BHP celebrates 130 years

One of the world’s largest miners has celebrated a new milestone, marking 130 years in business.

The long and storied history of the miner began in 1883 when German-born sheep boundary rider Charles Rasp, who had become interested in prospecting following the Silverton silver rush, was working close to the Broken Hill and decided to take a few samples of the surrounding area.

Two contractors excavating a dam nearby, David James and Jim Poole, were shown the samples and helped Rasp put a lease over the area, after which they sent assay samples to Adelaide, which demonstrated traces of lead and silver.

Despite low silver readings in the initial samples the men hired a miner to drill at depths, and formed syndicate with four pastoralists, including the station manager George McCulloch.

In 1884 the project started to come together, with assaying showing up to 700 ounces of silver per ton.

The following year the company listed at the price of £9 per share.

By 1886 the site had its own smelter and a capacity of 100 tonnes per day.

The same year BHP hired William Patton, from the massive Comstock mine in the US, to be the operation’s lead engineer.

By 1888 the share prices in the company had risen from £9 to £409.

Since that time the company has grown in leaps and bounds from a small three man operation to its current position as a multinational behemoth.

Speaking on this milestone, BHP CEO Andrew Mackenzie said it is an opportunity to reflect on the company’s long history.

"It’s not often that we get the opportunity to stop and take a look at where we have come from, but history has a lot to teach us," Mackenzie said.

"From humble beginnings mining silver and lead at Broken Hill and tin at Billiton (Belitung) island, Indonesia, in the mid-1800s, it has been a long journey to becoming the world’s largest diversified resources company.

"We have been part of iconic events that have shaped the nation, such as providing steel for the Sydney Harbour Bridge and being part of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation which produced the first military aircraft in Australia.”

Mackenzie went on to outline the miner’s contributions to Australia in the last financial year, delivering $27 billion to the economy.

“In addition, BHP contributed US$59.5 million through voluntary community investment to support social and environmental programs, and the BHP Foundation committed $55 million to support science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education outcomes across Australia,” the miner said in a company statement.

"We are proud of our long history in Australia, and the contribution we make, and will continue to make, to this country and beyond for decades to come," Mackenzie said.

To mark the celebration, BHP has developed a video with Australian mining historian Geoffrey Blainey, called Beyond the Surface.

Click here to watch the film.


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