The Kapunda Mine Trail tells the story of Australia's first successful commercial metal mine. The mines at Kapunda and Burra contributed greatly to our colony's recovery from an economic crisis in the early 1840s.
Copper was discovered in Kapunda in 1842 by Francis Dutton and Charles Bagot. While looking for some sheep during a storm, Francis Dutton of 'Anlaby' noticed some green rock. He spoke to his neighbour Captain Charles Bagot of 'Koonunga', who said that his son had also found a similar piece of rock. The two men kept their discovery secret until they could purchase the land, which they bought for $2 an acre. It was agreed between the two men that Bagot would have a 75% share and Dutton would have a 25% share in the mine. Just four years later, Francis Dutton sold his share for more than $30,000, entered state politics and twice became the Premier of South Australia.
The town of Kapunda can claim a few other "firsts" including the first horsedrawn whim (of which there is a stunning replica on the trail), the first Cornish beam engine, the first open cut mine in Australia and the first mining company that built homes for the miners.
The Mine Trail walk is approximately 1.5 km long and takes about an hour or so to complete, but it took us much longer as we stopped often, looked at everything there was to see and took a lot of photos. The walking path is well signposted with lots of historical information and the views of the mine are quite spectacular. The path has 2 access points for those who only wish to take a shorter walk. The path is solid and well made, making it easy for everyone to take part. The area is litter free and is a credit to the Kapunda locals who have created this wonderful walking trail.
The top section has the replica whim and steel sculpture of a horse - a reminder of the hardship of both men and beast in an era when mining was done with just a pick and a shovel. The bottom section has a stepped access path onto one of the mine floors. If you can do this section, then do it - being on the mine floor is quite a unique perspective. You can get up close to the wall of the mine and see the colours and shapes of the rocks. There are all shades of green, some purples, white and orange too. Take your camera and spend a while here - it's amazing.
Be sure to stick to the designated walking paths; it may be tempting to jump a fence for a better view, but doing so is incredibly dangerous. Back in the day, there were very few men who were experienced in the workings of a mine. Those who could use a pick and a shovel would tender for an area of the exposed ore body and be paid according to the value of ore they extracted. They worked with almost zero supervision and as a result, there are burrows and mine shafts all over the place. The holes appear haphazardly and don't follow any system or method.
The gold rush hit Victoria and the Kapunda mines were closed in 1851 but were reopened in 1855 where ore continued to be extracted until the mine's final closure in 1878.
But, in news released in 2017, copper mining may return to Kapunda. Terramin Mining and Environmental Copper Recovery have entered into an agreement regarding the potential development of an ore recovery project at the site. If the field tests are successful, it could be possible that an in-situ recovery (ISR) production at the mine site could commence within a couple of years.
Follow the signs from the Thiele Highway onto Perry Road. There's a carpark with signposts on the left-hand side, just past the big industry site. It's quite easy to drive straight past without knowing it. A hint - if you're out into the open country, you've gone too far.
It's a hidden gem at Kapunda that totally embraces the local heritage and the natural environment. There is a shelter with seating underneath, but no toilets and no water. Dogs on a leash are allowed. Take a picnic. And enjoy this great spot. Entry is free.
Kapunda is approximately 80kms north of Adelaide, just past Gawler and near the Barossa Valley. It's an ideal distance for a day trip!