Thursday, August 16, 2012

Kapunda Locations: Copper Mines

The Kapunda Mines
Allen Tiller

The copper in the Kapunda Mine was first discovered by Francis Dutton in 1842. He began a partnership with Captain Bagot, (Captain was a traditional Cornish term used for a
manager) together they purchased 80 acres of land. They paid 1 pound per acre of land.
The pair set about taking samples from the numerous green rocks. The samples were then sent off to England for testing. Testing would take almost two years before the results would return to Australia. Upon the results reaching Australia, the business partners were astonished to find the copper was 22.5% pure, which at the time was the richest deposit found anywhere in the world.
Clare Castle Hotel bottom left corner circa 1860

The mine was small when it began, with Bagot employing labourers to dig the copper from the surface with shovels and picks. In the first year, workers removed 600 tons of ore, valued at about 7000 pounds.
In approximately December 1844, Cornish miners began to arrive on-site and tunnelled underground. This is when the copper mining began in earnest.
Francis Dutton decided to sell his 25% share in the mine in 1846, earning him the vast sum (at the time) of 16000 pounds, Captain Bagot now had the controlling 55% of the ownership of the mine.

The mine owners used bullock dray to transport copper ore to Port Adelaide, a journey of about 6 days. The ore would be loaded onto ships and transported by sea to Swansea in Wales, where it was smelted by the Welsh. Loads were sent at 2 tonnes per load. By 1850, the mine was producing 100 tones of copper ore per month.

In the coming years the mine would expand significantly, and along with it, the town. Many jobs were created, and it seemed in this era that certain cultural backgrounds provided expertise in differing areas, with Welsh men coming to Kapunda as skilled smelters, the Cornish, as expert miners, and the Germans as labourers, who began to cut down trees needed to power the furnaces of the smelters. Germans and Chinese labourers also ran local farms and market gardens, which fed the vast amount of workers, and the growing population in the district. Another nationality group were the Irish, who began as labourers and became the drivers of the Bullock teams to Port Adelaide.

Kapunda never had one distinct mine, instead, there were at least five or six
distinct copper lodes in close proximity, which were mined from as many as ten
separate shafts over time:
Wheal Bagot,

Wheal Charlotte,
Wheal Truscott,
Wheal Lanyon, 
Wheal Harris, 
Wheal Major. 

There is no trace of any of them today, as they have all been obliterated by the later workings of the mine ("wheal" being a Cornish mining term of phrase).

In 1849, smelters made in Germany arrived in South Australia, reducing the need to ship ore overseas. However, the ships now brought back coal from England for the smelters.

By 1851, Kapunda had a population of over 2000 people and began to set out its main street, and suburbs.

In 1850, the mines had reached approximately 80 feet below the surface and had started to go below the water table. A steam engine was brought in to pump the water out of the mine. At its deepest point, the mine reached about 480 feet or 150 metres.

In 1852, the Goldrush in Victoria began. This had a huge effect on Kapunda and its surrounds, many men left to try their luck at finding a quick fortune. For almost three years the production rate at Kapunda dropped to a minimal amount. However, by 1857, production was at full speed again producing upwards of 4104 tonnes of ore

A sign in the Bagot mining Museum in Kapunda states that in 1861 the mine employed;
43 miners - mostly Cornish
106 pitmen
23 children - mostly Cornish
82 labourers - mainly Irish
13 boys - mainly Irish
36 smelters and furnacemen - mainly Welsh
The mine at this time was employing 302 men and 36 boys.

2nd draft house engine room
The Kapunda mine importance declined with the discovery of copper at Burra. With a lode four times greater than Kapunda, but even Burra couldn’t compete with Moonta, which had a lode almost 4 times greater than Burra's!

By 1863, the majority of the high-grade ore had been mined out. The mine was now a low-grade ore mine – soon it became an opencut mine.
The mine closed in 1878 and all the equipment was sold

However, the mine reopened again and continued until 1912 on a smaller scale. During this time 12,800 tonnes of copper ore were mined
Now, in 2012 the Copper mine stands as a tourist attraction at Kapunda's southern end, with the skyline dominated by the large stone chimney that was used to provide air for the engine boilers below. The mine is the favourite place of artists who love the deep green hues of the water that fills the open cut mine.

looking into one of the open shafts 2010

The mine has an appeal for Paranormal investigators in the area due to stories of a paranormal nature that have appeared on the internet and through the rumour of townsfolk. These include the sightings of a “hairy ape-like man” thought to be the “Kapunda Yeti”, to sightings of strange “lamp” lights near the mine, disembodied voices, people being “slapped” across the face and full-bodied apparitions of miners, wearing clothes from a different era.
Eidolon Paranormal's research has uncovered a few deaths involving miners. Events such as miners losing limbs, a boy almost drowning in a wastewater tank, and onsite amputations by Dr Clindening and Dr Blood. Could these events have scarred the interior of the mines with emotions that resonate today? Or is it people reaching a state of hypersensitivity due to the scary, desolate feeling of the mine interior, and thus scaring themselves into believing a ghost is present?
Whatever is happening within the mine, it still remains a place of historical significance and should be treated as such. This is also a terribly dangerous place to enter, with open mine shafts, large pieces of steel jutting out from rock formations and other unseen dangers. I do not recommend going into the mine at all, as its pitfalls are numerous.
 Stay within the marked walking areas, and you should be safe!

Time Line:

1842 Copper ore discovered
1844 Mine opened
1845 Horse whim installed
Mine Square Cottages built
1846 Dutton sold his share
Captain John Richards appointed
1848 Draft engine purchased
1849 Draft engine at work
Smelter built
1851 Buhl engine installed
The mine closed by the Victorian gold rush
1855 Mine re-opened
1859 Captain Bagot retired
1860 Kapunda Mining Company formed in London
Subsidence in workings
Railway reached Kapunda
1861 Draft Engine re-located
1862 East Kapunda mines opened
1863 Mines operated at a loss
1865 Scottish company took over mines
1867 Henderson Plant in production
Captain Osborne appointed
Opencut extraction
1877 Crash in copper price
1879 Mines closed
1880 Hillside mine opened
1912 Tributers finished up
1938 Matthews Gravel Quarry on Block 19 opened
1949 Matthews Gravel Quarry on Block 19 closed
1962 Council acquired Block 24
1972 Council acquired Block 21
Plaque placed on smokestack
Charlotte opencut used as Council dump
1986 Jubilee 150 signage erected
1987 Site entered in SA Heritage Register
2008 Preparation of Conservation Management Plan for the site

Researched and written by Allen Tiller © 2012

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