Crisher and Waterwheel 1869

Burra Cornish Mining History

August 1845

Shepherds William Streair and Thomas Pickett discover outcrops of opper close to the Burra Burra Creek.

September 1845

South Australian Mining Association (SAMA) begins mining operations at the Burra Burra Mine.


Samuel Stocks jnr. Appointed Resident Director.

Dr Ferdinand Von Sommer and then Captain Ey act as Superintendents. Bon Accord Mining Company begins mining operations adjoining the Burra Burra Mine.


Captain Henry Roach of Cornwall appointed Superintendent of the Burra Burra Mine.

First smelting operations fail.

Powder Magazine constructed (now the oldest surviving building in Australia)


Mine employs 567 workers.

South Australia's first strike by miners due to their wages being cut (2 days long).


Mine pays a dividend of 600%.

Roach's Engine House completed and pumping begins in October.

Foundation stone of Patent Copper Co. Smelters laid in December.


Paxton Square Cottages built.

The Paxton Square Cottages were "among the first company housing in Australia". It was the largest group of cottages constructed by SAMA in Kooringa.


The township of Redruth established by the Government.

Burra Smeltworks Historic Site including Smelter Ruins, Smelter Furnace Ruins, Smelts Manager's Residence and Office built – Welsh and German smelters brought in to work.

"South Australian Mining Company gave a lease to the English and Australian Copper Company to bring out Welsh smelters and to treat the ore at the mine-site. By 1849, the Burra Burra Mine had its own smelting works with its eighty-foot chimney-stack belching black smoke".

Mine Manager's Dwelling and Office built.

Smeltsyard, Store and stables built.


Dividends paid reached a staggering 800%.

Former Bible Christian Chapel built.

Burra Cemetery established in current location.


Workforce at the mine exceeds 1,000 with 378 at the smelting works and other off-site employees of the smelting works brings their total to about 1,000 also.

Peacock's Engine House built.

30-inch Beam rotative engine – Crusher (operated 1851-55).

Discovery of gold in eastern states.

Population of Burra – 5000. Mainly miners.


Miners desert the district for the Goldfields in Victoria.

Schneider's Engine transported to Burra and installed.

Employees drop to under 100.

Mining company secretary Henry Ayers keeps his officers by substantially raising salaries.

Pumping ceases in October: Mine flooded.


Mine virtually at a standstill due to gold rush.

Roach's Engine House dismantled.

English and Australian Copper Company import mules from South America.


Men slowly return but by April work force still only 191 and only 30 underground.

Decision to restart the mine in December.


Schneider's Engine begins to pump out the mine in January.


Schneider's pump proves inadequate.

South Australian Mining Association establishes a candle factory near the slaughterhouse to satisfy its need for 53 tons of candles per year.


Peacock's Chimney Construction.


Morphett's Engine House built.

80-inch Cornish Beam pumping engine installed. The water raised drove waterwheels, powering crushing and dressing works. By 1860 the engine was operational and was used until 1877.


Peak year for employment with 1208 men and boys at work.

The mine paid £178,900 in wages and expenses, but the costs were rising as the mine deepened. At the same time the price of copper was falling.

Installation of Morphett's Engine runs all through the year.

Bon Accord Mine Buildings – mine offices, blacksmith's forge, carpenter's shop and manager's residence built.


Moonta Mines and Wallaroo Mines established.


Miners begin to move to the new Yorke Peninsula fields of Wallaroo and Moonta Mines.

Morphett's engine begins pumping on 1 March.


Migration to Wallaroo and Moonta continues and others also head to mines in Queensland and NSW as well as to smaller mines north of Burra in the Flinders Ranges.

Burra Smelting confined to summer months.

Morphett's Cornish Winding house built – typical Cornish winder.


Schneider's Engine is stopped.

Workforce at the mine is cut to 631 and the wages bill is almost halved.

Exodus of miners continues.


The Burra ore was still averaging 23% copper compared with Moonta's 18%, but getting it was costing £10-2-1 per ton against £7-15-7 for the latter's.


For a while copper rose to £110 per ton and a major strike at the Yorke Peninsula mines saw some miners return to Burra.

Smelting at Burra further reduced.

The dividend of 300% proves to be the last regular dividend paid.


The copper price slumps by £8 per ton. On 19 February Ayers informs Captain Roach that all operations would cease and a letter dismisses all officers from the end of March.


Graves Pump house built – Cornish enginehouse but the engine order was cancelled and the building was never used.

John Darlington, a mining engineer with extensive experience of the then new open-cut mining system, arrived in Adelaide in June and the following month went to Burra to assess its open-cut prospects. In September he recommended trying open-cut mining as an economic alternative. The decision was made to convert to open cut.


Work on the waste from the mine in the Burra Creek stopped and a further 200 jobs went. By April all extraction work had ceased.


Ore Floor built – represents Cornish mining practice.

Open cutting of Burra Burra Mine began, Australia's first open-cut mine. The timber recovered from the old workings during the operations of the open-cut was used to fuel the pump engine and the water was used to separate the ore from the waste after it had been pounded to the consistency of flour.


To assist in the dressing operations a new 24 feet x 4 feet water wheel was constructed.


Cornish Crusher Chimney/Dressing Tower Complex built.


Burra Town Hall Built.


Haulage Engine Chimney built (Welsh).

29 September 1877

The cost of production had almost doubled since 1868. The price of copper was low and dropped to less than £80 a ton.

In September the miners were finally given a week's notice and work ceased on 29 September 1877 with the loss of 300 jobs.

Burra Mine closed.

Acknowledgement of information: Valuable research undertaken by Meredith Satchell, Eric Fuss and the Burra History Group.