Paull's Consolidated copper mine in the northern Flinders Ranges


Paull's Consolidated

Paull's Consolidated, formerly known as the Friend Copper Mine was established about two kilometres north from Burr Well on the Burr Creek. On 17 August 1899 the Paull's Consolidated Copper Company was formed to take over the six claims held by the Friend Copper mine which had only started a few years before and had some preliminary work carried out.

At Paull's Consolidated contractors were employed to sink a shaft. More progress was made the next year when Joel Phillips, the manager at Paull's Consolidated had been able to sink the main shaft to a depth of eighty metres, and had extended the main drive at the bottom to about seventy metres. He even thought that prospects looked good enough to build a dressing plant. This was done and when the mine was visited by Captain Matthews, who was now Inspector of Mines, he noted that it also had installed winding and pumping plant, and a concentrator. This consisted of a Cornish boiler, rock-breaker and crushing rolls.

As had happened so often before, no sooner did a new mine look good, than other claims were taken up in the vicinity. One of these was the Paull's North Extended, located about four kilometres North West from Paull's Consolidated. This mine was worked by open-cut.

Early in 1902 Paull's Consolidated was put on the market and taken up on contract by Ashwood and Crump, who worked it for some time. Two years later the mine was inspected by the new manager Matthew May, who worked for James Martin and Co in Gawler. Matthew May, born in 1849, was the son of Henry May and Mary A. Trenery. He came to South Australia, from Perran Zabuloe in Cornwall, in 1858. After having worked as a miner he eventually followed his older brother Frederick to Gawler.

In September 1904 May arrived at Paull's Consolidated and one of his first priorities was to deepen the main shaft from eighty metres to at least a hundred metres. His main reason for doing this was to tap the supply of underground water to run his concentrator. It was also expected that while this was being done large quantities of ore would be raised from the numerous stopes.

By the end of the year the concentrating plant was erected and running well, "giving great satisfaction". It was also expected that Paull's Consolidated would soon be "one of the best mines in the district". A month later a Mr Key, with a team of thirty-six donkeys, was on his way to the mine with machinery from the old Ediacara, which after it had been installed, should make Paull's Consolidated "a dividend-paying concern".

Two years later the mine had changed hands again and was taken up on tribute by W.B. Greenwood for a period of twelve months. Within three months of the takeover he had dispatched more than fifty tons of ore. By the end of the year though, mining had almost come to a standstill in the Northern Flinders Ranges because of the low prices paid for copper on the international market. Some tributers were still pushing on and making good money where copper was easily available and in good quantities.

At Paull's the men were mostly cleaning up the underground workings, timbering and backfilling worked-out stopes. The total value of copper raised during 1907 was about $5,000. At the nearby Lady Tennyson small amounts of copper ore averaging twenty-five to thirty percent were also raised. A small rise in the price of copper during 1908 had "cheered the copper-raisers up considerably at Paull's", where ten men were now working under the management of J. Ashwood.

Unfortunately the high copper prices were not sustained. Soon after the short-lived rise, copper prices continued their downward slide. Finally on 26 January 1911, at an extraordinary general meeting held at the Universal Buildings in Grenfell Street Adelaide, it was decided that Paull's Consolidated Proprietary should be wound up voluntarily. However for the next ten years several tributers, working for themselves were able to raise copper. In 1914 twenty tons were raised. The last recorded production was in 1920. Total production during its nearly twenty-five years of operation was estimated at thirty-five thousand tons of ore, containing one thousand tons of copper.

In 1890, after an absence of nearly eighteen years Captain W.J. Paull, after whom Paull's Consolidated was named, returned from Queensland to the Northern Flinders Ranges. One of his first impressions was that during his absence only very few new mines had been opened up in the North and that most of the older ones had been abandoned for want of capital. However the Lorna Doone, Wheal Turner, Cutaway, Elsie Adair, and the Mountain of Light were producing copper ore during these years. Developmental work was also in progress at the Umberatana. Captain Paull stated that in his opinion the proposed smelting works at Port Augusta, should really be erected at Leigh's Creek, as the proximity of the coal field would be a definite advantage.

Whereas in the 1860s, 1870s and even 1880s the cost of transport had been one of the most important factors in the viability of a mine in the Northern Flinders Ranges, it now seemed that everyone wanted centrally located smelters. After all the railway had been completed in 1882 as far as Leigh's Creek and in 1884 it had progressed all the way to Marree. Many mines were still a long way from the railway line, but at least the 250 kilometres from Leigh's Creek to Port Augusta had now a much faster and cheaper connection, which could make the difference between the continuation of a mine, or its closure. Even so the argument about centrally located smelters was nearly as old as the push for the railway.

As has been seen at several of the mines discussed previously, most of them wanted smelters, but few were able to afford them. The only centrally located smelters which did process copper ore from local mines were located at Bolla Bollana on the north-eastern side of the Northern Flinders Ranges. Some individual mines, especially the larger ones, did have their own smelters but had to pay dearly for their services. To reduce their costs and increase efficiency they were often forced to smelt ores from smaller neighbouring mines.

Right from the start of mining in the Northern Flinders Ranges ore had been transported by bullock teams to Port Augusta. From there it went by ship to Port Adelaide where it either went to England or was smelted at the English and Australian Copper Company at Port Adelaide which had completed its smelters by 1861. In its first year of operation it had produced 759 tons of copper. It could afford to import the coal from Newcastle. In the Northern Flinders this would have been impossible as the expense of bullock transport was prohibitive.

An additional problem was that most smelters needed different kinds of ore to be used as a flux. For instance the flux material for the Sliding Rock smelters had to be carted in from the Two Brothers Mine. Fuel for the smelters in the Northern Flinders Ranges was also a problem. Often it had to be carted in from as far as fifty kilometres. As early as 1876 it was stated that "The only chance of any of these mines becoming productive would be a supply of coal, for smelting purposes, at a reasonable rate. I really don't believe that in three or four years time there will be timber for the engines". When coal from the nearby Leigh Creek mine became available, most of the mines had closed and passed into history.

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