Mount Isa

For the Queensland electoral division, see Electoral district of Mount Isa.
Mount Isa

Mount Isa
Mount Isa
Coordinates 20°44′0″S 139°30′0″E / 20.73333°S 139.50000°E / -20.73333; 139.50000Coordinates: 20°44′0″S 139°30′0″E / 20.73333°S 139.50000°E / -20.73333; 139.50000
Population 21,821 (2015)[1]
 • Density 347.47/km2 (899.9/sq mi)
Established 1923
Postcode(s) 4825
Elevation 356 m (1,168 ft)
Area 62.8 km2 (24.2 sq mi)[2] (2011 urban)
Time zone AEST (UTC+10)
LGA(s) City of Mount Isa
Mean max temp Mean min temp Annual rainfall
31.8 °C
89 °F
17.3 °C
63 °F
454.3 mm
17.9 in

Mount Isa (/ˈzə/ EYE-zə) is a city in the Gulf Country region of Queensland, Australia. It came into existence because of the vast mineral deposits found in the area. Mount Isa Mines (MIM) is one of the most productive single mines in world history, based on combined production of lead, silver, copper and zinc.[3]

With an estimated urban population of 21,821 as at June 2015,[1] 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[4] 19 kilometres (12 mi) north of the city on the Leichhardt River provides both drinking water and an area for watersports, birdwatching and recreation. Locals often refer to Mount Isa as "The Isa".[5]

Due to the lead production in the city, Mount Isa has one of the most intensive air quality monitoring systems in Australia.[6] Concerns have been raised over childhood lead contamination and air pollution within the city.[7][8]


The Attorney General of Queensland, John Mullan, officially opened the railway line on 6 April 1929
Smelter interior, 1932
Township, 1932
Main street, ~1936

The land around the present day city of Mount Isa was home to the Kalkadoon aboriginal tribe. The Kalkadoon tribe led a subsistence lifestyle on this land that the white settlers looked at as nothing but poor grazing land, with the odd mineral deposit. As settlers and prospectors pressed further into their lands the Kalkadoon tribe members set out on one of Australia's most successful guerrilla wars in a fight for their lands. Their success continued until at Battle Mountain in 1884, with what some historians have called a rush of blood, the tribe attacked a fortified position in large numbers and suffered terrible losses. The weakened state of the tribe made their land more vulnerable to the settlers and soon much of the land was lost. Armed patrols chasing the surviving tribe members and poor grazing lands for the settlers made times hard in the area over the following decades.

It is said that a lone prospector, John Campbell Miles, stumbled upon one of the world's richest deposits of copper, silver and zinc during his 1923 expedition into the Northern Territory, but many people do not know that he was taken to the deposits by a young aboriginal man by the name of Kabalulumana (for whom an Indigenous person's hostel in Mount Isa is named).[9] When Miles inspected the yellow-black rocks in a nearby outcrop, they reminded him of the ore found in the Broken Hill mine that he had once worked at. Upon inspection these rocks were weighty and heavily mineralised. A sample sent away to the assayer in Cloncurry confirmed their value. Miles and four farmers staked out the first claims in the area. Taken with friend's stories of the Mount Ida gold mines in Western Australia, Miles decided upon Mount Isa as the name for his new claim.

Mount Isa Post Office opened on 1 August 1924.[10]

A location for the town's hospital was chosen in 1929, with a small building completed the following year.[11] In 1931, a larger structure was moved to the site from the closed mining town of Kuridala.[11]

Heritage listings

Mount Isa has a number of heritage-listed sites, including:


Mount Isa at local level is part of the City of Mount Isa, at state level is part of the electoral district of Mount Isa in the Legislative Assembly of Queensland, and at federal level is part of the Division of Kennedy in the Australian House of Representatives. The mayor of Mount Isa, after the 2015 Local Government Elections, is Joyce Mccullough. The City of Mount Isa LGA jurisdiction, covering 43,188 km2[18] (17th largest in Queensland), is one of the largest in the world in terms of area and takes in the border town of Camooweal, 188 km (117 mi) to the north-west of Mount Isa and 12 km (7.5 mi) from the border of the Northern Territory.

