Iron Knob - Culture and History


The first European to pass through the Iron Knob area was Edward John Eyre who, in 1839, identified the area as having substantial deposits of ironstone and climbed one of the many local ironstone mountains - probably Iron Baron.

By 1854 pastoralists were established in the area and Cooroona Hill (now Corunna) Station had been established and Iron Knob (sometimes called Iron Nob) had been named - presumably as a description of the shape of the mountain which, although it is now 150 m lower than it was in 1880, still looms over the township.

Iron Knob is widely recognised as the first commercial iron ore mine in Australia. It was first exploited by Mount Minden Mining in 1880 but they couldn't keep up production or pay the rent and it was taken over by BHP who have run it continuously since 1899. BHP took over the lease in 1896 and started mining in 1899 when their smelters at Port Pirie required ironstone as a flux to smelt the silver-lead ores from Broken Hill. At the time, and really until the discovery of the huge iron reserves in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, the Iron Knob deposit was the largest in Australia. Until the 1960s all of BHP's major steelmaking operations - at Newcastle, Port Kembla, Port Pirie and Whyalla - were supplied with iron ore from the Iron Knob area.

It is important for visitors to understand that Iron Princess, Iron Monarch and Iron Knob are all one of the same in the sense that they are all connected to the town of Iron Knob but Iron Monarch is nothing more than a mine (without a community) and Iron Princess is a small mine located between Iron Knob and Corunna Station.

Anyone wanting to know more about the area should read the charming, hand printed, Looking Back: A History of Iron Knob written by Ada Casey and Marlene Cleasby with drawings by Stephen Stanley. It is available from the Tourist Centre.

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