The Monster Mine
(Reproduced with permission from Burra Mine, Department of Mines and Energy)
Burra mine was world famous for the richness of its copper ores and for the first ten years of its life was the largest mine in Australia. Wealth from the mine made fortunes for many of its original shareholders and its discovery marked the beginning of a period of unprecedented growth and prosperity for South Australia.
The story of the mine began in 1845 with the chance discovery of copper ore by a shepherd near Burra Creek. Soon after, a similar find was made by another shepherd further to the north. News of the discovery reached Adelaide, a town already infected with mining mania because of the success of the recently opened Kapunda mine. The struggle for possession of this new copper bearing land quickly followed.
The interested parties resolved into two groups: the "Nobs" and the "Snobs". The Nobs were capitalists and included the owners of Kapunda mine. The Snobs were shopkeepers and merchants from Rundle and Hindley Streets in Adelaide.
The government insisted that mineral rights to the two deposits could only be obtained by purchasing the ore bearing ground and land between. A special survey was carried out and the rival groups bought the land, known as "The Monster Mine", jointly and agreed to divided equally with each half containing one of the copper deposits.
Lots were drawn and the Nobs drew the southern half, naming their mine the Princess Royal; unfortunately the amount of mineable ore proved small and the mine closed in 1851. The northern half, drawn by the Snobs, became the Burra Mine; this developed rapidly into one of the great copper mines of the world.
At first, all mining took place underground. Open cut operation began in 1870 in an attempt to extract lower grade ore profitably; however low copper prices forced the Burra mine to close in 1877.
The mine remained abandoned for nearly a century until open cut mining started again in 1971 and continued until exhaustion of ore in 1981.
Ayers assumed almost complete responsibility for the mine and for the creation of the company town of Kooringa. Trained as a law clerk he soon mastered the complexities of mine management and exerted great influence on company affairs. Many of the original directors, having made their fortunes and departed left Ayers to act on their behalf in company matters.
Ayers entered politics in 1857 and became Premier of South Australia on seven occasions. He was a figure of immense influence, prominent in the small group which dominated the financial and commercial interest of the colony. Henry Ayers was knighted in 1872 and a year later Ayers Rock in central Australia was named in his honour.
Henry Roach was born in Redruth, Cornwall, and arrived in South Australia in 1846 having worked on mines in South America. Soon after his arrival he was appointed captain of the underground workings at Burra mine and thereafter made responsible for all mining operations. Roach remained in charge of the day to day running of the mine for 20 years until his retirement in 1867 before the changeover to open cut mining.
A Visit Underground
(Extract from the South Australian, 17 December 1847)
The man who attempts such a great enterprise would be young and active . . . every man should have a candle with a piece of soft clay as a candlestick . . . you have to descend a perpendicular ladder, carrying you candle and . . . follow on through galleries dotted with copper, down little shafts, an into great vaults and chambers and caverns . . . where men are seen . . . hewing away at the most splendid copper ores that you ever beheld. Sometimes you go down perilous descents, and creep on your hands and knees or . . . wriggle and writhe through holes with your head downward . . . You then come upon men who are working . . . near the water, and the rocks or earth continually falling down, dashing upon the waters. Every now and then we came to beautiful little malachite arbors, which the miners call their garden, every side of which being a bright green, formed delightful spots in which to rest . . .
Aside from the famous "Monster Mine", there were other mines in Burra and surrounding districts. The mines are listed below. A summary of facts pertaining to each of these mines appears below the list of mines.
For further information on the amount of minerals produced, please refer to this document.
Bon Accord Mine Facts
Period of operation:
Method of working:
Shafts drives & crosscuts
Nothing payable found
Main Shaft to 300’ supplied the town water
supply 1878-1966 (Aberdeen only 1878-1884) Good references is David P.
Bannear “An Archaeological Survey of the Von accord Property Burra South
Australia 1845-1966 (5 volumes0, Saddleworth, 1987
Kooringa Section 4 on N side of Burra Mine
Summary of Mongolata Goldfield Claims and Mines
Below is a table summarising some facts relating to the Mongolata Goldfield Claims and Mines. For further information on the ore and gold produced and the value of the gold that was found, please refer to this document.
Note: N/A in the above table means that in our initial search the information was not found: it may or may not be available elsewhere