Mary Kathleen used to be a Uranium Mining Town, it’s about 55 km from Mt Isa and 62 km from Cloncurry and currently is just a bitumen road leading off the northern side of the Barkly Highway into the bush with barely visible series of old streets, the old bustling uranium mining town is now just an unmarked bit of Queensland history you wouldn’t even know you were driving past unless you were stopping to camp overnight to have a look around.
The population at its peak for Mary Kathleen swelled to close to 1000 people through the booms.
Burke and Wills passed through the Mary Kathleen area in 1861, as they did with many of the towns in Queensland and it was duly settled by pastoralists in the late 1860’s.
Mary Kathleen’s uranium discovery was made by Clem Walton and Norm McConachy back in 1954 and was named after McConachy’s wife, the township was to bear the same name also.
In the following four years a syndicate was formed, a town was built, the contract was signed with the UK Atomic Energy Authority and the Mary Kathleen Mine was brought into production to export to the world.
The prospecting and exploitation rights were subsequently on sold and in 1955 Rio Tinto Mining formed the company Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd to develop a mine and also service the town.
An architecturally designed town grew during 1956 to 1958 with reticulated water from a dam at Lake Corella.
By late 1963 the original contract was finished and with no future sales due to a worldwide over supply of uranium, the mine closed and the plant was put onto maintenance.
In the early 1970’s you could walk through a suburb of Mary Kathleen and all there was to see were deserted houses and streets or you could visit the outdoor picture theatre with its empty deck chairs.
After the Mary Kathleen’s rise and fall new contracts were negotiated with Japanese, American and German power authorities, so operations then recommenced in 1974, the town and mine once again turning into a thriving community for a short while, but closed again in 1976.
The mine finally closed down at the end of 1982, which was the beginning of the end for the Mary Kathleen township.
By 1983 the moveable workforce and the whole township were gone after being put up for auction, this left only the streets and concrete pads for future generations to see.
As I’ve said at the beginning, now all there is where Mary Kathleen used to be is memories and an unmarked myriad of streets next to the road on the drive half way between Mount Isa and Cloncurry.