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22 February, 2022

Part of Chillagoe history collapses

ONE of the far north’s most treasured historical sites is in danger of falling down, with the top section of the main Chillagoe Smelter chimney collapsing and locals are calling for the site to be protected against further potential damage.

By Rhys Thomas

The Chillagoe Smelters have been standing for over 121 years, built in 1901 and utilised for the smelting of copper found in the surrounding area. 

It is suspected that on 6 February between around 7.30pm-8pm, a lightning strike or earthquake caused the top portion of the main chimney to collapse. 

The Chillagoe Smelters are not only a Heritage- Listed site, they are also a crucial part of Chillagoe’s culture and footprint, bringing in thousands of tourists each year. 

Concerned local and historian Duncan Ray is concerned that without follow up action and remediation works, the main chimney and others could face irreversible damages. 

The smelters in its heyday in the early 1900s.

“As a significant part of the Heritage-Listed Chillagoe Smelters site, I am concerned that if nothing is done to stabilise the top of the chimney, further lightning strikes and rainwater damage may completely destroy the chimney,” he said. 

“I have suggested that a heritage assessment of the chimney be made and plans to stabilise the current top and installation a lightning rod be considered.” 

The main chimney was bought by a concerned member of the community in the early 1950s in an effort to preserve it as a memorial to the thousands of people who worked there over the decades. 

Plans to save the main chimney on the hill were discussed in the 1970s, however the plans were changed and only the powerhouse chimney was repaired and protected. 

The Department of Environmental Science (DES) is aware of the disintegration and undertook an immediate site assessment to assess the extent of the damage. 

A DES spokesperson said Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) had developed a strategy to identify safety risks and ensure the site is well preserved. 

“The QPWS has developed a Chillagoe- Mungana National Park Historic Cultural Heritage Strategy to inform ongoing management of the Smelters site,” the spokesperson said. 

“This strategy identifies safety risks to visitors and outlines management actions to ensure the site is well preserved. 

“In conjunction with this strategy, the QPWS is exploring options to engage with engineers and cultural heritage experts to effectively assess the condition of the smelter chimneys.” 

DES has also revealed that this particular damage could not have been caused by lighting as there were no storms around during the day the damages took place.

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