The Mountain of Light
The Mountain of Light Copper Mining Company N.L. was formed on 13 December 1898 to acquire the property owned by the Caterer Copper Syndicate which operated the Cutaway Junction Coppermine. The Cutaway Junction was owned by F. Stanley Caterer who had bought it a year before. He employed twelve miners and had raised $900 worth of ore, whereas at the time of sale about $5,000 worth of copper ore was on the property.
By the middle of 1898 prospects for mining in the Copley area had increased with the completion of a crushing and concentrating plant at Windy Creek. It was reported that 'this was within five kilometres distance from the principal mines around here. One of these mines has been worked for some time by C. Perry and a considerable amount of ore has been sent away, giving fair returns. A large quantity of ore can be broken from this mine at very little cost as no shooting is required'. On 27 August 1898 the mine had been inspected by Peter Niven who reported to the promoters of the Mountain of Light Copper Company that the lode could be worked at a very cheap rate and did not need the use of explosives. He concluded that he could honestly recommend this mine as a good and sound investment.
Work at the mine had proved the existence of a big and rich ore body and Burton Corbin with his men were sending ore averaging twenty percent to the Wallaroo smelters. Some of the rich samples were exhibited at the company's office at Melvin Chambers, King William Street. About forty tons had been sent to the English and Australian Copper Company in Port Adelaide which yielded from twenty-five to thirty-three percent which was regarded as highly satisfactory.
When this result became known, several mineral claims were taken out around the Mountain of Light. For instance C.H. Beaumont bought the claims held by the O'Donnel Brothers and Peter Holmes. There was really quite a lot of mining going on in the Northern Flinders Ranges during 1899. As many as seventy-five mines were being worked. This included at least fifty-eight coppermines, six silvermines, two goldmines and one coalmine. Some of the better known mines were the Lorna Doone, Copper King, Paralana, Nilpena, Blinman, Yudanamutana, Barilla, Mandarin, Mount Shanahan, Sliding Rock, John Bull, Wheal Turner, Mount Rose, Enterprise, Harvey's Return, Mount Bayley, Avondale, Ediacara, Great Gladstone and Callana mines.
Gold was still found at Angepena, Umberatana and Worturpa where several hundred men were at work. By the end of 1899 we find that at the Mountain of Light Captain J.H. Isaac had finished two shafts to a depth of twenty-four metres. Both shafts were connected by a thirty-five metre long drive. The mine was kept dry by the use of several whims. On 26 February 1900 an Extraordinary General Meeting was held, at which the motion was passed, "that the Mountain of Light be wound up voluntarily" The meeting also appointed Thomas Salmon Backhouse and James Rodger as liquidators.
However this did not mean that mining at the Mountain of Light had completely finished. As a matter of fact Beaumont, general manager for the Copper Trust had accepted the tender from the Moran Brothers to remove the machinery from the Mount Rose mine and re-erect it on the Mountain of Light claims. Nearby the Copper Top Mining Company was in the process of erecting a thirty ton copper smelter. There were enough men at work to be able to play a game of cricket.
During September 1904 a few of the miners from the Mountain of Light left for Blinman which was now being worked on a large scale. Several months later the mine was still working and regularly dispatching ore to be smelted as was the Elsie Adair mine. Everyone had high hopes again when it was reported in 1905 that the Mountain of Light had struck "real good copper" which would no doubt "encourage the public who have it under offer" and "hope to see it turn out a big thing yet".
Early in 1907 smelters were being erected at the Mountain of Light by the Tasmanian Copper Company which now owned the mine and employed about fifty men. The chimney was completed, but the smelters were never fired. That same year the company discharged twenty seven men who promptly left for Broken Hill. During 1910 no work was done at all and most of the winding gear on the main shaft was dismantled and removed from the property. Sixty years later Cyprus Mines Corporation carried out an exploration programme in the Copley area, centred on the Mountain of Light. At its conclusion it reported that "Cyprus Mines Corporation do not plan to continue with the option and our interest is being released to the holders of the lease Mr Paltridge and Mr Sickerdick".
Two years later in 1972 it was Bridge Minerals Pty. Ltd. and Aurora Oil N.L. who did a geological reconnaissance of the area. They drilled forty holes at the Mountain of Light. Samples were collected every five feet from each of the drill holes, and sent to McPhar Geophysics Laboratory in Adelaide for analysis by the atomic absorption spectroscopy method, but the results did not seem to warrant any further work.
The Mountain of Light is still full of copper, as are the mountains of the Northern Flinders Ranges. Unfortunately, no matter how complicated the methods used, or the state of technology, it can not be mined economically, which means at a profit, if it is not there in sufficiently concentrated quantity AND quality. The Northern Flinders Ranges may not provide work for copperminers anymore, but they still are a mineral paradise for geology lecturers, geology students, history students and rockhounds alike.