Local industry and business

Mount Isa's industry is largely dependent on mining. Xstrata Plc operates the Mount Isa Mines lease adjacent to the city, 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 (12 mi) 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 the largest copper mining and smelting operations in the country.[19] Copper and lead are smelted on site, with copper anodes and zinc concentrate being transported 900 km (560 mi) 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 (25 mi) out.

In 2008 a Queensland Health report found that more than 10% of children in Mount Isa had blood lead levels above World Health Organization recommendations. The mining operator Xstrata denied responsibility and stated that the town has naturally high levels of lead in the soil.[20] However, a more recent study led by Macquarie University environmental engineers has used lead isotope analysis to show conclusively that the lead ingested had originated from smelted ore and not surface deposits.[21][22]


Underground hospital

Attractions include the Hard Times Mine at "Outback at Isa" and The Mount Isa Rodeo and Mardi Gras (held on the same weekend) has given Mount Isa the title of "Rodeo Capital of Australia". The occasion may well triple the city's population in these few days. A memorial has been made especially for the Rodeo, down Rodeo Drive; the sidewalks have special memorials embedded in the cement.

The burial place of John Campbell Miles, the founder of Mount Isa, is on the corner of Rodeo Drive and Miles Street. His ashes are buried underneath a large statue where each panel represents a significant part of Mount Isa. Miles' ashes used to be watched over by a large clock where the statue now stands.

The World War II-era Mount Isa Underground Hospital is an historical building that has been registered on the Register of the National Estate and the Queensland Heritage Register. It is an air-raid shelter which could function as a hospital was a precautionary measure taken after Darwin was bombed in 1942.[11] Local miners excavated the site which remains today as the only underground health facility in Queensland which was built during World War II.[11]

The Xstrata Mount Isa Lake Moondarra Fishing Classic is held annually, and after 2011 will also be followed by a Fishing, Camping and 4x4 Expo. The Fishing classic is the richest fresh water fishing event in Queensland.[23] Catching the tagged Barramundi fetches the greatest prize money.


Mount Isa experiences a hot semi-arid climate (Köppen climate classification BSh). The summer/wet season is very hot with highly variable rainfall and humidity owing to the erratic influence of the monsoon. This can be almost non-existent in years like 1985/1986, where as little as 83 millimetres (3.3 in) fell from December to March, or extremely intense as in 1973/1974 when 789 mm (31.1 in) of rain fell over the same period. A typical summer includes numerous hot windy days over 40 °C with clear skies and low humidity, a few weeks of 35-40 °C temperatures with higher humidity and spectacular thunderstorms and a few days with heavy monsoon rain and cooler conditions below 30 °C.

The winter or dry season is warm and almost completely rainless with median monthly rainfalls from April to September below 2 mm (0.08 in), though nights can be quite cool and about once every three years a minimum below 0 °C (32 °F) is recorded. On rare occasions winter rain-bearing systems may bring heavy rain for a day or two, such as June 2007, when 111.8 mm (4.40 in) of rain was recorded, however such occurrences happen only every 5 years or less. The lowest temperature recorded at Mount Isa is −2.9 °C (26.8 °F) on 7 July 1984 and the hottest is 45.9 °C (114.6 °F) on 29 January 1990. The wettest 24 hour period on record was 213.0 mm (8.39 in) on 15 January 2004.

Climate data for Mount Isa
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 45.9
Average high °C (°F) 36.3
Average low °C (°F) 23.8
Record low °C (°F) 15.4
Average rainfall mm (inches) 118.8
Average rainy days (≥ 0.2 mm) 10.2 9.3 6.0 2.3 1.8 1.0 1.0 0.9 1.7 3.4 5.5 7.7 50.8
Average relative humidity (%) 35 38 32 27 29 28 25 20 18 18 22 27 27
Source: Australian Bureau of Meteorology[24]

Culture and sport

Athletics,[25] Rugby League, cricket, netball, soccer, field hockey, Rugby Union, Australian Rules Football and tennis are the most common sports but Shooting, Squash, Softball, Basketball and Ten-Pin bowling are also present. Mount Isa has a Go Kart Club[26] situated off Duchess Road on the southern side of town.

