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17 December 1859 Copper Discovered


17 December 1859     Copper Discovered

James Boor, a shepherd, is credited with the discovery of copper minerals at Wallaroo on 17 December 1859 and in 1861 another shepherd, Patrick Ryan, found similar rocks in a wombat hole near Moonta. He reported his find to Joseph Johnson, the publican at Port Wakefield, who applied to the Registrar of Mines in Adelaide for a lease. Walter Watson Hughes, a pastoral lessee, also applied but both parties were refused for lack of information on the exact location of the find. The two groups returned to Moonta to obtain the necessary details and then raced back to Adelaide to lodge the claim. W.A. Horn who rode down for Hughes travelled non-stop for twenty-two hours and exhausted eight horses in order to get the new application in first. However, a legal battle over lease ownership ensured for several years until 1868 when the court ruled in favour of Hughes. Moonta Mining Company began operations in 1862 and by 1876 dividends totaling £1 million had been paid. The mine made Hughes a fortune. The Wallaroo Mines were worked by the Wallaroo Company in which Hughes and his friends Thomas Elder and Robert Barr Smith were also involved. The Wallaroo Smelters were constructed on the coast in 1861 and most of the Moonta ore was also handled there. The three men later contributed generously to many of Adelaide’s institutions, the University of Adelaide being a major recipient.

John Drexel, Mining in South Australia, Dept of Mines and Energy, 1982, p.52.

Tags: , Hughes William Watson, Wallaroo