Mount Isa

The city of Mount Isa came into existence because of the vast mineral deposits found in the area. Mount Isa Mines is one of the most productive single mines in world history, based on combined production of lead, silver, copper and zinc. Mount Isa is the birthplace of two Australian sporting greats: Greg Norman (golf) and Pat Rafter (tennis).

Where is it?: Mount Isa is 121 km west of Cloncurry, on the banks of the Leichhardt River. Brisbane is 1,824 km to the west via Warrego Highway and Landsborough.

Things to see and do

The World War II-era Mount Isa Underground Hospital is an historical building that has been registered on the Queensland and National Heritage List. Other attractions are the School of the Air, the Royal Flying Doctors base, National Trust Tent House and Beth Anderson Museum, surface tours of Mount Isa Mines and fishing for barramundi at Lake Moondarra.

Hard Times Mine: Tours of the Hard Times Mine at Mt Isa in the Alimak Cage explore the history of mining in the Mt Isa area. The guides tell stories of the good times and the hard times that are had working deep under the earth.

The Outback Park is an extensive creative landscape that captures visitors attention, with a central lagoon surrounded by lush naive plantings and a Lawn Hill gorge inspired waterfall. A bridge extends across the lagoon and the paths lead around the park to various shaded rest spots where you can stop and relax or enjoy your lunch.

Lookouts: Get a spectacular bird's eye view of Mount Isa from the city's Hilary Street lookout. The lookout with its global signpost, offers a 360-degree panorama of the city and mine area. A second look at sunset or after dark for spectacular views of the Mount Isa mine at night is highly recommended.

Events: The Mount Isa Rotary Rodeo and Mardi Gras (2nd weekend in August each year) has given Mount Isa the title of "Rodeo Capital of Australia". This major event, which is the largest Rodeo in the southern hemisphere, sees the city's population tripled during these few days. A memorial has been made especially for the Rodeo, down Rodeo Drive; the footpaths have special memorials embedded in the cement. There is also an annual Multicultural Festival in early September.

Surrounding area

Lake Moondarra (20 km north) is a popular place for locals and tourists to visit because of its spectacular scenery. The lakes safe still water encourages swimming, boating, sailing and canoeing. It has also been stocked with barramundi to lure the anglers for an excellent spot of fishing. permits are not required to fish at Lake Moondarra, but catch limits do apply.

Mt. Isa is the closest city/town to the World Heritage-listed Riversleigh Fossil Fields, which is located 250 km away. The Riversleigh fossil deposits are among the richest and most extensive in the world, with some fossils dating back 15 to 25 million years.

Camooweal Caves (189km north west) are an extenstive cavern system developed beneath the flat surface of the Barkly Tableland in nthe vicinity of Camooweal township. The caves are not accessible to visitors, but the reserve is an excellent place to break one's journey or camp overnight.

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About Mount Isa

With a population of about 20,000 in the city and 31,000 in the surrounding district, 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 19 km north of the city on the Leichhardt River provides both drinking water and an area for watersports, birdwatching and recreation.

Mount Isa is served by The Inlander passenger train which travels overnight between Townsville (via Charters Towers), covering the 977 km journey twice weekly. The air-conditioned train offers twinette, roomette, triple bunk and coach accommodation, and has a club car for movies and food.

Referred to by the locals as The Isa, the city's industry is largely dependent on mining. Xstrata Plc operates the Mount Isa Mines lease adjacent to the town, which comprises the "Enterprise" underground copper mine, X41 underground copper mine, "Black Star Open Cut" silver-lead zinc mine, and metallurgical processing facilities. Silver-lead-zinc ore is also mined 20 km to the north at Hilton from the "George Fisher" underground mine, and the adjoining "Handlebar Hill" open cut, which is trucked back to Mount Isa for processing.

Mount Isa is in the top two of largest copper mining and smelting operations in the country. Copper and lead are smelted on site, with copper anodes and zinc concentrate being transported 900 km 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 km out.

Mount Isa City municipality covers an area of over 43,310 square kilometres, making it geographically the second largest city in the world after Kalgoorlie-Boulder in Western Australia.


The city came into existence soon after 1923 when John Campbell Miles discovered a rich seam of silver-lead - the western edge of the Cloncurry field. Named after the Mount Ida goldfields in Western Australia, mining operations began there a year later. In 1964, the town made national headlines after the events leading to the infamous 1964 Mount Isa strike.

Mount Isa was proclaimed a city in 1968 when the population has reached 18,000. The city and surrounds grew in front of and around the mine to the point that, by 1972, 34,000 people resided in the town. The population dropped steadily for the next three decades until a mining boom occurred, steadily increasing the population to near-similar figures from the 1970s-80s.

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