Expert dies of cyanide poisoning

Young Walter Price, 26, accidentally inhaled the fumes of the cyanide plant at Horseshoe Mine at Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.

Death by cyanide wasn’t an uncommon occurrence in the goldfields, less than a decade after the major WA goldrush began, given its essential use to extract gold from rock.

What was unfortunate is that Walter’s profession was described in the newspapers as “cyanide expert”. This may have been the title of his role, rather than a reflection of his accreditation.

Article image from the National Library of Australia’s Newspaper Digitisation Program

Same man, reported to be working at different mines, although the plants were later owned by the same company.

His death prompted calls for antidotes to cyanide poisoning to be kept at cyanide mills, and for accident wards to be set up at mining centres. Little action was taken.

‘To have to deal so frequently with abuses of this sort is monotonous, but absolutely necessary in a community so utterly apathetic and reckless as the the miners of the Boulder’

said one correspondent

 “Warning after warning is given and untimely deaths are recorded with unvarying regularity, yet no step is taken to demand the provisions for prevention which are made by every other civilised community”.

Price is buried in the fascinating Kalgoorlie cemetery, amongst scores of other graves citing deaths at mines.

Images: Sharyn Moodie
Kalgoorlie, Western Australia


Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 – 1907) Saturday 10 February 1900 p 26

The Evening Star (Boulder Thursday 1 February 1900 p 3

The Sun (Kalgoorlie) Sunday 4 February 1900 p 4

 Murchison Advocate Saturday 3 February 1900 p 3

Published by Sharyn Moodie

Travelling around Australia for work, I've found so many amazing headstones. But what is more amazing is the stories behind some of these deaths, and the way newspapers of the day reported them.

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