Flinders Range Silver Lead NL Mine

Tuesday, Sep 07, 2021 at 15:06

Stephen L (Clare) SA

During our recent trip back to the Flinders Ranges, we were privileged to be given permission to visit the site of a former Silver & Lead Mine located in the Blinman area. At the Station owners request, I can not give the exact name or location of the mine, but what I can write, is some history of this forgotten piece of Flinders Ranges history that I have been able to find.

This mine had two main phases during its short life, the first was in 1887 when the mine was first established and its second lease of life was after World War 11 in 1947. At the time when the mine was first established, a report of the claim was reported in the South Australian “Register” on the 6 October 1887 and it stated…

“ We found the residents of Blinman somewhat elated over the splendid prospects and appearances of a recent silver discoveries. A shaft has been sunk for a depth of 60 feet from the brace but with the crosscut runs to 90 feet…………

About 60 chains north of the mine is a manganese and iron gossan load fully 30 feet wide………Only 10 weeks have elapsed since work was commenced on the mine, yet a large quantity of ore ready for shipment has already been raised from the disruptive rocks projected from the lode, and has been secured with the aid of only nine underground men ”

Exploration in the area prior to 1887 discovered good prospects of minerals and Captain W H James of the Blinman Mines considered this new discovery as a most important find and the mine was established and came under the management of the South Australian Mining and Smelting Co, who also managed the Blinman Mine and by 1889 had erected smelters and mine machinery at the site. Also at the site, two open hearth furnaces were installed to enable the conversion of galena into regulus.

To further add to the prospects of the mine, a four ton block of ore containing silver was sent to the International Exhibition in Melbourne in 1888 and at the time the mine was known as the Flinders Range Silver Lead NL. Like many mines scattered throughout the Flinders Ranges, the good times were short lived and on the 10 September 1898 a report in the South Australian Register reported that the mine was closing down after a party of four men working in the mine over a three week period had only dispatched 11 ½ tons of lead ore.

For nearly 50 years the mine site lay idle and it was not until the next reports appeared that in 1949 577 tons of ore had been processed. The issue now with processing the ore was to control the moisture content of the ore to suit the requirements of the smelters in Port Pirie.

From the mine site, it was a 40 mile road haul through to Parachilna, where the ore was loaded onto railway trucks and then made its way down to Port Pirie for smelting. To help in reducing the moisture content, a crusher was erected on site and the crushed ore was then railed to the smelters to eliminate delays in the purchase of the product.

To further extend the efficiency at the site, a treatment plant was established as well as several buildings were erected to serve as a messshouse, store, an office and residence and bath house, while the majority of the men working on the site lived in tents, a short distance from the site.

In 1951 it was reported that the mine site was producing 10 tons of crude ore a day and the ore was tipped into a 15 ton bin that was then fed by a chute into the crusher. During 1950 464 tons of crushed ore had produced 81 tons of metallic lead and 642 oz of silver.

The cost of production of ore at the site and the dwindling quantities of ore resulted in the closure of the mine and today the mine site is now left to the elements of nature and rarely sees visitors to the site.
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