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Moonta

Copper was discovered at Moonta in 1861 by a shepherd, Patrick Ryan, working for Captain WW Hughes. By 1876 dividends on the rich Moonta Mine totalled 100 million pounds - the first Australian mine to reach this figure. By this time Moonta was the largest town in country South Australia, with a population of 12,000. By the 1880s the population had almost doubled to 20,000.

Three years after the Moonta mine commenced, it was employing 1,000 miners. Many of these were Cornishmen who had previously worked at Burra, Kapunda, or in the Victorian goldfields. However, the largest number of Moonta miners came direct from the tin mines of Cornwall. In 1865, 43% of the total number of arrivals in South Australia were Cornish. The last major immigration was in 1882-1883, when the mining company sent Captain Richard Piper to recruit 50 good miners. In March 1883 he sent back 408 Cornish people. In 1889 Hughes' other copper mine at Wallaroo was combined with the Moonta company.

Rises and falls in world copper prices, apart from the physical dangers, made the lives of the miners and their families uncertain. It also contributed to the formation of one of the state's earliest unions, the --- Miners Association in 187-. The 'great strike' of 1874 which lasted for - months was a testament to the tenacity of the miners, and set the ground for the improved conditions and enlightened organisation of the mining company through the greater part of its history.

The First World War saw a sharp rise in the value of copper, but subsequently world prices fell and ultimately copper mining in 'the Copper Triangle' collapsed, with operations ceasing in 1923. The enormous stockpiles at Moonta kept the smelters running until 1926. Mining resumed on a small scale during the 1930s Depression, largely through government unemployment relief funding.

The end of mining saw the communities at Moonta and the other towns shrink as the younger generations sought livelihoods elsewhere.

Sources: 'History and mystery,' by Uda Naw, People's weekly, 7 May 1921, p. 3; Moonta mines/ Department of Mines & Energy, Parkside, S. Aust., The Dept., 1986 Oswald Pryor, Paddy Ryan's tragic end, Moonta, S. Aust., Moonta Branch of the Ntaional Trust of South Australia, 1976; Oswald Pryor, Australia's little Cornwall, Adelaide S. Aust., Rigby, 1962; Philip Payton, Making Moonta, Exeter, University of Exeter Press, 2007

Duryea's photographic studio, Moonta
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Gulf cruise on the Moonta
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Little Beginners tea party
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Mine Managers
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Mineral claims Moonta
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Miners at Moonta
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Moonta Mines Methodist church
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Moonta Mines Methodist girls' class
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Moonta Mines Turks Football Team
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Phyllis Somerville
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Pickey boys at Moonta Mines
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Public School, Moonta
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