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Mount Morgan Mine Site

  • 600751
  • Burnett Highway, Mount Morgan


State Heritage
Register status
Date entered
21 October 1992
Mining and Mineral Processing: Mine site
Mining and Mineral Processing: Stores/storage
Mining and mineral processing: Mine
Mining and mineral processing: Mining camp/settlement
2.2 Exploiting, utilising and transforming the land: Exploiting natural resources
Cornes, TG
Construction periods
1880–1981, Mount Morgan Mine Site (1880s - 1981)
1886, Mt Morgan Mine Site - Gold Room (1886 - 1886)
1897–1912, Mt Morgan Mine Site - Assay House (1897 - 1912)
1897–1920, Mt Morgan Mine Site - General Office (1897 - 1920)
1905, Mt Morgan Mine Site - Main Stack (1905 - 1905)
1908, Mt Morgan Mine Site - Assay Stack (1908 - 1908)
1912–1913, Mt Morgan Mine Site - Old Workshop (1912 - 1913)
1912, Mt Morgan Mine Site - Second Power House (1912 - 1912)
1913–1926, Mt Morgan Mine Site - Plumber's Workshop (1913 - 1926)
1913–1926, Mt Morgan Mine Site - Carpenter's Workshop (1913 - 1926)
1913, Mt Morgan Mine Site - No 1 Store (1913 - 1913)
1920, Mt Morgan Mine Site - Director's and Senior Staff Quarters (1920s - 1920s)
1920, Mt Morgan Mine Site - Bicycle Shed (1920 - 1920)
1929–1930, Mt Morgan Mine Site - Change Room (1929 - 1930)
1930, Mt Morgan Mine Site - Winder Building (1930c - 1930c)
1945, Mt Morgan Mine Site - No 2 Store (1945 - 1945)
1950, Mt Morgan Mine Site - Driller's Shed (1950c - 1950c)
unknown, Mt Morgan Mine Site - Gatehouse
unknown, Mt Morgan Mine Site - No 4 Store
unknown, Mt Morgan Mine Site - Research Laboratory
unknown, Mt Morgan Mine Site - Two Small Sheds
unknown, Mt Morgan Mine Site - Shed
unknown, Mt Morgan Mine Site - Switch Room
unknown, Mt Morgan Mine Site - Large House
Historical period
1870s–1890s Late 19th century


Burnett Highway, Mount Morgan
Rockhampton Regional Council
-23.63760874, 150.37894709


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Criterion AThe place is important in demonstrating the evolution or pattern of Queensland’s history.

The Mount Morgan Mine is historically significant as one of the oldest mines in Australia and developed as one of the richest. The site has historical importance as an important part of the history of mining in Queensland and played a significant role in encouraging European settlement in central Queensland. The city of Rockhampton particularly benefited from the wealth of the mine for a number of years.

The establishment of the mine caused the development of the adjacent town of Mount Morgan which has grown with success at the mine and declined as mining activities dwindled. The mine has significance for its role in the development of the life and structure of Central Queensland, most significantly Mount Morgan and the port of Rockhampton.

The site is significant in its importance to the industrial development of the state.

Criterion BThe place demonstrates rare, uncommon or endangered aspects of Queensland’s cultural heritage.

The Mount Morgan Mine is significant for its rarity in demonstrating a way of life that is no longer practised. As an example of its type, the Mount Morgan Mine is uncommon.

Criterion DThe place is important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a particular class of cultural places.

The history of mining in Queensland is encapsulated in the place as the site retains evidence of all phases of development which have occurred at the mine since the 1880s.

The site provides physical evidence of the richness of the regional deposits and of the remarkable level of human interference.

Significant structures on the site include the slag heaps and dumps; [the dumps have aesthetic significance, but also demonstrate the continued evolution of mining activities and provide evidence of the type and scale of mining operations]; the Linda decline shaft and horizontal shaft, headframe and winder; the old gold room; former smelter area; main stack; assay stack; assay houses; second powerhouse; main office; former RG Patterson's museum; No 4 store; plumbers' workshop; carpenters' workshop; No 1 mill; smelter offices; No 1 store; directors' and senior staff quarters; railway bridges; swing bridges; switch room; stores; research building; cottage and other houses which all contribute to an understanding of the place.

Criterion EThe place is important because of its aesthetic significance.

The extensive industrial landscape produced by the open cut, waste dumps, abandoned machinery and structures on a non-vegetated site, contribute to the extraordinary aesthetic significance of the place.

The Mount Morgan Mine is a landmark, particularly the stacks and waste and dumps.

Criterion FThe place is important in demonstrating a high degree of creative or technical achievement at a particular period.

