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WALLAROO & MOONTA MINING & SMELTING COY LTD, YORKE PENINSULA, S.A.

This cover was addressed to The Secretary, American Electrochemical Society. South Bethlehem, PENN, U.S.A. and the green3d ‘Roo on the Map of Australia’ stamp was postmarked with WALLAROO/ 7-A 13 MAY 18/ STH AUSTRALIA. There was a purple oval PASSED BY / 4 TH MD/ CENSOR handstamp (Figure 1).

The flap on the reverse had a fine example of the oval ‘belt and buckle’ inscription of Wallaroo & Moonta Mining & Smelting COY LTD with ‘MINES & WORKS’ in the oval’s centre (Figure 2).

The Electrochemical Society (ECS) was founded as an international non-profit, educational organization concerned with a broad range of phenomena relating to electrochemical and solid state science and technology. The Society was born as the American Electrochemical Society in 1902, and its name was changed to the Electrochemical Society in 1930 to reflect more accurately its international activities and membership. The ECS has more than 7000 scientists and engineers in over 75 countries, as well as roughly 100 corporations and laboratories. Its objectives are to advance theory and practice, to encourage research and dissemination of knowledge, and to ensure training and education in the fields of electrochemistry, solid state science and allied subjects.

The historic South Australian copper towns of Moonta (Aboriginal: ‘scrub’), Kadina (‘plain of lizards’) and Wallaroo (‘black mountain wallaby’ or ‘large brown kangaroo’) form what is known as the Copper Triangle in the Yorke Peninsula. The various identified copper resources in South Australia are shown by the brown dots where the Wallaroo-Moonta area is highlighted by the green arrow (Figure 3).

Copper was first discovered in this area in 1859 by a shepherd which caused a rush for mining licenses*. The mines were worked from 1860 until 1923 and formed one of the largest copper producing areas in the world in the late 19th century. We have no information about the sender of this letter, but an educated guess suggests that it might have been William Cockburn Gentles (ca.1876-1954) who worked in Australia and New Zealand as an industrial chemist. For 15 years he was the chemist in charge at the Wallaroo Works Laboratory of the Wallaroo and Moonta Mining & Smelting Co. Ltd., South Australia and taught at the local School of Mines from 1907- 1922.

The mines were worked largely by skilled Cornish miners and the area became known as ‘Australia’s Little Cornwall’. The Moonta mine was the first mine in Australia to pay £1 million in dividends. The port of Wallaroo was the site of smelting works to treat ore from the nearby mines. The Moonta-Wallaroo mines produced a total of about 350,000 tonnes of copper which amounted to nearly half of the total mineral production in South Australia up to 1924. Today the area’s mine, smelting sites and settlements form an unique industrial landscape.

The Wallaroo Smelting Works in 1870, the Moonta Mine Settlement in 1870 and the Wallaroo Mine in 1915 are shown, successively, in Figures 4, 5 and 6.

* Please see at this website another paper about a South Australian copper mine in ‘Letter from A.L. Elder to R.A.A. Morehead’ in the category ‘Business’.


 
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