Historical recognition for South Australian mining

Historic minesites in South Australia are in line for world heritage listing, with national approvals expected by the middle of next year.

After a six year long process of review for National Heritage listing, Dr Ash Lenton from the Australian National University is confident that copper mining sites at Burra, as well as the ‘Copper Triangle’ of Moonta, Walleroo and Kadina on the Yorke Peninsula, will receive the National Heritage listing approvals from the Federal Department of Environment, which are required for World Heritage listing consideration.

The sites were developed by Cornish immigrants during the mid-19th century.

“Burra is easily one of the most important sites in the country,” Lenton said.

“Australia would've been a very different place if it wasn't for the copper mining that occurred here in the 19th century.”

During the 1850s and 60s, two copper deposits at Burra and Moonta were known to be among the largest in the world.

Mines in Cornwall, Great Britain have already been World Heritage listed, but a professor of Cornish and Australian studies the the University of Exeter, Philip Payton, said the Australian sites should be recognised by UNESCO, the United Nations world heritage authority.

“It's not really complete until people recognise that actually there's an international linking," Payton said.

“That it's a global story and if places like Burra and the copper triangle don't feature in that somehow, the experience in Cornwall is diminished.”

Professor Payton said copper mining began at Burra in 1845, with heavy Cornish involvement due to the ore being smelted back in Cornwall, and a smelter was built in Australia in 1849.

Many Cornish miners left Burra in the 1850s to join the Victorian gold rush in Ballarat, and others went to Broken Hill, giving strength to Australia’s rise as an internationally recognised mining nation.

A surge of Cornish miners flocked to South Australia during 1859 and 1861, bringing a wealth of hard rock mining expertise and technology, including the Cornish Beam Engine, a massive pump for removing ground-water.

Dr Lenton also pointed out that Burra was not only the birthplace of the industrial revolution in the largely agricultural Australian nation, but also the site of Australia’s first industrial strike action, a possible birthplace of industrial relations in this country, predating the Victorian action of 1854 at the Eureka Stockade.

Images: National Archives; BurraHistory.info; MoontaTourism.org.au

To keep up to date with Australian Mining, subscribe to our free email newsletters delivered straight to your inbox. Click here.