Minerals were discovered in the late 1800’s and the township of Chillagoe was formed in 1900 by the workers who toiled in the copper smelter, the mines and supportive infrastructure. Although Chillagoe dominated the economy of Far North Queensland for more than 40 years, the smelter was problematic due to a lack of ore supplies, fluctuating mineral prices, even a fire and cyclone played their part in its demise.
When the smelter closed in 1943, Chillagoe would’ve surely died if it wasn’t for the cattle trade and tourism created by the vast cave systems that were constantly being discovered in the region.
Due to my previous association with Chillagoe, I have a comprehensive knowledge of the region and visit it on a Two Day Outback Tour to these incredible subterranean environments, marble quarries, historic sites and other points of interest in the region. Today Chillagoe’s population is about 300 with some of the families in the region since the smelter days and others who enjoy the lifestyle and Outback hospitality. Mining still haunts the town with a lime works being established in 1970 and marble quarrying in 1982 and there are still regular discoveries of new ore bodies. The town has a fine collection of historic buildings and is a good example of an Outback town with an Aboriginal component. Although Chillagoe is a 2.5-hour drive from Cairns, it’s a must-see destination for those who wish to experience what Far North Queensland has to offer.
Many millions of years ago the Chillagoe region was the coastline of Queensland. Huge coral reefs slipped off the continental shelf and became buried beneath many kilometers of silt, the pressure transforming it to limestone. It later becoming exposed to volcanic activity transforming much of the limestone to marble and creating a reaction that caused intense mineralisation. As Australia eroded away, it exposed a combination of Limestone riddled with caves, marble and minerals. The mineralisation has created uniquely coloured marble with rich copper deposits on the fringes of these bluffs.
More information can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chillagoe,_Queensland
or have a look at the Perentie Tours home page