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Moonta Mines

Maybe it was the luck of the Irish, because in May 1861, Patrick "Paddy" Ryan discovered traces of copper on a pastoral lease belonging to Walter Watson Hughes. A syndicate was formed and members travelled with Ryan to Moonta to see the precise site of the discovery.

When Hughes heard of the discovery, he lodged a claim in the name of a dummy, which was rejected, so he returned to Moonta with a surveyor and met Ryan, who showed him where he had found the copper. The survey information was taken to John Taylor.

Hughes asked William Horn if he could get to Adelaide by 9am the next morning. Horn rode non-stop for 22 hours covering 164 miles and exhausting eight horses.

Taylor and the rival syndicate were both present when the Lands Department opened, but Taylor received first attention and secured the leases.

A legal battle went to the privy council but Hughes settled out of court. He then went on to form the Tipara Mining Association (later the Moonta Mines Co.) and began operations in late 1861, with almost 5000 ton of ore produced in the first year.

Under the management of mine captain H. R. Hancock it developed rapidly and by 1865, about 1200 men and boys were employed. By 1870, more than 5000 people were dependent on the mine, which was producing 20,000 ton of dressed ore, averaging 20 per cent copper.

By 1876, Moonta was the first mining company in Australia to pay one million pounds in dividends and employed 1700 people.

When Moonta and Wallaroo companies amalgamated in 1890, ore worth 5.6 million pounds had been mined. The new company employed an average of 1900 people during it's 33 years of operation with employment reaching 2700 in 1906.


Many of the heritage mine sites are open for the public to visit. You can even catch the little tourist train that runs on a loop from the Moonta Mines Museum, past some of the sites, past the visitor information centre (the old railway station) and returns to the museum. The trip takes approximately 50 minutes and has guided commentary.

For further information contact the Moonta Visitor Information Centre on (08) 8825 1891 or visit the office in the old railway station on Blanche Terrace.


Moonta Mines

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51 Taylor Street
PO Box 396
Kadina SA 5554