Destination Info

Moonta Mines

Yorke Peninsula

After copper was discovered near Kadina in 1859, it created a mining boom across northern Yorke Peninsula. 2 years later in 1861, a shepherd noticed copper traces on a wombat burrow, leading to the establishment of the Moonta Mining Company, which became one of the richest copper mines in Australia.

Attracting skilled workers from Britain, and in particular from Cornwall, experienced Cornish miners flocked to the area to work in copper mining shafts located in Moonta Mines and nearby Wallaroo Mines. The flood of Cornish to the local workforce meant that by 1870 and in the midst of its mining heyday, Moonta’s population swelled so much that it was once South Australia’s largest town after Adelaide.

South Australia’s cultural mix changed once the mining boom began. Bringing with them not only mining skills, but the Cornish influence can also be found across northern Yorke Peninsula through architecture styles, dry stone fencing, surnames of descendants and foods including Cornish Pasties.

In 1923, copper prices dropped significantly making it economically unviable to continue mining at Moonta Mines. Today the original Moonta Mining Company lease area is now the Moonta Mines National Heritage Area, covering 320 hectares and is operated by the Moonta National Trust.

The Moonta Mines Museum located in the former Moonta Mines Model School (circa 1878) provides a fascinating overview of the region’s mining heritage and contains works on the life on a miner, with a very hands-on approach for visitors.

The Tourist Railway takes visitors on a guided tour through the mining complex, while the Sweets Shop is a must-visit. Visitors can explore the Family Resource Centre, walking trails, Uniting Church and the
Miners Cottage and Gardens. Pop into Tipara Forge Blacksmithing Shop, Hughes Enginehouse and Richmans Enginehouse to discover more fascinating history.

Moonta Mines gained State Heritage listing on 10 May 1984 and on the 9th May 2017 the “Australian Cornish Mining Sites of Moonta Mines and Burra” were included on the National Heritage List.

Moonta including the historic Moonta Mines and coastal Moonta Bay and Port Hughes was named as South Australia's Top Tourism Town for 2021.

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