Although the Triple Chance Mine 35 kilometres south west of Broken Hill is owned by global mining company Sibelco, it hasn’t been in operation since its lease was suspended in 1990 and never renewed, although garnet from the Staurolite Ridge quarry and pegmatite from South Australian quarries have continued to be processed at the mine site.
The Triple Chance operation mined feldspar, muscovite and beryl from pegmatite rock and was particularly known for its production of large yellow beryl crystals. The name given to the mine, Triple Chance was derived from the three commodities mined there. The mine’s famous yellowish beryl crystals were often found at over a metre in length and was reportedly used as a source of beryllium metal used in the NASA Apollo Space Program.
The current owners Sibelco, formerly Unimin, have dismantled the processing plant at the Triple Chance Mine as well as rehabilitation of the site by contouring the dumps and covering them with top soil. The open cut pit is being left as a water source for the Thackaringa sheep station. It is now a restricted area.rnThe Triple Chance Mine founder was Tess Alfonsi, the first woman to mine in the Broken Hill area. Teresa Bazzica was her maiden name and she was born on Oneta, Italy in 1907 and migrated to Australia when she was eight years old. Her father, a fitter and turner in Western Australia, had migrated to Australia three years earlier.
Tess eventually found herself in Broken Hill where she got work as a bar maid and married German miner Louis Kumm in 1927. The pair camped out from Broken Hill while mining for mica with the use of a hammer tap drill. They reportedly lived off rabbits and kangaroo tail soup and slept in a humpy made from sewn together potato sacks.
They worked hard and had assembled five ton of mica in bags ready to sell when it was all stolen while awaiting collection. Their spirits were depressed but they returned to the job and began mining for feldspar and as the price of beryl rose they added beryl to their mining pursuits. They became quite successful miners and it was not long before their humpy was replaced with a stone cottage. Tess was often left alone at the Triple Chance Mine and cottage and protected both with her trusty .303 rifle. It is reported that she also survived several mine accidents including explosions that didn’t go to plan.
Tess’s husband eventually became a heavy drinker and in 1954 they were divorced. Ten years later she married her mine foreman Dominic Alfonsi. She continued with her mining interests and finished up opening 23 mines in New South Wales along with many others in South Australia. She became Australia’s largest producer of feldspar supplying 90 percent of the nations requirements.
The amazing thing about Tess Alfonsi was that she was only one and a half meters in height and weighed about 59 kilos. Despite her small size in a mainly male domain she was regarded as being tougher than a buffalo and hardier than saltbush. She could still be seen wielding a geologist’s hammer and pick at 70 years of age to crush ore as well as driving a front end loader.
Tess and her husband finally retired to White Cliffs in New South Wales and worked tirelessly for the NSW Spastics Council. She was awarded the Order of Australia in 1980 and from 1987 she has been honoured annually with an award in her name being granted to the outstanding female student studying mining subjects at the Broken Hill TAFE College. She died in 1986.