11. China Clay Mines

Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 - 1954), Saturday 28 April 1906, page 50


(By Ethel A. Bates.)

Perhaps a visit to the china clay mines will occupy one intelligently, and fill one with deep felt interest and pleasure more than many of the various other ways of passing a few idle hours. Here one feels one has spent the time profitably, as well as pleasurably.

On the occasion of our visit we were kindly shown over the mines, and conducted by candle-light through the many different shafts and drives. The scene impresses one as most unusual; the sides of the drives consist of walls of the pure white china clay in its different stages; pockets of tourmalines are also frequently struck, which adds further value to the holding. The clay as discovered here, has undergone severe tests, and is now declared to be of the rarest quality, as it is of such intrinsic value, and a good future looms ahead for Kangaroo Islanders.

The crushing process through which the stone passes in the operation of cleaning and sorting is very interesting. At the time of our visit the erection of the machinery had not quite been completed; however, the workings of it was described to us. The process of crushing and preparing is done by means of three 8-ton mill stones in the shape of huge wheels; these are worked around by steam power, the engine for which, was standing in readiness. Tramlines are laid down from the drives to the engine-rooms, to which place the stone is transported by means of trucks. A windmill recently erected over a splendid well of water keeps the works supplied.

Great expense has been entailed in the purchase and transportation of such an extensive plant, added to which the weather has been so inclement during last spring that the teamsters have been unable to shift the heavy loads from the Hog Bay jetty to the mines, owing to the wet state of the roads between the two places. The china clay mines lies about eight miles to the south-east of Penneshaw; the drive thence does not, however, call for much attention.

The chief objects of interest met with was a fowl-house built entirely, as far as I could make, with dry mallee stumps. This struck me as being very unusual; to me the sight was altogether fresh, but the device might be extended, say, from fowl-houses to dwellings. Any young people desirous of entering into the bonds of matrimony would have but to build for their future home a structure of this description, and their every wish would be gratified. The knots of the stumps projecting inside would provide ample space and convenience for the wife to hang her best dress and Sunday hat, whilst outside the projections would be admirably suited for pegs on which to hank the frying-pan, saucepan, "billy," and all the other numerous little utensils belonging to a kitchen. If by any chance the mention of these facts and their possible adoption should be the means of inducing erstwhile men and maidens to carry out my ideas; I trust it wilt nor be necessary to remind them that I expect some compensation for the discovery and disclosure!

Nothing else called for our attention, excepting heaps of toads, lying dead and dying, in the dried up pools of water on either side of the road. My ever-ready sympathies were enlisted on their behalf, and on the spot I determined to become a naturalist.

The sun was disagreeably warm, and the dust was most unpleasantly thick, the files and mosquitoes were equally troublesome; still, despite burnt faces and dust-laden dresses, we felt we had spent the time most profitably in visiting our local china clay mine.