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Smelter chimneys at Wallaroo
Title : Smelter chimneys at Wallaroo Smelter chimneys at Wallaroo
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Source : Smoking industrial chimneys at Port Wallaroo, South Australia
Date of creation : ca. 1920
Format : Photograph
Contributor : State Library of South Australia
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Description :

Coastal view of the port, warehouses, and smoking industrial chimneys at Wallaroo, South Australia.

Copper was discovered at Wallaroo in 1859 and the ore exported through Port Wallaroo where the first jetty was built in 1861. The Wallaroo Mining Company (later the Wallaroo and Moonta Mining and Smelting Company) established a smelter adjacent to the port facilities. Here it produced matte copper (approximately 50% copper with residual sulphides) which was exported for further processing along with copper ore. The first furnace built utilised the Welsh reverberatory process. Its large square chimney, known as the Hughes stack after the mine's founder/owner Walter Watson Hughes, used 300,000 firebricks in its construction. Hughes' initials and the date 1861 were laid into one side of the stack.

More chimney stacks were added at the site to serve other furnaces. Only seven years after its establishment Wallaroo Smelters was described as the largest in the world, but there would be further expansion and modernisation over the next 50 years of its operations.

In 1890 a period of diversification was ushered in: new technology resulted in greater efficiency and production. The copper sulphides were dealt with more effectively and a more highly refined copper product became possible. In addition, silver-lead ores from Broken Hill and gold from Kalgoorlie were being processed. The proliferation of chimneys grew.

The third phase in the development of the smelters began in 1909 when copper converters were imported from the United States: these resulted in further efficiencies and energy savings. The operation had progressed a long way from the Welsh processes used when the smelters first opened.

By 1918 the Wallaroo/Moonta mines were struggling because the ore was running out. Finally copper production became irregular as the mines produced less. Industrial disputes resulted in closures at the smelters, the price of copper fell until it was costing more to produce the ore than it could be sold for. The Company shareholders made the decision to close the mines and the smelters. They also authorised the demolition of the sites to recoup money from the sale of equipment.

From left to right the stacks are: lead works, gold works, Wallaroo Superphosphate Manure Company's stack, Hughes stack, Office Refinery stack and Assay Office stack.

Related names :

Hughes, Walter Watson, 1803-1887

Coverage year : 1920
Place : Wallaroo
Region : Yorke Peninsula
Further reading :

Bell, Peter, Wallaroo Smelters site: heritage assessment: report to Incitec Pivot Ltd by Peter Bell & Justin McCarthy Adelaide: Historical Research Pty Ltd, 2008

Bannear, David Archaeological survey of the Wallaroo copper smelters, Wallaroo, South Australia prepared for the State Heritage Branch [Adelaide]: State Heritage Branch, 1985

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