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ROBERT BLINMAN, SHEPHERD, HISTORIC COPPER TOWN, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

The orange ‘TWO PENCE’ stamp of South Australia has a near perfect ‘socked-on-the-nose’ ‘Squared Circle’ (Type 2) postmark of BLINMAN/ SE 30/ 95/ S-A, which introduces another history of the mining industry in Australia (Figure 1).

Martin Walker’s book on Post , Telegraph and Telephone Offices of South Australia and the Northern Territory, 2004, page 37 describes the type of post offices at Blinman, from its opening date on 1/9/1862 until 30/6/1993, a list of the Postmasters, and as well it shows a picture of the Blinman Post Office (Figure 2).

The localised map of South Australia shows the proximity of Blinman to two major areas, Lake Torrens in hatched blue and the Flinders Ranges. Blinman is shown at the blue arrow, and it is on the Northern route, 578 km almost due north from Adelaide (Figure 3).

There are multiple accounts of Robert Blinman’s find of copper, and I particularly like the following: On a hot December day in 1859, Robert Blinman, a shepherd employed by H.C. Swan’s Angorichina station observed a great mineral outcrop on top of a hill, about 30 metres above a creek. To him it looked not only big, but also promising enough to gamble a few weeks’ wages on.

He needed at least $10 (sic) to make a mineral application to secure the outcrop and the area around it. Blinman’s application was approved on 9 February 1860 and surveyed on 10 May 1860. He was able to convince others of the richness of the copper outcrop, and when the lease was issued on 1 January 1861 it was in the names of Robert Blinman , Alfred Frost, Joe Mole and Henry Alford. They all contributed to the $89 (sic) needed for the first year’s rent. Their lease was one of 116 others taken out that year in South Australia and it eventually became the largest and most productive copper mine in the Flinders Ranges. As early as 25 February 1862 Robert Blinman and other leaseholders sold their mine known as the Wheal Blinman, to the Yudanamutana Copper Mining Company of South Australia for $12,000 (sic). This English company hired Captain Thomas Anthony and work was started in earnest.

The top of the mine was stoped (cut) away from the top of the mine to display the ore body and by 1862 five shafts had been sunk and more than 600 tons of ore were recovered, 400 of which had a yield of about 40% copper. In addition to the problems of mining the ore, the initial transportation of the ore to Port Augusta for smelting was an arduous task. In 1864 Blinman was surveyed by Thomas Evans, and he named it after Robert Blinman. Blinman had previously lost a leg, and he was known as "peg-leg" Blinman. He married Hannah née Hunt in Adelaide on19 August,1844 and his family moved in to Beltana pastoral station in 1862, and he and his wife who had 9 children, lost a daughter, Selina and a son, Martin, both of an unspecified fever in January 1862. A picture of Blinman, his wife Hannah, and a son and a daughter are seen in Figure 4.

Copper mining occurred in the area from around 1862 through to 1918 when the ore ran out. In total ca. 10,000 tonnes of copper were removed from the area with most of it being mined in the years between 1903 -1918 when the town’s population peaked at around 2,000. To-day the settlement verges on being a ghost town. There is little more than a pub and a few houses with the main interest lying in the remnants of the old mines which exist in all their rusted glory. A picture of the above-ground Blinman mine buildings and an abandoned homestead are seen in Figures 5 & 6.

 

 
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