Cloncurry, Mary Kathleen, Qld

Leaving Karumba we headed south to Cloncurry. We saw many roadtrains three trailers long, infact they are very common out here.

We were stuck behind this guy for quite a long way going 50km/h on a one lane road until he stopped at some road works. His three buckets each emptied sideways. It was most interesting watching him while chatting to the traffic control person.

The termite mounds in this area are more prolific than anywhere wer have seen, kilometer after kilometer of termite mounds as far as the eye could see.

The town of Cloncurry supports a large population of miners. Thus the town has a lot more services than Karumba or Normanton or any other towns we had travelled through. The caravan parks all had accommodation for single working men in dorms with canteens providing cooked meals. Being a week end not much was open including the Royal Flying Doctors Museum, which only opens week ends during peak tourist season, May to September. However the annual horse race, ‘The Cloncurry Cup’, was on and the town was abuzz with people dressed up with hats, fascinators, high heels and looking glamorous.

With nothing fancy enough to wear to the races we headed out to the ghost town of Mary Kathleen. Once a uranium mining town, now only the streets remain. The houses and other buildings have long been sold off.

“The Mary Kathleen uranium discovery was made by Clem Walton and Norm McConachy in 1954, and named after McConachy’s wife. Prospecting and exploitation rights were subsequently onsold, and in 1955 Rio Tinto Mining formed Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd to develop a mine and service town. An architect-designed town grew during 1956-58, with reticulated water from a dam, Lake Corella.

The ore was mined by the open-cut method and processed on site. The town, six km away, was built around a shallow valley with a post office, cinema, sports ovals, a school, banks and a community store. By 1963 the major supply contract signed with the UK Atomic Energy Authority had been satisfied ahead of schedule, and large reserves of ore lay at grass. Consequently, the works were closed down. New supply contracts with Japanese, German and American power utilities prompted a re-opening in 1974, with Mary Kathleen’s second life extended to 1982 when reserves were finally exhausted. The site was rehabilitated, and the buildings sold and removed. The site became well known for free camping by off roaders interested in fossicking and gem-stone collecting, numerous relics are held in the Cloncurry/Mary Kathleen Memorial Park and Museum in Cloncurry.” 

We didn’t take our van as we were warned it was 4WD only, and how true it was. After 32 years of neglect there is not much bitumen left.

The entrance to the town of Mary Kathleen.

We found an online street map of the town and could identify most places. There was also very good internet and phone access in the township.image

These are the streets where the houses stood. Only the concrete floors of the carports remain. The houses were all on stumps and easily removed.

The shopping area and town square included a post office, library, police station, medical centre, bank and cafe.

The swimming pool and toddler pool plus change rooms and probably a canteen. In the photo below, I am walking between the toddler pool in the foreground and the large pool.

Stairs from the change rooms and canteen, lead down to the oval.

The tennis courts.

From the town of Mary Kathleen we travelled out to the mine. The road turned to a track with signs painted on tin pointing the way. We were lucky to make it in our AWD territory.

I know an open cut mine is suppose to be a scar upon a beautiful landscape, but I thought the cut itself was so amazingly beautiful, showing all the hidden colours of earth.

The road into the cut had been blocked off to deter people from entering.

And so we left Mary Kathleen and headed back to Cloncurry. The landscape is so rugged, so harsh and yet so beautiful.

So today we headed south from Cloncurry to Winton.

cheers for now, Helen and Tim