Syndicate of Seven

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In 1883 Broken Hill was still an arid desert plain covered in saltbush, within a pastoral lease held by the sprawling Mt Gipps station. Silverton was the closest town and was attracting prospectors drawn by the discovery of gold a few years earlier.  

Mt Gipps station employed several men, including manager George McCulloch, sheep overseer George Urquhart, station hand Phillip Charley, dam sinking contractors David James and James Poole, bookkeeper George Lind and boundary rider Charles Rasp.  

While Charles Rasp was doing his usual rounds of the perimeter of the station one day, looking out for stray sheep and broken fencing, he found a sizeable lump of mullock: composite rock that is generally of no interest in terms of ore content. But something about this piece of rock made Rasp curious. He had it assayed to determine its mineral content and discovered that the mullock was rich in silver ore. 

Within weeks Rasp had staked a 40 acre claim and convinced his six Mt. Gipps workmates to invest £70 each. They pegged out seven blocks, numbered 10 to 16. The first shafts they sunk failed to turn up anything of value or interest, but then they hit a rich silver seam. In 1884, the Syndicate divided their shares, creating fourteen equal partners, but only five of the original shareholders remained: McCulloch, Rasp, Poole and Charley. In 1885, the Broken Hill Propriety Co. Ltd: BHP, was registered as a public company, sparking a silver rush and then a mining boom that created an instant township. 

By 1886 Broken Hill had a population of 3,000: it was the size of a town but still resembled a mining camp. There were houses and huts thrown together from wood and corrugated iron and tents made from potato sacks, blankets and canvas, a general store, a bank, a couple of smithies and three hotels. By 1888 the population was 11,000 and there were forty seven hotels. Only two years earlier Charles Rasp and his six Mt Gipps workmates had been grazing sheep on the same land that was now making them richer than they could ever have imagined. The Syndicate of Seven had become silver kings. 

BHP ceased operations in Broken Hill 1939 after 55 years of continual mining, interrupted only by industrial strikes. 

Audio transcript available.