The Prince Alfred Copper Mine, about 15 km north from Belton, was discovered in 1866. On 26 June 1868 Steer & Teece applied for, and were granted, lease number 421 over section 2983 of two hundred acres. The lease was made out to the Prince Alfred Copper Mining and Smelting Company Ltd. which was formed with a capital of £12,000. By mid 1869 about one hundred tons of high grade ore were being transported to Port Augusta, for the English and Australian Copper Company smelters at Port Adelaide, and another 260 tons were ready at the mine. At the end of September the Royal Shepherd arrived at Port Adelaide from Port Augusta with a further 20 tons of copper ore.
By the end of 1868 another company was proposed to start mining just south of the Prince Alfred lease. This company became known as the Mattawarrangala Mining Company with a working capital of £21,000 made up from the sale of 7000 shares of £3. each. However only 4000 shares were to be offered to the public, the other 3000 were issued as fully paid up shares to the promoters.
Large parcels of shares in the Prince Alfred mine were held by John Reynell of Reynella and his son Walter. In July 1869 John advised his son not to sell any of the shares. Two years later, on 15 October 1871 John changed his own will and bequeathed fifty shares to his daughter Lucy and her children.
In July 1869 the Adelaide newspaper The Chronicle reported that although enough ore had been brought to the surface to show that the mine was a reality, some uncertainty still existed as to the total quantity of ore in the deposit. It was proposed to build smelting works at the mine as there was enough timber in the area and along the nearby creeks. In March 1870 the captain reported that all stopes were turning out first class ore and that there were enough teams available to cart as much ore as he could raise.
Very high hopes were held about this mine and it was proposed to build smelters on site as there was an abundance of timber in the area. Smelting was commenced in 1871 and the next year three reverberatory furnaces were operating with Mr. Jones in charge. When visited by G. Ulrich in 1872, he reported that it was one of the most valuable properties he had seen.
Prince Alfred Mine.
This may well have been the case but the company only worked the mine for a short time during which several thousand tons of ore were treated. These were sold to the English and Australian Copper Company in Port Adelaide. In January 1873 a shareholders' meeting was called to consider the position of the mine, which did not look promising. Later during that same year, the town of Herbert was laid out to serve the mine but the mine ceased operations in 1874, after having produced about £45,000 worth of copper, even though its secretary J. Simpson Scott had tried to increase the company's working capital to £20,000. As a result the town of Herbert was almost still born, it never developed. The mining lease, machinery and plant, which had cost more than £6,000 were sold at auction for just £5.
During the mine's working live, and even before, most of the miners were housed in simple huts or dug outs. Apart from the miners and smelters, several other men found employment. There were a number of labourers, teamsters and a shepherd to look after the live meat. There was also a butcher, shoemaker and some wood cutters. Several of the men expected long term employment and had brought their wife and family as well. Naturally the birth rate was high.
Eleanor Baintrick was born on 7 September 1869 the daughter of Robert and Jane, nee Pratt. Later they had another daughter, Emily born on 3 January 1872 when Robert was working as a teamster at the Defiance Mine. Alfred Whitlock was born on 10 April 1871 the son of George and Martha, nee Moore. Annie Dreyer, born on 3 February 1872 was the daughter of Henry and Augusta, nee Brantt. Thirteen days later, on 20 February, Charles Bevan was born to Robert and Elizabeth, nee Davice.
Several other children were born at the mine during 1872. Joseph Hisgrove and his wife Margaret, nee Kelly, had a daughter Charlotte on 7 March and Shoemaker Adam Reid and his wife Mary, nee Kenely, had a daughter Annie on 13 April. A few months later on 21 June 1872 Joseph Alfred Addicoat was born to William and Jane, nee Ellis. The last baby to be born that year was Elizabeth Annie Wilson on 15 September. Her parents were Thomas Henry and Mary Anne, nee Welch.
While the birth rate may have been high in the small settlement, the death rate was almost as high too. Among those who died during these years were Henry Bosanka, a miner, on 27 January 1872 and Elizabeth Annie Wilson, who was only just over 14 months old, on 6 December 1873.
Enough people were living in the area to warrant the presence of a Mounted Trooper. One of the miners was young Henry James Cottrell who had previously lived with his parents in Burra. When the mine stopped production Cottrell had saved enough to make a down payment of £45 for a farming block. Another ex Burra miner was Richard Ellery. He arrived with his parents in South Australia on the Peakingham from Cornwall in 1849. He too left Burra to work at the Prince Alfred until its closure when he moved to Blinman.
Prince Alfred Mine 1970s.
In 1881 the crushers at the disused Prince Alfred were bought by the Corporation of South Australian Copper Mines Ltd. for use at their recently acquired Blinman mine. When it demolished the furnace in 1882 it recovered also some copper from stockpiled regulus. The proceeds of this were £425.
In 1888 The Prince Alfred Silver, Lead and Copper Mining Company was formed to mine an area near the mine. It hoped to raise capital of five thousand Pounds with the issue of two hundred shares of £25 each. Among some of its directors were J.Bice, Thomas Young and C.J.Reynolds, all from Port Augusta, C.B.Robinson of Hammond, E.P.Digman of Wilmington and A.R.Addison of Orroroo. A year later in 1889, machinery was dismantled at the Prince Alfred mine for use at the Mount Ogilvie goldfield. In 1890 a new company was formed called the New Prince Alfred Copper Mining Company with a capital of £30,000. It dewatered the mine and did some mining and smelting on the site.
During 1898 a third company, the Prince Alfred Copper Mining Company NL., from Melbourne, with R.B. Cox as its South Australian manager worked the mine. This company worked it for the next seventeen years and produced some 12,000 tons. This gave much needed employment to miners and local farmers who carted supplies with their horse or bullock teams to the mine and later the copper ore to the railway at Carrieton. Two of these were Ted Cogan and Jim O'Halloran. They both carried ore and supplies for the mine to and from the station.
As early as 1899 a large Cornish boiler arrived at the Carrieton station which had to be transported to the mine. This was achieved by using two bullock wagons lashed together and drawn by fifteen rows of four bullocks, making a total of sixty. By this time the mine had three shafts, many large stopes and hundreds of metres of drives. Many of the nearby drought stricken farmers at Belton found employment at the mine. During the week they lived in tents on site and walked home for the weekend. By October 1901 the mine was dewatered completely and work in full progress. At the surface a concentrating plant had been built and produced 1608 tons of concentrates, of twenty-four per cent, during the first six months of 1902.
The mine was abandoned in 1907 but not forgotten. During the late 1960s six men, who had known each other while at Broken Hill got together to give the mine another go. With copper selling at $1,600 a ton it did seem worthwhile. Machinery for reworking and treating the tailings, left by the previous miners, was bought from as far away as Renison in Tasmania and a power plant from Victoria. As was the case a hundred years before, other shows hoped they too could open up and have their ore treated at the Prince Alfred. Unfortunately it was a good try but did not last long enough.