Heritage memorial to the past revitalised for the future

In 1923, lone prospector John Campbell Miles, while traveling on a gold prospecting trip to the Northern Territory, camped by the banks of the Leichhardt River. Sampling a nearby rock outcrop, he realised that it was heavily mineralised. Campbell Miles had stumbled on to one of the world’s richest copper, silver, lead and zinc ore bodies. He decided to call his discovery ‘Mount Isa’ after the stories he had heard of the Mount Ida goldfield in Western Australia. Eighty-four years later, the Mount Isa Mine, now owned by Xstrata, is still one of Australia’s largest producers of copper ore.

The early pioneers of Mount Isa faced many hardships. The lack of water, remoteness, the summer heat, high costs and scarcity of essential items made life extremely difficult. Despite these hardships, the pioneers endured to create a city that has attracted people from all around the world. Modern Mount Isa is a truly cosmopolitan and multicultural society, with all of the facilities that one would expect in a city of 23,500 people.

The Memorial to Mount Isa’s founder, John Campbell Miles, has stood in the middle of the CBD since it was first unveiled in 1968. A revitalisation of the structure, which originally held the town clock, has recently been completed and now provides an aesthetically appealing and informative attraction which more accurately reflects modern Mount Isa while maintaining its traditional significance.

The concept and designs for the refurbishment of the housing were created, in house at Council, and while the structure itself remains unchanged the clock faces have been replaced with stained glass panels, each representing a pivotal or iconic aspect of Mount Isa’s heritage and culture.

The Rodeo Capital panel is an artistic interpretation of the Rodeo Capital of Australia Logo, with the horse and rider partially encircled in a rope border. The Kalkadoon panel depicts a warrior from the Kalkadoon tribe, the traditional owners of the land on which Mount Isa stands, resting on his spear with the sunset and hills in the background. The Mineral Heritage Panel shows a miner drilling into a rock face, using a Silver 3 hand machine, a pneumatic machine still used in the copper mine today in areas inaccessible by larger machinery. The Mount Isa panel represents the most identifiable image related to the city and one currently represented on Mount Isa City Council letterhead, vehicles, uniforms and promotional materials.

Descriptive plaques outlining the significance of each stained glass panel are attached to the base of the memorial and the flagstone surrounding the base of the memorial was replaced with an aggregate concrete finish to tie in with the recent beautification works in the CBD.

Councillor Gary Asmus, who initially raised Council’s interest in restoring the memorial, believes it is a wonderful addition to the monument housing the ashes of city founder, John Campbell Miles.

“The glass panels have turned out beyond our expectations and, with the new plaques, and resurfacing works, the memorial has, again, become an icon the Mount Isa community can be proud of, and one visitors to the city will be intrigued by,” he said.

Funding of $25 000 was provided by the Queensland Government’s Community Memorials Restoration Program, with Mount Isa City Council committing an equal amount to the project.