Early South Australian Mining Industry
Throughout history, men and women have learned to make use of nature's resources to meet their personal, family and community needs such as clothing, housing, food cultivation and protection from the environment. They have been miners from the time they began to use rocks to shape tools or make weapons for their defence.
Mining, first practised in South Australia by the Aborigines, has ever since played a vital part in the colony's, and later state's development. Several of South Australia's earliest mining towns were given Aboriginal names, including Kapunda, Kooringa, Kanmantoo, Tungkillo, Moonta and Kadina. Mining has been the backbone of its economy and provided South Australians with a high standard of living, stimulated secondary industries and rescued it several times from severe economic depression.
The history of South Australia is the history of mining. However South Australia's mining industry is far more important than just providing for its own people. South Australia has been, and still is, a major source of minerals for all Australians and all the people of the world. The first mine worked after settlement in South Australia was a silver mine at Glen Osmond. This was soon followed by copper at Noarlunga and slate at Willunga.
Glen Osmond, Kapunda, Burra, Moonta, Wallaroo and Blinman are part and parcel of South Australia's rich mining history. Long before the famous Victorian Gold rushes, South Australian mines were providing employment for thousands of men and even some women. They produced large amounts of minerals for the local and overseas markets.
After these goldrushes, and the return of experienced, but mostly unsuccessful diggers, gold, copper, and silver mines were in production within a short time. Some of the best known among them were the Talisker, Mongolata, Prince Alfred, Teetulpa, Kanmantoo, Waukaringa, and Aclare mines.
Later there were the many mines in the Flinders Ranges such as the
Mountain of Light,
Paull's Consolidated and the
Worturpa goldfields. All these mines, and the different smelters at Copley, Bolla Bollana and Port Augusta, provided work, stability and settlement in the arid north of South Australia.
For most of its first hundred years, South Australian firms supplied mining machinery to other colonies and even to overseas mines. Its strong economic growth made finance available for the opening up of mineral deposits in New South Wales and Western Australia. South Australia was in more ways than one 'the cradle of the Australian mining industry'
More than 150 years after the opening of the Glen Osmond mines, South Australia still has the world's largest copper/uranium mine producing more in one year than some of the earlier mines did during their entire thirty of forty year life span.
This Large mine, Olympic Dam, named after a dam put down on the pastoral property in 1956 during the Olympics in Melbourne, now supplies Australia and the world with several much needed minerals and has created employment for several thousand men and women.
From the first discovery of minerals in South Australia in 1838, mining has brought prosperity and people to the young and bankrupt colony. It created jobs and assisted with the opening up and settlement of areas well away from Adelaide and the coast. Mining today is still a very important industry in South Australia. Researching this colourful mining history and the people connected with it is exciting but can be a difficult undertaking.
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