Digging up history in the Flinders Ranges

By Melissa Keogh

Visiting the historic copper town of Blinman in the Mid North is almost like stepping back in time.

Blinman is not part of a local council area, has no petrol station or mobile phone reception, instead relying on satellite services.

But with its humble population of just 20 people, the small outback town in the Flinders Ranges thrives off a rich mining history and lures thousands of visitors every year.

Blinman is home to an underground copper mine which is now a popular tourist attraction.

The Blinman Progress Association runs underground mine tours, providing visitors with a snapshot of what a miner’s life was like more than 100 years ago.

The tours launched in 2011 after a decade of planning, works and fundraising.

The underground Blinman mine tours attract thousands of visitors every year.

The underground Heritage Blinman Mine Tours attract thousands of visitors every year.

Mine tour manager Susan Pearl says tunnels were dug to allow access into the heart of the mine, while light and sound shows were installed to “recreate the ambience of the 1860s”.

“It was really so we could keep the town alive,” she says.

“Now there’s a flow on effect in the town, people speak very highly of Blinman and many people visit just for the mine.”

The mine operated from 1862 – 1907 and at its peak employed 1500 people.

It yielded 200,000 tonne of rock containing 10,000 tonne of ore.

Susan says a miner’s life was tough.

“Boys would start work at 14, barrow boys they would call them,” she says.

“Women’s lives were difficult too because they had to walk a good mile to get water and collect firewood.

“Diets were meagre – root vegetables like parsnips and swedes, kangaroo meat, and Cornish pasties.”

The Blinman Mine employed 1500 people at its peak.

Blinman Mine employed 1500 people at its peak.

Blinman’s other claim to fame is being South Australia’s highest surveyed town, sitting 616m above sea level.

Susan says Blinman’s lure is its history and the guarantee of a smile from a local.

“Everybody talks to each other and everybody waves,” she says.

“It’s got a certain charm about it.”

Other Blinman attractions include art show A Brush with Art (September-October) and equestrian event the Blinman Gymkhana (October), which raises money for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

Six Heritage Blinman Mine Tours run per day, seven days a week.

For more information visit the website.

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