Sunday, April 22, 2018

Kapunda Copper Mines

Copper Mines

The Copper in the Kapunda Mines 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) and together they purchased about 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 to England for testing, this would take almost two years before 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.
The mine began small with Bagot employing labourers to dig the copper from the surface with shovels and picks. In their first year, they removed 600 tons of ore, valued at about 7000 pounds.
Around December 1844, Cornish miners began to arrive on-site, and tunnelling and underground 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.

In its beginnings, the mine would transport its ore via bullock dray to Port Adelaide, a journey of about 6 days, where it would be loaded onto ships and transported by vessels to Swansea in Wales. Loads were sent at 2 tonnes per load, by 1850, the mine was producing 100 tons of copper ore per month.
In the coming years the mine would expand significantly, and so would the town. Many jobs were created, and it seemed in this era that certain cultural backgrounds provided expertise in differing areas.
 The Welsh operating smelters, the Cornish, who were expert miners, and the Germans who began to cut down trees needed to power the furnaces of the smelters and began farms to feed the vast number of workers. Then there were the Irish who began as labourers, and to drive the Bullock teams to Port Adelaide – it was a cultural melting pot (lets also not forget a few Chinese men who started market gardens in Kapunda!)

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, these included: 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 later workings of the mine (wheal being a Cornish mining term)
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
In 1850, the mines had reached about 80 feet down 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
The Kapunda mines 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 open cut mine.
The mine closed in 1878 and all the equipment was sold.

However, it did reopen again and continued until 1912 on a smaller scale. During this time 12,800 tonnes of copper ore were mined
Now, in 2018 the Copper mine stands as a tourist attraction at Kapunda’s Southern End, 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 and now features restored mining buildings and fantastic artistic sculptures.

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
         Open cut 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 open cut 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 - originally published on December 3rd 2013 on the Haunts of Adelaide: History, Mystery and the Paranormal, edited on Feb 16th 2018 - © 2018 Allen Tiller

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