 2.3 1.8 1.0 1.0 0.9 1.7 3.4 5.5 7.7 50.8
Average relative humidity (%) 35 38 32 27 29 28 25 20 18 18 22 27 27
Source: Australian Bureau of Meteorology[24]

The "winter" season is very warm and almost completely dry with median monthly rainfalls from April to September below 2 millimetres (0.08 in), though nights can be quite cool and about once every two years a minimum below 0 °C (32 °F) has occurred. The lowest temperature recorded at Mount Isa is −2.9 °C (26.8 °F) on 7 July 1984 and the hottest is 45.9 °C (114.6 °F) on 29 January 1990.

Mount Isa experiences a hot semi-arid climate (Köppen climate classification BSh). The summer season is very hot with highly variable rainfall and humidity owing to the erratic influence of the monsoon. This can be almost non-existent in years like 1951/1952, where the only rain is from the occasional shower, or extremely intense as in 1973/1974 or 1999/2000, when as much as 1 metre (39 in) of rain may fall between November and March.


The Xstrata Mount Isa Lake Moondarra Fishing Classic is held annually, and after 2011 will also be followed by a Fishing, Camping and 4x4 Expo. The Fishing classic is the richest fresh water fishing event in Queensland.[23] Catching the tagged Barramundi fetches the greatest prize money.

The World War II-era Mount Isa Underground Hospital is an historical building that has been registered on the Register of the National Estate and the Queensland Heritage Register. An air-raid shelter which could function as a hospital was a precautionary measure taken after Darwin was bombed in 1942.[10] Local miners excavated the site which remains today as the only underground health facility in Queensland which was built during World War II.[10]

The burial place of John Campbell Miles, the founder of Mount Isa, is on the corner of Rodeo Drive and Miles Street. His ashes are buried underneath a large statue where each panel represents a significant part of Mount Isa. Miles' ashes used to be watched over by a large clock where the statue now stands.

Attractions include the Hard Times Mine at "Outback at Isa" and The Mount Isa Rodeo and Mardi Gras (held on the same weekend) has given Mount Isa the title of "Rodeo Capital of Australia". The occasion may well triple the city's population in these few days. A memorial has been made especially for the Rodeo, down Rodeo Drive; the sidewalks have special memorials embedded in the cement.

Underground hospital


[22][21] However, a more recent study led by Macquarie University environmental engineers has used lead isotope analysis to show conclusively that the lead ingested had originated from smelted ore and not surface deposits.[20]

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