Would you believe that a burrowing wombat was responsible for the discovery of copper in the area now known as The Copper Triangle or The Copper Coast in South Australia? Well it is true!
Walter Hughes had leased some land in the area and a shepherd, Paddy Ryan, found the traces of copper around the entrance to the burrow. The rest is history as they say! Mining took over from agriculture as the primary industry for the area.
This discovery saw many experienced miners emigrate from Cornwall, England. They came by ship with their families, to seek their fortune and luckily escape the Irish potato famine.
Copper was mined from 1861 until the early twentieth century. It was very lucrative for some and the miners worked on a percentage basis of the ore mined. The Moonta Mines were a boon to a very young South Australia and its economy. It followed on from gold discovery in Victoria and attracted miners from interstate.
Copper was especially valuable during World War One and it fetched a high price. With the end of the war in 1918 and the discovery of copper in South America, the mines in Moonta and the surrounding areas became unprofitable. The Moonta Mines closed in the 1920s.
At its height, the population of Moonta swelled to 12,000 and it was the second largest urban township in South Australia.
The township was surveyed in 1863 and many Adelaide families bought the town blocks. Miners tended to build their own homes which have been described by some as sub-standard. Life was tough for these early settlers as a reliable fresh water supply was not available until the 1890s. Many people succumbed to typhoid and other water-borne diseases.
The miners brought with them their unique styles of architecture, food and celebrations.
The cosy historical town of Moonta is now better known as a hub for tourism and the surrounding grain-growing areas. Kadina and Wallaroo make up the other two large towns of the Copper Triangle.