With the likelihood of Mount Isa finally being connected to the east coast electricity grid, we look back on the chequered history of power supply in the city.
John Campbell Miles discovered the massive Mount Isa ore body in 1923 but it took five years for electricity to follow him.
A businessman named Harry J. Smith began electricity reticulation by supply four blocks in the centre of town. Smith was an Englishman who worked as a navvy for Queensland Rail and carried mail to the west before going into business.
As Christine Doran wrote in her 1990 thesis "a history of electricity supply in North Queensland from 1897 to 1987" he owned a hotel and picture theatre at Kuridala and launched similar ventures when he was among the first to move to the new Isa field in 1923.
Smith owned the Isa Hotel on Marian and Miles, the Star Theatre on Marian and West, and an adjacent iceworks and it was to supply power to these businesses that Smith sought an order-in-council in 1928.
His power station was a corrugated iron shed behind the iceworks on West St.
Initially Smith had two small generators driven by a 30 horsepower Crossley diesel engine running direct current but as customers increased so did the electricity system.
In 1931 he won the contract to supply the whole town and appointed Albert Axon as consutant engineer
Axon installed a 105 horsepower Crossley engine and a 64 kilowatt alternator at the West St site to supply the town's first alternating current.
Power was expensive due to diesel transport costs and lighting charges were set at 1 shilling fourpence per unit with a 25% discount for prompt payment.
The hospital came online on 1934, one of among 130 consumers and to support this the plant added two more generators - a three cylinder Ruston Hornsby and an eight cylinder Allen diesel.
The system wasn't perfect with blackouts common and Smith was accused of threatening to cut off the supply of business competitors if they used other electrical contractors.
Harry was joined in the business by his 33-year-old son Norm in 1934 and Norm took full control in 1939. Norm Smith was later elected to Cloncurry Shire Council and then served as the Labor (later QLP) member of Carpentaria from 1941 until the seat was abolished in 1960.
By 1938 the area at the back of the iceworks was too small for an expanding town and HJ Smith and Sons struck an agreement with Mount Isa Mines for MIM to supply power.
The mine had its own 150km Ruston Hornsby diesel generator since 1930 to pump water out of mine shafts and had expanded further in 1935.
Now the 3.3KV electricity supply for the mine and the town would be fed by underground cables from the mine's powerhouse to a substation near the railway station then reticulated to substations at West St, May St, Fourth Ave and the hospital.
Smith's staff still ran the power station (with West St as backup) and Norm's son Jim took over the operation in 1949.
In 1955 Cloncurry Shire Council bought out the operation and its 800 consumers and began new capital works at the booming mine town with five new substations.
The newly constituted Mount Isa Shire Council took it over in 1963 under the title North Western Electric Authority before it was merged into the North Qld Electricity Board (NORQEB) in 1977.
The coal-fired Mica Creek Power Station was commissioned in 1960 and converted to gas-fired combustion in 2000 and is still producing electricity, now in the hands of private operator Stanwell,
It was joined by APA-owned Diamantina Power Station in 2014 after the mines and government could not agree a deal on the original copper string project in 2011.
Now with CopperString 2.0 on the horizon, Mount Isa looks like to join the national grid in time for its 100th birthday.
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