Mount Isa also has a cinema complex, situated in the inner city on Rodeo Drive, that contains three air-conditioned cinemas, a skate park/aquatic centre and a multi-purpose sporting complex for basketball and other indoor sports. Mount Isa's events complex, Buchanan Park, opened in May 2007, can hold up to 6,000 people and is used for special events such as concerts and expos. It is also the home of the city's annual show and rodeo.

In 2008, plans were made to build a massive motor sports complex on the city's north-eastern outskirts, but as of 2016 it had not been built.[27]

The city is known for its annual Rodeo and Mardi Gras street parade every August. There is also an annual Multicultural Festival in early September.

The local theater group, the Mount Isa Theatrical Society, also known as MITS, often holds plays and musicals, at least once every few months.

In July 2015, Mt Isa formed its own Symphony Orchestra, acclaimed as the "most remote in the world".[28] Inaugurated on 23 July, the event attracted several stars of the music world, including world-famous jazz musician James Morrison. Morrison also figured in the premiere of Matthew Dewey's 'Symphony of the Inland Sea', composed for the occasion.[28]


Mount Isa had an estimated resident population of 21,821 people in 2015,[1] housed in 6,285 dwellings,[2] making the city the largest and most populous in Queensland's western interior, and one of the largest centres in outback Australia. The district population is 30,942 and incorporates the Cloncurry, Boulia, Burketown, Carpentaria, Doomadgee, Flinders, Mornington and Richmond shires.

The 2011 census found that 52.8% of residents were male and 47.2% were female.[29] However, a rumour has circulated that the ratio of males to females living in Mount Isa was five to one. Former Mayor John Molony drew international press attention in August 2008 when he told the Townsville Bulletin newspaper that Mount Isa's gender imbalance made it a good place for "not so attractive" women to live.[30][31]

Franchises such as McDonald's, KFC, Hungry Jacks, Pizza Hut, Subway, K-Mart, Best & Less, Donut King, Coffee Club, Blockbuster, Harvey Norman, Bunnings, Boating Camping and Fishing and EB Games have established stores in Mount Isa, as well as many smaller locally owned businesses, many in the Mount Isa Village Shopping Complex and Simpson Central Arcade in the Central Business District.


Mining in 1951
Mt Isa Street, 1962

The Leichhardt River divides the city into areas known as "mineside" and "townside". Xstrata, the power station and the Airport are on the mineside, whilst the majority of the city, including the CBD and Base Hospital are on the townside. In recent years, population increases associated with the mining boom has increased demand for accommodation and land. The city has begun to spread out, with new suburbs in the south-east and north of the city being planned or developed. It is planned these expansions will cater for more than 40,000 people over the next 10 to 20 years.[32]



Mount Isa city and surrounds are serviced by a 35 vehicle taxi service. A taxi service known as "Isa-Curry" express transports passengers to and from the neighbouring centre of Cloncurry to Mount Isa and back again, usually for shopping and medical requirements. Additionally, many of the city's clubs have courtesy buses to and from their establishments that run seven days a week and into the early hours of the morning. Mount Isa Coaches is a locally owned and operated coach company that provides tours and charter services to the local community as well as mining, sporting, school and airport transfers. Greyhound Australia has a depot in Mount Isa, with coach services to and from Townsville, Brisbane and Tennant Creek.

Mount Isa Airport has regular daily services to Brisbane, Cairns and Townsville, in addition to other services to remote Outback communities in western Queensland. The primary carriers which service Mount Isa and district are Qantas/QantasLink - Brisbane and Townsville; AirNorth - Darwin and Gold Coast; Regional Express - Townsville. In November 2009, it was announced that Skytrans and Westwing Aviation will commence flights in and out of Mount Isa to and from cities on the coast, commencing in February 2010. Regional Express (REX) also announced flights between Mount Isa and Townsville starting after December 2009. Virgin Australia (VA) began services in August 2012 and offers return services from Brisbane on weekdays.

