It's not well known that the first metals mining in Australia started in 1841 in the Adelaide Hills, bringing a mining boom that caused Adelaide's population to treble in the next ten years. It was largely the discovery of gold in the eastern states that caused this spectacular growth to eventually slow down.
The Grunthal mine began mining copper in 1870 after the highly sought mineral was discovered the previous year. It was named after the nearby town of Grunthal - German for Green Valley. After a backlash against German place names during the First World War the town was renamed Verdun in 1917, although the mine name remained unchanged.
Grunthal Mine Today - Boilerhouse, Engine Room and Crushing Plant
High copper prices enabled substantial stone buildings to be constructed in 1872 to house the boilerhouse, enginehouse, and crushing plant, with a chimney erected nearby. The plant was ordered from the Andrew Jones Foundry in Adelaide. A stone mine manager's house of 11 rooms was also built overlooking the mine works.
Life at the time was productive in more ways than one, with the South Australian Register reporting in 1875 that Samuel Paynter's wife bore him a son at the mine.
The Crusherhouse Complex Workings (Image Courtesy PIRSA)
After a slump in copper prices in 1876 copper mining ceased, but Grunthal mine reopened again briefly in 1882 to mine for gold. New attempts to find gold in 1913 and 1935 were also largely unsuccessful.
Ore was fed to the top floor of the crusherhouse from the mine using ore trucks along a tram track, and the resulting crushed ore was like coarse sand. The crushed material would have been removed from the lower level by cart. It's thought that more than 420 tons of unrefined copper was produced during the life of the mine.
While the mine was fairly unremarkable in the broad scale of South Australian industry, it would have provided work for many people in the nearby Adelaide Hills area over the years.
Interestingly the mine manager's house also played an important part for the local community. After the Grunthal school closed in 1887 at the local church, the school reopened in 1898 in the Grunthal Mine Manager's home where it operated until 1913.
In 1954 the mine manager's home was occupied by retired Public Buildings Department architect Bill Hope Murray, enjoying country life as a mixed farmer. He briefly came out of retirement to draw up preliminary plans for a new Hahndorf Institute complex on Hahndorf's main street.
Grunthal Mine in 1935 (Image Courtesy State Library SA B46509)
More recently the State Heritage Listed mine buildings and house have been owned by Australian Rail Track Corporation, but they are soon to come on the market for sale again. The real estate agent handling the sale is Raine & Horne Oakbank, and it's expected that the property will come on the market in August 2013.
This could be a rare chance to mine for gold in the Adelaide Hills while enjoying life in a historic stone home in the green valley of Verdun!
I was so pleased to see this article . As part of the National Australian Curriculum, Rocks and Mining are part of the year 8 course . I really wanted to take my students to a mine .The Hugh Wheals Mine at Moonta is now closed due to rockfall. When I saw this I thought, finally some where to take them .However after reading the article it does not say if tours are available( ideal for my class) or where the place is or who to contact or indeed if it is open to the public.Can you provide any more details or even tell me of other places my students could visit. I would love them to be able pan for gold!