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Background of Cobar

In the Beginning

The Cobar district was the traditional home of the Ngemba and Wongaibon Aboriginal people. Prior to the discovery of copper in 1870, the Cobar district was made up of huge pastoral holdings which relied heavily on the Darling River trade. 

1870 The Discovery of Copper

In 1870 three tank sinkers, Charles Campbell, Thomas Hartman and George Gibb, accompanied by two Aboriginal guides, Boney and Frank were travelling from Bourke to Condobolin. Camped at ‘Kubbur’ water-hole, near Cobar, they noticed the unusual colour of the water. The men took ore samples from the area and showed them to the publicans at the Gilgunnia Pub, a Mr and Mrs Kruge.

Mrs Sidwell Kruge had worked as a ‘Balgal’, employed in sorting ore in copper mines in Cornwall (UK). When Hartman, Campbell and Gibb showed her the samples taken from ‘Kubbur’ water-hole, she identified them as copper ore.

The discovery led to the formation of the Great Cobar Copper Mine which became the largest copper mine in Australia. At the time of its peak in 1912, the Great Cobar boasted 14 smelters, a 64 metre chimney stack and it employed over 2000 workers.

At the turn of the 19th century the population of Cobar was approximately 10,000. Mining had become the most important industry in the region and many small towns grew on the wealth generated by the Great Cobar Mine. These included Wrightville, Mount Drysdale, Canbelego, Shuttleton and Nymagee which all supported significant populations during the period 1870 – 1920. 

1919 The Great Cobar Closes

Despite enjoying many profitable years of copper production, the Great Cobar Mine’s fortunes crashed with the drop in the demand for copper following World War I. The Great Cobar ceased production and was dismantled over the next couple of years. Following the closure of the mine, the town’s population dwindled to less than 1,000 and many small towns in the vicinity of Cobar were reduced to only a handful of people. 

Drummond of the Far West

In 1924, Methodist minister, Rev. Stanley Drummond and his wife, Lucy arrived in Cobar which was at a low point after the closure of the mine. Many families lived in poverty and the Drummonds were appalled at the conditions that families endured. Many children suffered from long-term illnesses and disease and the Drummonds devoted their lives to helping the underprivileged and sick children of the Outback. They also organised for disadvantaged and sick children to visit Sydney and the beach.

“The Far West Children’s Health Scheme” was started in 1935 as a direct outcome of the Drummonds’ work. Three railway carriages were converted into mobile clinics and over the years, children from all over Western NSW benefited from the service. The original Far West Children’s Health Scheme base in Manly continues to provide an outreach service to children in Outback NSW.

One of the ‘Far West’ railway carriages has been restored and is a fascinating exhibit for visitors to the Great Cobar Heritage Centre. 

Mines in Cobar

In 1934 the New Occidental Gold Mine, situated 6 km from Cobar, opened and continued operations until the early 1950’s. With the improvement in technology, Peak Gold Mines has commenced mining at the old site again as well as open cutting the New Cobar site on Fort Bourke Hill.

The Cornish, Scottish & Australian Mine (CSA), is a copper mine that has seen a series of openings and closures of its site. Operational from the early 1870’s, the CSA closed in 1920 when a fire broke out underground. The fire burned for 16 years and effectively ended operations. The CSA mine re-opened in 1965 and continued until 1998 when, due to market forces, it again closed. Fortunately, the CSA Mine re-opened and is fully operational once again.

Endeavor Mine (previously Elura) is situated 47 kilometres north of Cobar. It commenced operations in 1983 and is owned and operated by Sydney-based mineral resource company CBH Resources Limited (CBH). The mine is the largest zinc, lead and silver producer in the Region. An entirely underground operation accessed by traditional shaft haulage with concentrator, drying, storage and rail facilities on the mine lease, Endeavor currently produces at a rate of 720,00 tonnes of ore per annum.

Peak Gold Mines, 12 kilometres south of Cobar, opened in 1992. Continued exploration has sourced gold deposits on Fort Bourke Hill (New Cobar site) where open cut mining is being carried out. 


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