Leigh Creek is a coal-mining town in the north of South Australia. The current town is 13 km further south than the original town—it was moved in 1982 to allow the expansion of the mine. This means that most facilities and buildings in the town are only a little over twenty years old, and with relatively modern designs.
The area was named Leigh Creek after its first settler, Harry Leigh, in 1856. Coal was discovered and small quantities mined from 1888. The town to support the mine at that time was called Copley, after William Copley, an MP and Commissioner of Crown Lands. It wasn’t mined in a significant commercial manner until 1943 in an effort to make South Australia more self-sufficient for its energy needs, with less dependence on New South Wales. The premier Tom Playford saw the need to be seen not to rely on interstate energy if he was to attract business to South Australia.
The town is on the edge of the desert, to the west of the northern Flinders Ranges.
The brown coal mined from an open cut mine is transported 250 km by rail to power stations outside Port Augusta on the east side of the top of Spencer Gulf. The coal occurs in several nested bowl-shaped seams, each several metres thick.
The coalfield at Leigh Creek is operated by the NRG Flinders and currently produces over 2.5 million tonnes a year of coal. NRG Flinders also operate the power stations at Port Augusta which produce up to 40 per cent of the electricity generated in South Australia.