- SALT MINING
SALT MINING ON THE PEESEY
‘The Peesey ‘ is the swampy, low-lying area to the east of Warooka. A rift valley, it is thought to have emerged from the sea only 30,000 years ago. This largely barren, but fascinating area is below sea level and separates the ‘foot’ from the ’leg’ of Yorke Peninsula.
Once the hub of a thriving salt producing industry, The Peesey Swamp supported three mining companies that produced high quality salt from the 1920s until production ceased in 1970.
Bores were sunk where brine, 7.5 times saltier than the sea, was pumped into a channel allowing impurities to settle out before transfer to large, shallow pans where further evaporation took place until finally a thick crust of high quality salt was obtained.
Before mechanisation, shovels or purpose-built forks, were used by local and aboriginal labour to load the salt into small, wooden trucks known as “dobbins”, running on narrow gauge railway lines.
Advances in technology saw the use of mechanical scrapers mounted on caterpillar tracks. Using an adjustable, front mounted steel shovel to penetrate below the crust, the salt was then transported along a conveyor system into the waiting dobbins.
The salt was bagged at the nearby salt works and then taken by road to Adelaide for refinement into various grades.
Pacific Salt Company, the last to produce salt on The Peesey, closed down their operation in 1970 and moved to Whyalla on Eyre Peninsula. The company now under the name of Olssons Pacific Salt, still maintains the lease agreement for the Peesey Swamp.
THERE’S OIL IN THEM THERE HILLS…..OR SWAMP!!
In 1931-33 there was great excitement when exploration for oil resulted in a bore being put down on what is known as “Duck Island” a few kms east of Warooka. The company involved was Peninsula Oil Syndicate Ltd., the driller George Johnston of Oklahoma. Many local people were involved including the building of the access road to the drilling site. Three horses and a dray were used to cart the first filling. Things were bad enough while the team kept moving, but once they stopped, down went all into the mud. After nearly losing a horse a Reo truck was brought in to complete the job, slowly and muddily!
Drilling went on for some time, but no oil was ever found, although some old-timers still believed it could be…..somewhere…
PIPE-CLAY AT GLEESON’S LANDING
Deposits of Pipe-clay at a quarry near Gleeson’s Landing were worked spasmodically for many years. The bags of clay were sent down the cliff face on a long chute, which was graded so that they slowed at the end of the run. 12 bags at a time were then loaded onto a cargo-boat, which carried them out to a waiting ketch.
Just think, your great-grandfather’s pipe may have been made of clay from Gleeson’s Landing!
GYPSUM at MARION BAY & STENHOUSE BAY
In 1889 the Australian Gypsum and Whiting Company was formed to take up leases in and around Marion Bay. The company built the first section of the Marion Bay jetty, as well as wooden tramway tracks from the gypsum lake to the jetty. In 1902 five miles of tramline was replaced with steel tracks. Two locomotives & 70 small side-tipping trucks were then used to haul the gypsum from Marion Bay Lake to the jetty. A stockpile of gypsum was held at the approach to the jetty to facilitate the loading of small ketches.
In 1913 the Permasite Co. of Melbourne took up the leases north of Cape Spencer. The Stenhouse Bay jetty was erected, with facilities for loading gypsum and the company worked the Inneston Lake. About 1916 a cutting was made through the cliff and steel tracks laid to the jetty 150′ below.
In 1925 the Marion Bay jetty length was increased, with a ‘T’ shape at the end, and a conveyor belt added. The gypsum was blasted from the lake and loaded onto trucks which were pulled off the lake by horse, and then hauled to the jetty by locomotive.
In 1930 a merger occurred between the Peninsula Plaster Company Pty Ltd, Victor Electric Plaster Mills Pty Ltd and Australian Gypsum Pty Ltd. The new company became Australian Gypsum Products Pty Ltd, with the South Australian division named as Waratah Gypsum Pty Ltd.
Operations at Inneston declined at this time and were gradually transferred to Stenhouse Bay.
In 1945 the production of salt began in two locations, Marion Bay lake and Snow’s Lake.
Unfortunately Stenhouse Bay became the victim of progress and from 1972 operations were wound down.