Searching for Minerals

Copper and other minerals were found by shepherds, surveyors and geologists.

Shepherd Thomas Blinman, for instance, found copper in 1859 at what was to become the Blinman mine.

The State government sent men like Babbage, Selwyn and Hargraves north to look for gold in the 1850s, in response to the great gold discoveries in Victoria and New South Wales.


  • The first detailed geological investigations of the ranges began in 1906, when ‘that most indefatigable of South Australian geologists’, 
Professor Walter Howchin, crossed the ranges (mostly on foot) from Parachilna to the Lake Frome Plain. Howchin’s book was published in 1922.
  • Sir Douglas Mawson published his first paper on the geology of the region in 1906. Over the next 40 years Mawson produced more than 20 papers on the geology and mineralogy of the Flinders.
  • Mawson was gripped by the Greenwoods’ discoveries of sapphire, rubies, oriental emeralds and then uranium minerals in 1910.
  • W.B Greenwood and Mawson explored together, and found many new minerals and fossils around Arkaroola-Mount Painter.
  • Mawson served overseas in World War I. After the war:
    • Mawson returned to the University of Adelaide in 1919 and was appointed professor of geology and mineralogy in 1921. He successfully developed an effective teaching and research department, insisting on student involvement in geological field-work. His own research covered a wide scope and continued vigorously until his retirement. He made major contributions to the knowledge of Australian geology. His main interest during the next thirty years was the ‘Adelaide System’ of Precambrian rocks, especially in the Flinders Ranges. He concentrated on Proterozoic stratigraphy and Precambrian glaciation, showing that glacial beds extended for 930 miles (1497 km) and that glacial conditions existed intermittently over much of Proterozoic time. His interests also included the geochemistry of igneous and metamorphic rocks, the geological significance of algae, the origin of carbonaceous sediments and the identification of the rarer minerals. His stature enabled him to draw widely on the assistance of specialists around the world in describing rocks and fossils collected in Australia and Antarctica.

      Mawson’s extensive field-work was carried out on foot, by horse-and-cart, camel, and with motor vehicles. He was usually accompanied by students, who learned not only about geology but also about camping and survival in the bush, an activity which Mawson always enjoyed. (Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Mawson used to bring his students into the Ranges on field excursions.
  • Amongst them was Reg Sprigg, a great geologist in his own right and founder of Arkaroola Sanctuary.