It was one of the first mines to employ the open cut mining process and was the deepest human manufactured hole in Australia in 1982, by which time it had produced a record amount of ore and waste.

The mine structures on site demonstrate the sophistication of engineering designs, construction methods and building materials required to implement the range of techniques.

Criterion GThe place has a strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons.

The site is also significant for the countless Mount Morgan Mine workers. Whilst the numbers of men and women who may have worked at the site cannot be ascertained, their association with the mine site is crucial in understanding the complex and how it operated.

Criterion HThe place has a special association with the life or work of a particular person, group or organisation of importance in Queensland’s history.

The site has significance for its associations with the Morgan Brothers and subsequent mine managers.


From about 1865 prospectors were fossicking for gold in the gullies near Ironstone Mountain [as Mount Morgan was then known]. After these initial discoveries of alluvial gold, more substantial finds were made in the early 1870s and efforts were made to file a claim. Three brothers from the Rockhampton based Morgan family pegged out claims on the mountain and named it Mount Morgan after themselves. Ownership of the mine changed hands several times until a Joint Venture was formed between Perilya and Aumin and Mount Morgan Limited in June 1993. The Mount Morgan Mine is now in the ownership of the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines.

The first formal mining agreement was drawn up in 1882 between Fred, Tom and Ned Morgan along with three Rockhampton businessmen; Thomas Skarrat Hall, William Knox D'arcy and William Pattison. In 1886 after the Morgan brothers sold their shares and other people became partners, a formal company, the Mount Morgan Gold Mining Company Limited was registered on 1 October 1886.

The initial extraction methods used Mount Morgan were a combination of surface extraction from the face of the mountain and shallow underground mining. By 1886 several shafts had been sunk at Mount Morgan and by 1893 more than 4000 metres of tunnels and 1400 metres of vertical shafts (winzes) were completed. A shaft sunk in 1903-5, known as the main shaft, was the largest example in Australia. Mount Morgan pioneered electric winding gear technology at this shaft, which was the first of its kind in the country.

By 1894 excavations extended to a depth of 48 metres and by 1896 steam shovels and steam engines were replacing picks and shovels, extending the open cut. A further advancement of technology occurred in the early 1890s with the use of mill or glory holes involving a passage and a series of underground hoppers with tramway trucks. Mount Morgan was noted for this system. Underground workings were established in 1886 and were developed extensively by 1891. These works were based on a chamber system, and this system was used until the early 1920s.

Productivity at Mount Morgan Mine has fluctuated over the course of its history. The highest production of gold was achieved during the period from 1887 to 1897, after which production fell. During the period from 1906-7 the production focus of the mine changed from gold to copper but falling copper prices impacted adversely on this. From 1932 open cut mining operations increased both copper and gold production.

Along with fluctuating productivity, the ownership of the company changed several times over the years. In July 1914, shareholders of the company approved the establishment of a Melbourne board of directors. None of the original members remained on the board and power was removed from Queensland. The 1920s signalled a period of unrest at the mine, and this, combined with a fire and subsequent flooding of the underground works led to the demise of the Mount Morgan Gold Mining Company Limited in 1927.

In 1928, Adam Alexander Boyd, a former manager of the mine, formed a new company, Mount Morgan Limited, and a new era in the development of the Mount Morgan mine began. During the earliest days of the company's establishment, income was derived from recovering copper from water in the mine. Falling copper prices and a lack of finance, however, were creating problems for the company. The onset of the Great Depression in 1929 meant that liquidation again looked certain.

In 1932, however, the Queensland Government decided to subsidise the gold mining industry as part of a scheme aimed at increasing employment and open cut mining began in earnest. The intention of the government to assist the gold mining industry came at a crucial time for the future of Mount Morgan Limited. Extensive open cut mining and rebuilding commenced in the same year. So successful was the mine over a short period of time that, within eight months the initial loan of £15,000 was repaid and further government assistance was not required. By 1982, the open cut mine at Mount Morgan was the largest human manufactured hole in Australia. At this time, the cut had extended approximately 320 metres below the original summit of Mount Morgan. Between 1932 and the exhaustion of the ore body in 1981, the open cut produced 41,000,000 tonnes of ore and 89,000,000 million tonnes of waste.

The enormous wealth generated by the mine left its mark on the surrounding region, however, the development of the towns of Mount Morgan and Rockhampton show vastly contrasting evidence of success. Although inseparable from the mine, the town of Mount Morgan reflected little of the fortunes made during mining days. The town was largely for the working miners, with few examples of grandeur and affluence in both the architecture and make up of the town.

