Moonta was colonial South Australia's largest mining enterprise and is strongly associated with Cornish culture.
Moonta is located in the upper Yorke Peninsula, 165km north west of Adelaide. The region is known as South Australia's 'Copper Triangle' or 'Little Cornwall'.
The state heritage area is an important collection of 19th century mining structures. It covers most of the former Moonta Mining Company lease, and includes the main mining, industrial and residential components of Moonta Mines and Yelta.
The Moonta Mines opened in 1861, giving a welcome boost to South Australia's economy at a time when crop yields were poor and workers were migrating to the Victorian goldfields. By 1870 the population of Moonta was second only to Adelaide.
Nearly 5,000 tons of ore, worth more than £67,000, was produced in the first year of operation. In 1876 the Moonta Mining Company was the first company in Australia to pay £1 million in dividends.
Profits from the mine were reinvested in South Australia or donated to organisations such as the University of Adelaide. A School of Mines was established, becoming an important precursor to vocational training in Australia.
The opening of the copper mines led to a rapid influx of skilled miners and artisans from Cornwall. Cornish methods were applied in construction, design, labour and mining. The families settled in familiar village patterns around the mines and held onto their traditions and religions.
On 9 May 2017 the Australian Cornish Mining Sites: Burra and Moonta were included in the National Heritage List.