An Aussie diollar just for miners? One Mt Isa man's plan


Australia's Mount Isa, primarily a mining town, is also famous for its rodeo.


Nick Laham

Apparently it's not a new idea: an Aussie political hopeful has floated the idea of a currency just for miners working Down Under.

"Mount Isa Dollars," named for the gritty Outback mining town where they would be used, are the brainchild of Queensland Party member Jim Nicholls.

Mount Isa, situated in the northwestern part of Queensland state, owes its existence to vast mineral deposits found in the area — mainly lead, silver and copper. Incidentally, it is also home to the richest rodeo in the southern hemisphere, the Mount Isa Rodeo, which draws contestants from around the world

Nicholls, who is hopeful of being elected to represent the town in the state parliament, says Mount Isa dollars could be paid by such resource industry giants as Xstrata (which operates Mt Isa Mines) and would encourage "fly in/fly out" mine workers to shop locally.

Nicholls said similar schemes were already being used in the UK, US and Europe. A quick Google search, while bringing up infinite references to "mining" and "money," failed to verify this. 

"I'm concerned at the loss of money that is hemorrhaging from Mount Isa in the salaries of fly-in, fly-out workers," he said, according to the North West Star.

"That money is being diverted out of this area to the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast," he said, a reference to Queensland's southern coastal resort towns, where many cashed-up miners make their home when not working in "the Isa."

(There are, of course, other things for the miners to spend their money on, as this Down Under report explains: Prostitutes striking it rich in Australia's mining boom)

"A local currency such as a Mount Isa dollar is three times more likely to stay in the local economy."

Nonsense, says local Mt Isa lawmaker Betty Kiernan, quoted by the Townsville Bulletin as calling the idea a "cheap political stunt" and by the ABC Online as "a thought bubble."

"Any proposal like this obviously catches the media's attention, but the practicality of it is not so great," she reportedly said.

"You couldn't legally say to an employee 'here's Australian currency and here's a pig and a goat'."

By way of explanation, she told the ABC: "I think there would be quite a problem in suggesting that any company, any business held back part of somebody's wage."

Mount Isa Mayor John Molony, meantime, told the Townsville Bulletin that "he did not have an opinion on the issue because he did not understand how Nicholls planned to implement the currency."

Nicholls seems unperturbed by critics of his idea.