The Big Australian

When boundary rider Charles Rasp stumbled on an interesting hill in far western NSW, with a fractured body of ore running right through it, he wasn’t sure if he’d found something of value or not. He consulted his battered copy of ‘The Prospector’s Guide’ to be certain. Within a few weeks he and six others had formed a company called the Barrier Ranges Mining Association, and pegged out six claims.

The partnership included two dam-builders; David James and James Poole, station owner George McCullogh, head stockman George Urquhart, bookkeeper George Lind, and jackaroo Philip Charlie.

Rasp and the others thought they’d found a reasonable prospect for tin mining, but things didn’t go well at first. The ore samples they mined and sent away for analysis showed only traces of tin. Conditions were harsh and necessities like water difficult to obtain.

“At the start it was very bad,’ George Rasp later told the Melbourne Argus. ‘There was no accommodation, water and provisions were scarce and the weather was very trying … for 12 months it was really doubtful whether we would make anything out of it.’

Lind sold his share for next to nothing. James Poole SWAPPED his share with Sir Sidney Kidman, for TEN COWS. George Urquhart sold his share back to George Rasp for £20.

We can only imagine how much Lind, Urquhart and Poole regretted their rash disposal of the shares, for new reports from the ore samples came back from Adelaide with exciting news. Silver! Some of the richest ore ever seen. All of a sudden the partnership of seven was one of the most talked about companies in the country. It was time for a name change: The Broken Hill Proprietary Company floated on the stock exchange in 1885.

George Rasp’s hill would go on to be the richest find of silver, lead, and zinc in the history of the world. The share George Urquhart sold for £20 in 1884 was worth 1 000 000 pounds just six years later. In today’s terms a one seventh share of BHP Billiton would be worth a staggering twenty billion dollars.

As for George Rasp, he married a waitress, and moved to Adelaide. He didn’t have too much time to enjoy his wealth, as he died relatively young, at the age of sixty.

Still, few people have made such a contribution to the development of Australia as did George Rasp.

© 2018 Greg Barron


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