Burra Heritage Trail

Tuesday, Mar 13, 2012 at 00:08

Stephen L (Clare) SA

Being only a few weeks away from Easter, we did not have anything planned for the March 2012 Adelaide Cup Long weekend and decided that it would be an easy 3 day brake, with only a family wedding to attend on the Sunday. Not having to work on the Saturday morning and with what could be describes as just perfect weather and a maximum of 25° degrees predicted, Fiona and I decided to take a very short drive over to one of Clare’s neighboring towns, an easy 30 minute drive to the east of Clare and visit Burra and some of the many fine old building that now form part of the Burra Heritage Trail. We have been to Burra countless times over the years and it had been about 22 years since we had visited the old mining ruins. Growing up at teenagers, we would take drives over to Burra and see many of the then old ruins for free, as back then, who and why would you want to pay and see old stone buildings that we grew up with.

Not known to us as teenagers, these were not just old mining ruins, but part of South Australia’s heritage and over coming years, this heritage was to be rewarded in a way to benefit everyone that visited the town. As Tourist needs and attractions changed over the years, repairs to many of the old structures would take place and gone were the days where you could drive around at will and visit these fine old stone structures. On the 8th November 1984, the Burra Mine Heritage site was added to the Register of State Heritage, as the site was historically important because the Copper produced there restored the economy of the New Colony during critical times in the Mid 1840’s. Gates and locks were put in place and the now “Burra Heritage Passport” was implemented in conjunction with the National Trust of South Australia and the Regional Council of Goyder.

Heading over to Burra, the country was showing signs of green tinges from the rainfall that we had received a few weeks ago. Being a Saturday morning, the Main Street in Burra was busy with locals as well as Tourists. While I went into the Burra Visitor Information Centre to get our “Passport Key”, Fiona did the lady thing of headed straight to the clothing shops. With Key in hand, it was time to revisit many of the old structures that played a very important part in the history of South Australia.

A brief outline on the Mining History of Burra Burra.

During the first few years after the Colonization of the free Colony of South Australia, the economy of the state was suffering greatly and something was needed to help the new Colony survive. On the 9th June 1845, a young shepherd, William Streair employed by James Stein had walked 90 miles from Burra( today around 144 Kilometres ) and walked into the office of Henry Ayers, the then Secretary of the South Australian Mining Association in Adelaide with bore samples of rich Copper Ore, as did Thomas Pickett, also a young shepherd from a neighboring property who also made further finds. Within 12 days of these young men arriving in Adelaide and reporting their finds, news was reported of major Copper deposits in the Mid North of the State and the countryside around the then unnamed rural area of the State would for ever change the history of South Australia.

A special survey of 20,000 acres ( 8 X 4 Miles or 13 X 6.4 Kilometres) was undertaken straight away and the survey was named “The Burra Creek Special Survey” and the land divided between the South Australian Mining Association and the Princess Royal Mining Association with mining activities commencing on the 29th September 1845 by the South Australian Mining Association, with the name of the mine Burra Burra, named after the nearby creek where the first deposits were found. Small towns were now springing up, with small towns of Redruth, Kooringa, Llychwr, Aberdeen, Copperhouse, Hampton, Nelson, Princesstown, Lostwithiel, Westbury, Roachtown, Yarwood, Millertown, Warrapoota and Clonmel. The majority of new townspeople were Cornish, but families from Scotland, Wales, Germany, China and other nations, as well as Australians were now calling Burra their Home. Things were not all plain sailing with mining conditions and wages and in 1848, “The Miners” strike was the first ever strike in South Australia and the first Industrial strike of significance in Australia.

Up until 1860, Burra was the largest metals mine in Australia and by 1851 the population had grown to over 5000 people and was the 7th largest town in Australia and Australia’s largest inland settlement. Between its peak years of production between 1845 and 1877, the Burra Burra Mine, or as it was known, “The Monster Mine” supplied 89% of South Australia’s and 5% of the worlds Copper, producing over 50,000 tonne of copper metal and 700,000 tonne of ore.

With the world prices for copper declining, so did the town and agriculture was now taking over to keep the area alive. From the early 1850‘s, the collection of townships were known locally as “The Burra” and on the 19th September 1940, all the towns amalgamated and the new official name was Gazetted by the South Australian Government as “Burra”.

If you are traveling the Barrier Highway and would like to see some of South Australia’s important history, then a visit to Burra will reward you with some of Australia's Mining past.

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