In contrast, in Rockhampton, the wealth of Mount Morgan transformed the town from a regional port to a thriving centre. This transformation was due mainly to the fact that Rockhampton, which had experienced the Canoona gold rush in 1858 attracting many prospectors to the area, was in a key position to develop once the Mount Morgan mine began to prosper.

Mount Morgan Mine provided for a range of activities [including technology employed to treat the ore, such as chlorination] resulting in a diverse and complex site. The main shaft was sunk in 1903-05, and at the time of its construction was one of Australia's largest shafts. Mount Morgan pioneered the use of technology with this shaft as the electric winding gear, manufactured by Walkers of Maryborough, used was the first of its type in Australia. The Linda Decline shaft was sunk in 1907 and this was used for transporting men, timber and supplies. It was later used to transport waste material from the open cut. The Linda yard was further developed in the 1930s, to incorporate the existing headframe and winder equipment.

The arrival of copper smelting saw the establishment of the greatest number of tall chimneys, dominating the landscape of the mine. The continual development of the mining activities during the 1900s led to a distinctive landscape not only in terms of topography but also due to the many tall, dominating chimneys. The first chimneys were constructed as part of the lower works and successive chimneys were constructed. The greatest number of chimneys existing on the site was around 1908 when at least six large and several smaller chimneys dominated the landscape. This number gradually declined until the present, when only two remain [Main Stack and Assay Stack].

The first power house was erected in 1897 and in 1908 a towering stack was constructed to give as big an updraught as possible for the poisonous fumes. A second power house was erected in 1912-4. The second power house was constructed in 1912-14 close to the mine itself, and at the time of construction, was the largest in the state. Following the completion of the second powerhouse, the earlier one was converted into assay laboratories and continued to be used until 1990.

Workshop facilities have been located on the site from the beginning of operations. The mine needed to be almost entirely self-sufficient in terms of the production of many parts of equipment and workshops were constructed close to the major treatment plants. In addition to the main crushing and chlorination buildings of the lower works, other buildings were also constructed in the area, known as the lower yards, forming a substantial complex. These included a single quarters block, a sawmill, timber shed, fitters and blacksmiths shop and a stable block. Once the lower works became redundant, workshops were constructed near the new upper works.

A large brick office [now known as the General Office] was constructed on the site from 1897-1902. The building was designed by TG Cornes, architect and builder for the Mount Morgan Gold Mining Company and comprises nine offices surrounded by verandahs. A second stage of the building was added in 1906, creating a draughting office for surveyors, engineers and draughtsmen. The next extension, an addition at the front for clerical staff took place in 1920.

Further changes occurred at the mine in 1968 when Mount Morgan Limited became a subsidiary of Peko Wallsend Limited. The merger created one of Australia's largest mining companies with a dominant Australian equity. Following the merger, a new smelter was constructed in 1972 which continued to operate until 1984. Operations, however, were not without difficulties. An announcement to shareholders that mining would cease before the end of 1976 was made and on 13 February of the same year, staff numbers at the mine were reduced to below 500 [the day is known as Black Friday]. Hard rock mining ceased in 1981.

The end of mining did not signal the end of operations. By 1993, ownership of the mine passed from Mount Morgan Limited to the state. Leases were assigned to Perilya and Aumin for the treatment tailings. As of June 2002, Moonraker Ltd were the holders of the mining leases and are in the process of the preparing to undertake a final recovery process. The Department of Natural Resources and Mines has long-term, large scale rehabilitation of the Mount Morgan Mine planned.


The present form of the Mount Morgan Mine has resulted from mining operations carried out there since the 1880s. Broadly the landscape of the mine is dominated by an open cut mine, several dams and many slag and tailings heaps. The open cut reached a depth of 320 metres below the original summit of Mount Morgan and is about 914 metres by 640 metres in area. A substantial part of the open cut is filled with water and some of the terraces formed during mining are apparent. On all sides of the open cut lie substantial overburden dumps and these form substantial and integral elements of the mine landscape. Another dominant feature of the landscape is the slag heap located near the main entry to the site. The slag was a product of the copper smelting and dates form the earliest copper smelting on the site in about 1900.

Former Lower Works

This is the earliest stage of development and includes the building now known as the old gold room and remnants of part of the plant. The old gold room formed part of the lower chlorination works and was completed in 1886. The building comprises three sections, the small northern wing, large three bay section constructed from rendered brick and recent annexe on the southern end. The remains of two brick tanks from the lower chlorination works and possibly of an early sawmill are in this area.

