≡ Menu

Copper

  • Copper deposits are fairly widespread in the Flinders Ranges, but they are small.
  • There are literally dozens of old mines, some with old mining equipment and miners’ huts.
  • Shepherds found some deposits, like Blinman, which was worked for longer than any other and which paid most.
  • Other deposits were found by surveyors and geologists. Prospectors headed as far North as Mt Freeling, seeking new copper deposits.
  • Large finds at Kapunda and Burra made early miners optimistic. Investors put large sums of money into mines at Mt Remarkable (near Melrose) and Charlton (near Wirrabara) but both ventures were costly failures.
    • E.B. Hughes was among those who lost money at Mt Remarkable.
  • Drought and expensive, difficult transport caused many mines to close.

Copper Mining at Blinman

Blinman Mine History

  • Blinman was the largest copper mine in the Flinders, and the one that lasted longest.
  • The deposit was discovered on the Angorichina run in 1859 by Thomas Blinman, a shepherd. Blinman, who had a wooden leg, was known as ‘Peg Leg’.
  • The mine operated under several different owners between 1862 and 1918. Although some of them made money, mining here was never really profitable.
  • Transport costs ate most of the profits.
  • The Yudnamutana Copper Company was the first mine operator at Blinman. After it closed operations at nearby Yudnamutana, the company changed its name to the Blinman Consolidated Copper Mining Company of South Australia (1872).
    • Two years later the company failed because it could not pay its bills.
  • Hopes for the mines were so high that smelters were built at Blinman, Yudnamutana and Bolla Bollana, near Arkaroola.
  • Blinman processed ore brought in by camel train from mines further inland as well as local ore.

Photo: State Library of South Australia B9836

Men working in the open cut mine at Blinman about 1907.

Men working in the open cut mine at Blinman about 1907

Men working in the open cut mine at Blinman about 1907

Photo: State Library of South Australia B9836
Men working in the open cut mine at Blinman about 1907.

Getting ore to market

  • At first, the ore was carted by bullock dray to Port Augusta, through a newly made track cut through Brachina Gorge.
  • It took a week to make the journey.
  • The mining company made a remarkable attempt in 1864 to use traction engines to carry the ore to the port.
    • The crews had to dig their own wells for water and they stripped the country for wood for fuel.
    • The heavy machinery bogged in loose sand.
    • The first Australian experiment in road trains came to a halt in 1864, after costing the company a huge amount of money.
  • After the railway was extended from Port Augusta to Farina in 1882, transport from Blinman to the port was much cheaper.
    • Horse teams had a much shorter journey through the ranges to Parachilna
    • costs were stable for a time.
  • The mine had another burst of activity, but this fell over with
    • great increase in America’s output of copper
    • decrease in world copper prices.
  • Yudnamutana Mining field (copper), on the edge of the Mt Painter complex, opened up in about 1862 and was worked sporadically until 1930.
    • Copper ore was carried in convoys of drays to Port Augusta.
  • Smelters, pumps and other heavy equipment contained valuable metal and parts and were mostly sold off and carted away when the mines closed.
Bullocks haul a wagon through Blinman. Date: about 1904

Bullocks haul a wagon through Blinman. Date: about 1904

Photo: State Library of South Australia B 11614

Bullocks haul a wagon through Blinman. Date: about 1904

Visit Blinman

Blinman is the main site where mine workings can be visited safely and there are still traces of mining activity.
http://www.blinman.org.au/ and http://www.heritageblinmanmine.com.au/

Resources for Blinman

Nuccaleena

  • Thirty kilometres from Blinman, this mine once promised to be the most productive in the northern Flinders Ranges.
  • Nuccaleena township was laid out near the mine and around The Bushman Hotel .
    • Hotel was built 1862 by Charles Faulkner and preceded the town
    • It gave ‘some substance and much spirit’ to the town.
    • It has been a ruin for many years (see photo taken in 1920).
  • The first steam engine used in this area was brought to Nuccaleena.
  • A devastating three-year drought ended the mine’s operations in 1866.
  • Substantial stone buildings from the 1860s still stand.
Hotel ruins, Nuccaleena

Hotel ruins, Nuccaleena

Photo: State Library of South Australia B669
Hotel ruins, Nuccaleena  

The ruins of the hotel at Nuccaleena, taken on September 29th, 1920. According to regulations, this hotel is situated half a mile from the mine. Until “quite recently” [quote in 1920], the track between the mine and the Inn was, in places, literally covered with thousands of empty bottles. Mount Tamoshanter is in the background. Date:1920

Oratunga

  • Oratunga was the first copper mine to be worked in the north Flinders. Partners in the mine were William Finke and James Chambers.
  • Chambers held the pastoral lease for the Oratunga run at the time he and Finke lodged the application for the mineral lease (1857).
  • John McDouall Stuart, who later became famous as an explorer, surveyed several mineral leases for Chambers and Finke.
  • Oratunga township was laid out near the mine.

Sliding Rock

  • Copper discovered 1870
  • Immediate profits made from rich ore the mine yielded pure copper
  • Shanty town sprang up around the mine, and government surveyed Township of Cadnia in 1873.
  • Cadnia name was never used locally – always Sliding Rock.
  • Sliding Rock was lively (hotel, races, cricket team) but short-lived.
  • Water flowed into the mine and mine was closed 1877.
    • Water flow was so strong that it was piped to supply the coal mines at Leigh creek in the 1940s, before the Aroona Dam was built.
  • Many of the people from Sliding Rock moved to Beltana when the mine closed.
Cadnia Sliding Rock Valley 1876

Cadnia Sliding Rock Valley 1876

 

Photo: State Library of South Australia – B8366

Cadnia Sliding Rock Valley 1876. Miners lived in houses built quickly from mud (pug) and pine.

Sliding Rock (Cadnia) looking west, with the Sliding Rock Mine on left and bullock team on the right. Date: around 1876

Sliding Rock (Cadnia) looking west, with the Sliding Rock Mine on left and bullock team on the right. Date: around 1876

Photo: State Library of South Australia B8367
Sliding Rock (Cadnia) looking west, with the Sliding Rock Mine on left and bullock team on the right. Date: around 1876

 

Abandoned mine shaft at Sliding Rock Mine, Cadnia, looking north. Date:1972

Abandoned mine shaft at Sliding Rock Mine, Cadnia, looking north. Date:1972

Photo: State Library of South Australia B24958
Abandoned mine shaft at Sliding Rock Mine, Cadnia, looking north. Date:1972

Resources for Copper