Burra is a pastoral centre and historic tourist town in the mid-north of South Australia. It lies east of the Clare Valley in the Bald Hills range, part of the northern Mount Lofty Ranges, and on the Burra creek. The town began as a single company mining township that, by 1851, was a set of townships ( company, private and government owned) collectively known as “The Burra”. The Burra mines supplied 89% of South Australia’s and 5% of the world’s copper for 15 years and the settlement has been credited (along with the mines at Kapunda) with saving the economy of the struggling new colony of South Australia. The Burra Burra copper mine was established in 1848 mining the copper deposit discovered in 1845. Miners and townspeople migrated to Burra primarily from Cornwall, Wales, Scotland and Germany. The mine first closed in 1877, briefly opened again early in the 20th century and for a last time from 1970-1981.
When the mine was exhausted and closed the population shrunk dramatically and the townships, for the next 100 years, supported pastoral and agricultural activities. Today the town continues as a centre for surrounding farming communities and, as one of the best preserved Victorian towns in Australia, a historic tourist centre.
The name applied to what is now the town of Burra, has changed over time. The Burra Burra copper mine was named after the Burra Burra creek that flows through the town. From at least 1851 the collection of townships near the mine became referred to as “The Burra”. The town of Burra was officially formed in 1940 by a notice in the South Australian Government Gazette with the consolidation of the mostly culturally-based townships of Redruth, Aberdeen, New Aberdeen, Hampton, Copperhouse, Kooringa, Llwchwr and Lostwithiel.
The name Burra Burra has been asserted to have come from numerous sources. Most favoured is that it comes from the Hindustani for ‘great great’, used by Indians working for early pastoralist James Stein to refer to creek. The name could also have come from Stein’s home country of Scotland or a number of Aboriginal languages.