Assay Area

The assay house was originally erected as the original power house in 1897 and converted in 1912. The building is a timber framed and clad structure with gabled roof clad with corrugated iron. Porthole vents punctuate the gabled ends of the building and several metal exhaust flues punctuate the roof. The building known as the research laboratory, located to the east of the assay houses is a single storeyed timber framed building on a brick plinth and with a gabled roof. The brick assay stack (c1908) has a square planned base and octagonal chimney with finely excited decorative brickwork at the junction of the two. Other small buildings in this area include two small brick sheds, a timber framed fibrous cement shed and an old pump shed. A switch room is a small brick building to the north of the assay houses has a corrugated iron clad roof.

The General Office

The general office is a substantial brick building comprising several wings reflecting a long period of development. The building is elevated on brick piers and has a hipped roof clad with corrugated iron. Wide timber floored verandahs surround the building to which access is provided via a timber twin stair. The interior of this building is generously proportioned and simply detailed. Transoms provide ventilation to each room and roof lights provide natural lighting. The drafting room, (1906) is a large open space with VJ clad partitioning and exposed Queen post trusses below clerestory lighting. Beneath the vinyl of the 1920 hall is a timber block floor.

Housing and Surrounding Area

The area of the site has traditionally been used to provide accommodation for some of the staff. A large timber house (c1920) elevated on timber stumps is constructed with a timber frame and cladding. The verandahs of this house have been enclosed. Two large linked timber buildings dating from the 1920s are known as the Director's and senior staff quarters. The elevate position of this building allows views of the river and town. Wide timber verandahs surround the building and a breezeway connects the two structures. Several other houses dating from various periods re found in this area, along with a tennis court (c1912), pool garage (c1950) and store (c1920).

Linda Decline Shaft and Winder

The Linda decline shaft and winder comprises a substantial timber framework, winder room and winding equipment. The decline shaft and tunnel (1907) intersects with the open cut below water level and both are now sealed. The headframe of the shaft houses winding equipment and tracks to the shaft along with an original Linda decline man car. The winder building (c1930) is a simple timber framed structure with walls and gabled roof clad with corrugated iron. The original Crompton winder engine remains intact within the winder building. The timber remains of a drillers' shed (c1950) are to the north of the Linda decline. A change room (1929-30) is found adjacent to the headframe and is a timber framed building with walls and gabled roof clad with corrugated iron.

Workshop and Main Upper Works Area

A plumbers' workshop (1913-26) is a single storeyed structure of unusual construction. The walls are formed from hand made slag bricks. Timber framing and trusses support the gabled corrugated iron clad roof and a ridge ventilator runs the length of the building. The building is a large open space internally with a mezzanine level supported on timber posts at one end. Early timber moulds are found within the building.

Carpenters' Workshop

The carpenters' workshop (1913-26) is a substantial timber framed and clad building elevated on timber stumps. Its gabled roof is supported on timber trusses and clad in corrugated iron. The interior, like that of the other workshop, is essentially a large open space and the building houses a number of early moulds and equipment. To the north of the workshop area is a slab brick retaining wall.

An old workshop (1912-13) accommodates a foundry, machine shop, blacksmiths' shop, fitting shop and boiler shop. This is a substantial building with single and paired timber posts supporting a long gabled corrugated iron clad roof. The sides of the building are generally open although there is also some corrugated iron and timber sheeting. Concrete is used to floor the building, although in some areas the floor is earthen. Several simple timber framed annexes are attached to the eastern side of the workshop.

In this area is also a timber framed and corrugated iron clad bicycle shed (1920); small timber gatehouse with gabled roof; No. 1 Store (1913) which is a rectangular building brick building with slag brick internal partitions with gabled roof clad with corrugated iron; No 2 store (c1945) timber building on concrete slab; second power house (1912) a substantial brick building with timber and steel framed gabled roof clad with corrugated iron containing much early equipment; No 4 Store timber post framed with gabled corrugated iron clad roof.

The Main Stack (1905) is a large brick structure, towering over the site. Recently about 7 metres of brickwork, including corbelling has been removed from the top of the stack due to instability. Both the north and south faces of the stack contain arched openings, the southern one filled in with brickwork.

The upper works and smelter is a complex agglomeration of structures from various periods of development including a coal bunker, chimney flue, brick wall, coal storage area, plant and black tank. Some evidence, including the built up timber and earth foundations of the tracks of the railway in this area remains. Several small buildings known as the smelter offices (1939-40) remain in this area. These building are constructed with a veneer of ash bricks. As well evidence remains of the old No 1 mill, flotation shed and two explosive magazines.

Image gallery


Location of Mount Morgan Mine Site within Queensland
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Last reviewed
1 July 2022
Last updated
20 February 2022