The most southerly of creeks in the Lake Eyre Basin is Leigh’s Creek. It was
Edward John Eyre, who was the first white man to see this creek, when crossing
it on his way north in 1840. The creek was named after Harry Leigh who was
employed on the nearby Leigh’s Creek Pastoral Run, which was first leased in
The railway arrived in 1881, with Leigh’s Creek Station being built just
south of where the line crossed the creek. Copley at that time was originally a
rail siding for the Old Ghan train named Leigh’s Creek.
The story of coal mining in the Leigh Creek region began when coal-bearing shale
was discovered west of the station during the sinking of a railway dam in 1888
by John Henry Reid. A year later, after the visit and examination of the area by
the government Geologist H. Y. L Brown, there was the establishment of
underground workings. However, the No 1 shaft, sunk by the Leigh Creek Coal
Mining Company was abandoned on striking a heavy flow of water.
In 1891, the then Leigh Creek was renamed to Copley, after the then Commissioner of
Crown Lands, William Copley MP.
In 1892 a new shaft was sunk in the area, but only small quantities of coal
were extracted and operations ceased in 1894. It wasn’t until 1940, when the
State’s coal supplies became precarious as a result of the Second World War,
that any further consideration was given to the Leigh Creek deposits.
During that time the name of Leigh Creek was applied to the railway
station, post office, and later the hotel, in the renamed town of Copley. It wasn’t until 1916 that the name Copley was given to the station and post office,
with only the local hotel stilling bearing the original name to this day.
It wasn’t until the late 1940s before large scale mining was underway and by
1967 annual output of coal exceeded 2m. tonnes for the first time.
Because the existing town was located within the coal basin, it was decided
to build a new town. In 1976, the Electricity Trust of South Australia (ETSA)
had selected a location south of the coalfield. Landscaping was established in 1977. Construction started in 1979 and the first
house occupied in 1980. 1981 saw the construction of a new airport and by 1984
the town of Leigh Creek was completed.
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Leigh Creek - Coalfield and Operation