The city is served by QR passenger train The Inlander, which travels overnight to Townsville twice a week in each direction.

Long distance rail services
Preceding station   Queensland Rail   Following station
toward Townsville
The InlanderTerminus

Water infrastructure

Panorama of Lake Moondarra from lookout above Transport Bay. July 2014. Mount Isa, Queensland.

Mount Isa's water is supplied from Lake Moondarra, 13 km (8.1 mi) from Mount Isa, and from Lake Julius, 60 km (37 mi) from Mount Isa. As it costs approximately twice as much to supply water from Lake Julius, the water is normally drawn from Lake Moondarra. However, during periods of drought, it becomes necessary to draw water supplies from Lake Julius. The three major water users are the Mount Isa Mines, Incitec Pivot and the Mount Isa City Council (which in turn supplies residents and smaller businesses).[34]

Due to a prolonged drought, water levels in Lake Moondarra have become very low. In April 2013, it was forecast that Lake Moondarra would be reduced to 40% of capacity by July 2013, which would trigger the need to supply additional water from Lake Julius. The increased cost to the Mount Isa Council for water was estimated to be $800,000 per year ($114 each for 7000 households).[35] Water restrictions in the town were escalated in April 2013 to reduce water consumption.[36] Boating on Lake Moondarra would be restricted if water levels reduced to 20% for safety reasons as the lower water levels would reveal obstructions.[35] The fish in the lake will be at risk if Lake Moondarra falls to 10% capacity.[37]

Water has traditionally been processed using a natural filtration process involving reed beds in a large isolated lagoon, which, after disinfecting, produced water to acceptable standards under the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.[34] However, the prolonged drought has produced climatic conditions that have caused blooms of blue-green algae in Lake Moondarra, Lake Julius and the Clear Water Lagoon, necessitating the temporary introduction of a large filtration plant to remove the algae.[34]

On 22 January 2015, Lake Moondarra was at 85.3% capacity.[38]


Mount Isa State School, 1929

Mount Isa has eight public primary schools and three private primary schools:

And four high schools:

And Early Childhood Education:

The residential campus of Spinifex College is unique in the fact that it is the only State-run boarding-type school in Queensland and it caters to all the outlying towns and cattle-properties as far away as the gulf. Mount Isa is also home to the School of the Air, a unique-to-Australia way of schooling isolated students in Australia's vast lightly populated country areas. The city also holds the main campus of the Mount Isa Institute of TAFE, offering courses in a wide range of fields, including mining, agriculture and trades. In addition, James Cook University has a presence, with the Mount Isa Centre for Rural and Remote Health in the Base Hospital complex.


Mount Isa Community Advice & Info Facebook Page:


The following radio stations are available in the Mount Isa region:


Five broadcast television services operate in Mount Isa — commercial stations Imparja Television and Southern Cross7 (formerly known as ITQ Channel 8, QQQ, QTV and QSTV- Queensland Satellite Regional Television), and the Government-owned ABC and SBS. Imparja has a programming affiliation agreement with the Nine Network. Aboriginal focused channel NITV (National Indigenous Television) broadcasts on UHF Channel 35.

Digital Television transmissions have commenced in Mount Isa. New channels provided by the ABC and SBS can be received with a digital set top box or digital television. Additional channels from the commercial broadcasters that are available in most other areas of Australia are expected to commence transmission in 2011-2012. Analogue television transmissions will be switched off by 31 December 2013.


The North West Star is a local newspaper which is printed daily Monday to Friday. Also available is the The Courier-Mail, The Sunday Mail and Townsville Bulletin.

