Remains of Burra Burra copperworks
Remains of the copperworks at Burra Burra, New South Wales, Australia
Burra Burra copper mine, 1874.
Burra Burra copper mine, 1874.
Morris Stores, Swansea, Tasmania
Morris Stores, Swansea, Tasmania
George Mitchell
George Mitchell

The world of copper smelting was led by Wales in the 19th century. The works around Swansea and Holywell supplied over 50% of the world's copper.

The US copper industry vastly outstripped the Welsh copper industry. In Australia there were huge deposits of copper ore which led to the growth of smelting towns around the Spencer Gulf, South Australia from the 1860s. The workers were migrants, almost exclusively from the Swansea region, in the early days.

The mine and smelting works in Burra Burra, South Australia were Welsh owned with workers recruited in the Loughor and Llanelli area. It was the establishment of these smelters that eventually broke Swansea's undisputed dominance over the world copper markets.

As British and European copper sources became depleted, Swansea began to import copper ore, from countries such as Chile. In the 1860s Welsh smelters helped to establish works in Chile and today that country is among the largest producers in the world.

George Mitchell

Born in Swansea in 1864, Mitchell trained in the local copper works. He emigrated to the USA in 1888 and worked in several copper mining and smelting companies around the country. He owned mines and property from Mexico to Alaska but his huge copper smelting plant at Swansea, Arizona was a commercial failure and ruined him.


Graham Davies
28 June 2016, 10:54

Dear Ken,
Thank you for your comment. We don't hold records of individuals at the Museum, although we have a page on our website that provides links to resources that may help you research your wife's great-great grandfather:

Hope this helps,
Graham Davies, Digital Media

Ken Johnson
27 June 2016, 02:54
Hello, my wife's great-grandfather was a copper smelter. We are wondering if you have any information about him. His name was William John. He was born around 1827. he came to Wallaroo, South Australia in 1863 on board the barque "Wallaroo" with a group 12 smelters from Swansea, Wales. It was the first voyage of the "Wallaroo" sailing from Milford Haven on 31st October 1863 and arriving at Wallaroo on 5th February 1863. We are interested in William's life and career before he came to South Australia. We are led to believe that he worked in Chile beforehand and that he was also married and had his wife die in Chile. He eventually remarried in Wallaroo (to a Welsh girl who had also emigrated in 1863) and raised a family. William John died at his home in Wallaroo on 2nd October 1897 aged 70y. Any information on his life and work in Wales and in Chile would be great.
Your faithfully
Ken and Helen Johnson
Tanunda SA

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