[138] Lake Mary Kathleen – Radioactive Lake

Mines come and go, and so does life around it. While watching the blue water, I’m both disgust and fascinated at the same time. This is Lake Mary Kathleen.

The blue colour is precious, yet so precious you have to understand it is not natural. Not at all. In fact, this isn’t a natural lake, it is a man-made lake, and not in such a way as the Lake Argyle.

Magic Blue

Whereas the surroundings of Lake Argyle are curvy and shaped by the water and nature itself; the walls of lake Mary Kathleen are sharp, straight and marked by the mining process of decades. Layer by layer the material was digged out of the ground, eventually resulting in the up-side-down pyramid shaped crater.

At the bottom of the crater rests the Lake Mary Kathleen. The blue water watching me as a magical mirror, precious but dangerous. Attractive to go for a paddle as one of the visitors suggest me, but destructive as soon as you enter.

This is the Lake Mary Kathleen, the lake formed in the pit of an abandoned uranium mine. The site is still radio-active, and hence you shouldn’t spend a long time here, let along go swimming in it.

Yet, that is precisely what people do: spending time here. However, the old mine site is open for public, and a camping ground is formed at the fundaments of the old time, there is no warning for the radioactivity, let alone for the past at all.


Footprints of the Past

Less than 10 kms from the abandoned uranium pit is the ghost town Mary Kathleen. There are the streets, the fundaments of the old buildings, left behind as footprints of the past. Yet, the houses were replaced back to Mount Isa or even one to Conclury. The inhabitants followed with them of course.

It is hard to imagine how only a couple of decades ago there must have been a school, a library, a cafeteria, a couple of houses – there lift 1,100 people here – and even a small hospital – with 6 beds and a doctor and a swimming pool.

Live must have been great in the village of Mary Kathleen.


Waves of Life

Yet, mines come and go and so goes the story for Mary Kathleen. While the village was designed and developed for the mine, the village was pulled down and moved when the mine was closed as well.

Moreover, the remainders of both the town as the mine are still there, reminding us of how economic dynamics shape our lives. Good to know, when you here about new mining projects going to start and promising jobs and development opportunities, good to know that these will be temporary. When the mine goes, so will its surroundings.

The Case of Mary Kathleen is not a unique case, in Queensland there are about 120 complex Abandoned mine sites, while in Australia there are about 60,000. All these sites have left their footprint on earth, and not always in the most environmentally friendly way – let alone social and economic one.

This topic will bring me to more stories later on, yet in the meantime feel free to watch my vlog on Mining & Men.


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