Notable people

See also


  1. 1 2 3 "3218.0 – Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2014-15: Population Estimates by Significant Urban Area, 2005 to 2015". Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 30 March 2016. Retrieved 12 September 2016. Estimated resident population, 30 June 2015.
  2. 1 2 "2011 Census Community Profiles: Mount Isa". ABS Census. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  3. "Mt Isa".
  4. "Mount Isa Water Board - Trustee of Lake Moondarra, Mount Isa".
  5. Official Mt. Isa page, using "The Isa" term
  6. "Air quality in Mount Isa". Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  7. "Compelling new evidence shows Mount Isa mining emissions are contaminating the city and are the cause of childhood lead poisoning". Macquarie University. 17 May 2013. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  8. "Mining blamed for Mount Isa's woes". Brisbane Times. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  9. "Aboriginal Hostels Limited".
  10. Premier Postal History. "Post Office List". Premier Postal Auctions. Retrieved 10 May 2014.
  11. 1 2 3 4 Cook, Penny (2006). Discover Queensland Heritage. Corinda, Queensland: Pictorial Press Australia. p. 17. ISBN 1876561424.
  12. "Former Underground Hospital, Mount Isa (entry 601102)". Queensland Heritage Register. Queensland Heritage Council. Retrieved 11 July 2013.
  13. "Tent House (Mount Isa) (entry 600742)". Queensland Heritage Register. Queensland Heritage Council. Retrieved 11 July 2013.
  14. "Mount Isa tent house on the move". 15 March 2013.
  15. "Bower Bird Battery (entry 601863)". Queensland Heritage Register. Queensland Heritage Council. Retrieved 11 July 2013.
  16. "Mount Isa Mine Early Infrastructure (entry 601182)". Queensland Heritage Register. Queensland Heritage Council. Retrieved 11 July 2013.
  17. "Casa Grande (entry 601094)". Queensland Heritage Register. Queensland Heritage Council. Retrieved 11 July 2013.
  18. "3218.0 – Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2014-15: Population Estimates by Local Government Area (ASGS 2015), 2005 to 2015". Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 30 March 2016. Retrieved 12 September 2016. Estimated resident population, 30 June 2015.
  19. "Chapter - Profile of major minerals, oil and gas". Australian Bureau of Statistics.
  20. "Mount Isa Community: Lead Screening Program 2006-7" (PDF). Queensland Government. May 2008. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
  21. "Xstrata mining emissions causing lead poisoning". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 17 June 2013. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  22. Mackay, A.K., Taylor, M.P., Munksgaard, N.C., Hudson-Edwards, K.A., Burn-Nunes, L. (September 2013). "Identification of environmental lead sources, pathways and forms in a mining and smelting town: Mount Isa, Australia.". Environmental Pollution. 180: 304–311. doi:10.1016/j.envpol.2013.05.007.
  23. Lake Moondarra Fishing Classic. Retrieved 16 March 2013.
  24. "Climate statistics for Mount Isa". Australian Bureau of Meteorology. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
  25. "Mt Isa Athletics - Home".
  26. "Australian Karting Association (Qld) Incorporated".
  27. WALTON, SAMANTHA (7 March 2016). "Mt Isa wants motorsports".
  28. 1 2 Burns, Chris (17 March 2015). "Mount Isa symphony orchestra 'most remote in the world'". Daily Advertiser. Retrieved 29 July 2015.
  29. Australian Bureau of Statistics (31 October 2012). "Mount Isa (Urban Centre and Locality)". 2011 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  30. Ugly girls welcome, says beer goggle capital
  31. "Outback mayor seeks "ugly duckling" women". 18 August 2016 via Reuters.
  33. "Units — 51st Battalion, Far North Queensland Regiment". Australian Army.
  34. 1 2 3 "Frequently asked questions". Mount Isa Water Board. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  35. 1 2 Barber, Jasmine (10 April 2013). "Running dry". The North West Star. Fairfax Regional Media. Archived from the original on 4 October 2014. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  36. "Level 2 Water Restrictions". Mount Isa City Council. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  37. Stephens, Kate (4 February 2014). "Drought threatens Lake Moondarra barra supplies". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  38. "Mount Isa Water Board". Mount Isa Water Board. Archived from the original on 4 October 2014. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
  39. "Bill Sweetenham: the bloke from Mt Isa saving British swimming". The Sydney Morning Herald. 13 August 2003.
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Mount Isa.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Mount Isa, Queensland.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 10/31/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.