The mine that later became known as Radium Hill was first known as Smith’s Carnotite Mine, after Mr Arthur J Smith who pegged the first claim at the site in 1906. This was Australia’s first Uranium mine.
For the next two years Mr Smith mined Uranium Ore at the site. The mineral was initially named named ‘Davidite’ by geologist and explorer Sir Douglas Mawson, who also proposed the name Radium Hill for the site on 4 September 1906
When Mr Smith’s claim lapsed in 1908 it was taken over by the Radium Hill Company, who sunk more shafts and mined at Radium Hill until the beginning of WWI in 1914. During this period the miners and their families lived in humpies and tents alongside Olary Creek.
|Main Shaft Headframe. The headframe stood 40 metres high above the 420 metre deep main shaft (courtesy Radium Hill Historical Association Inc)|
Mining operations were recommenced by the Radium and Rare Earth Treatment Company N.L. in 1923 and continued until 1931.
A detailed geological survey was undertaken in 1944. Preliminary exploration of the site was made in 1946 and diamond drilling began the following year. In March 1952 an agreement was entered into to purchase the mine’s uranium output, initially for defence purposes, between the Commonwealth Government, the South Australian Government, and the Combined Development Agency of the United States and United Kingdom.
The mine was officially opened on 10 November 1954 and mining continued until its official closure on 21 December 1961. During its operations in excess of 3,000 people worked at the Radium Hill mine. By 1987 lung cancer had claimed the lives of 54 ex-miners and many more have died since this time.
By the late 1950s around 1,000 people were living at Radium Hill and were accommodated in 165 houses and more than 200 two-man cubicles. Stores, a hospital, post office, police station, bank, school and kindergarten, swimming pool, Wet Canteen, library, drive in cinema, churches and police station were all established to service the community.
|Radium Hill Aerial View, 1955 (courtesy Radium Hill Historical Association Inc)|
In 1981 Radium Hill became the first Australian State Government Gazetted Radio-active waste Dump site.
The Radium Hill ghost town and mine site are located 110 kilometres south-west of Broken Hill and 460 kilometres north-east of Adelaide. Plaques have now been erected on the sites of former houses and business premises at Radium Hill while the main shaft head frame ore bin still remains as a reminder of the mining era.