Leave grandma and go wrestle with cowboys

ONCE I was a freelance journalist based in Perth.

10 months of the year I lived with Grandma and watched Breaking Bad.

That’s a joke. Because it only took two weeks to watch all the episodes.

The work didn’t come often. When I did I enjoyed dressing in a suit enjoying how people treated me more important than what I was. And I enjoyed bludging three out of four weeks.

But I couldn’t do what I did forever.

Because of money!

A week’s work was enough for me to live the skinflint dream for three weeks but if in the months that followed my car broke down or I ran out of rego I was screwed.

Thank God for grandmas. Even if she was a control freak sometimes.

Grandma would be worth her own blog post, but that’s not where I’m going with this. It’s really just chatter to explain how desperate I was when I took the job as a reporter in Mount Isa, Qld.

Two days after my interview I learned that a snake ate a crocodile in the nearby dam. Maybe you heard about it.

snake eats crocodile

The Brisbane Times

I still have not forgotten my flight into Mount Isa airport. You can see the dam where a surely dead bloated snake haunts. You can see the mine. And you can see the town in the shadow of it.

Mount Isa

This photo wasn’t taken from the conventional look-out position, which you can see in the photo if you know where to look. Photo: Chris Burns

The copper and zinc deposits in the region are rich. We’re not just talking Mount Isa. In fact, Cloncurry, the next town over, is more productive when it comes to mining copper.


Holding native copper at the CuDECO Rocklands site in Cloncurry. This may look like dirt, but it feels like a dirty shovel.

The other thing is how many uranium deposits there are in this part of Qld. The legalisation of mining uranium is a big deal for Mount Isa since there are at least three deposits nearby.

The last uranium mine in Qld is at Mary Kathleen, which was closed in the 1980s. It’s open for the tendering process as there’s more uranium in the ground. In the waste piles there are also rare earths elements. There’s only one mine in Australia that mines rare earths. They are used for making advanced technologies like batteries, and camera lens, and lasers.

Mary K

I’m standing in front of the old Mary K uranium pit. There are rumours that some locals like to swim in the pit. I believe it.

Mount Isa tries to bring in the tourism, and it does this through Outback at the Isa. Years ago, tourists were allowed to tour the Mount Isa Mines. Unfortunately, restrictions and safety concerns increased. So a fake mine was built in the town.

Here’s a rare photo of the underground Hard Times Mine, as the tourists are not allowed to take photos.


It’s not all about mines though. You’ve got the traditional station owners and rodeo sports. Mount Isa is proud of its “world famous rodeo” but the nearby town Cloncurry also has a good rodeo too.


So what I’m trying to say is this; go out and get a job in the country, explore, do more. Ride a bull.  Get drunk with mining CEOs. Wrestle with cowboys.



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