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Iron Knob, SA

Historic iron ore mining town calling itself the 'Birthplace of Australia's Steel Industry'

Iron Knob is a near-perfect example of the changing fortunes of mining towns. There was a time when Iron Knob and the nearby town of Iron Baron were hugely productive with a population at Iron Knob of over 3,000 workers all employed by, or working for, BHP. The town itself was located in the heart of a semi-desert area - the annual rainfall in this inhospitable environment is rarely more than 200mm - some 54 km from Whyalla and the shores of the Spencer Gulf. Today it is typical, struggling, mining town with closed up shops and empty houses but with a resilient local population who are determined to keep the town alive. It is driven by iron ore prices and when they rise the town is rejuvenated. It is important for visitors to understand that Iron Princess, Iron Monarch and Iron Knob are all connected to the town of Iron Knob but Iron Monarch is nothing more than a mine (without a community) and Iron Princess is a small mine located between Iron Knob and Corunna Station.
Always check with the Whyalla Visitor Centre to find out whether the tours are operating or whether the town is effectively closed down. It is always worth visiting - if only to see what happens when mines close down.


Iron Knob is located 377 km north of Adelaide, 70 km south-west of Port Augusta, 54 km north-west of Whyalla and 152 m above sea level.


Origin of Name

By 1854 there were pastoralists in the area and Iron Knob (also spelt Iron Nob) had been named - presumably as a description of the shape of the mountain. Visitors should note that the "Knob" is now 150 metres lower than it was in 1880 as a result of mining.


Things to See and Do

Iron Knob Tours, Tourist Centre and Museum
The local community raises funds by conducting tours of the mines which leave the Visitor Centre between 9.15 am - 12.15 pm and from 1.15 pm - 2.45 pm tel: (08) 8646 2129 or after hours 0439 302 671. The tours take between 60-90 minutes and include a 7 minute video about the town and an inspection of a pictorial display of the history of the town. The tour passes the first home built for the BHP Employment Scheme in Iron Knob. The scheme allowed workers to buy their own homes by putting down a deposit of £50 and having £1 a week taken out of their pay until the house was paid off. The Tourist Centre also sells interesting ironstone jewellery ranging from worry beads to expensive necklaces. The tour is full of interesting and idiosyncratic information about the development of the mine and the growth of the town. It also provides excellent views across the Princess Mine which has recently re-opened. The Visitor Centre includes a Mining Museum which has old mining equipment and a large selection of mineral specimens, taken from the mines in the area.

Golf Course
To attract visitors the citizens built a golf course which, sadly, had to be moved when the new Princess Mine was opened. Still it offers golfers an opportunity to play one of the harshest golf courses in the country. Usually greens in the desert are made from oiled sand. These greens are simply dirt and the fairways are rough and challenging. For information about playing contact either Ray tel: 0408 145 470 or John 0418 685 495.



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans this harsh desert area was sparsely populated by the Banggarla Aboriginal people.

* The first European to pass through the area was the explorer, Edward John Eyre, who, in 1839, identified deposits of ironstone and climbed one of the many local ironstone mountains - probably Iron Baron.

* In 1848 a report on the area recorded that copper, lead, zinc and manganese had been discovered.

* By 1854 pastoralist James Paterson established Cooroona Hill (now Corunna) Station. He identified Iron Knob (sometimes called Iron Nob) to the south of Corunna.

* In 1861 Abraham Scott took up 56 square miles of land in the area. He abandoned it in 1868.

* In 1868 the Corunna Station was taken over by Sir Samuel Davenport.

* In 1878 Davenport shipped ironstone from the area to London for the Colonial and Indian Exhibition of that year.

* Today Iron Knob is widely recognised as the first commercial iron ore mine in Australia. It was first exploited by Mount Minden Mining in 1880 but they couldn't keep up production or pay the rent and it was taken over by BHP in 1896.

* In 1888 the iron smelters were established at Port Pirie.

* BHP started mining in 1899 when their smelters at Port Pirie required ironstone as a flux to smelt the silver-lead ores from Broken Hill.

* BHP ran Iron Knob continuously from 1899 to 1998.  During that time the Iron Knob deposit was the largest iron in Australia. In the early years iron ore was transported to Port Augusta by bullock teams.

* Between 1900 and 1911 over 600,000 tonnes were shipped from the area to Port Pirie.

* In 1900 a tramway was completed between Iron Knob and Hummock Hill (now known as Whyalla)

* Iron Baron was opened to mining in 1933.

* Until the 1960s all of BHP's major steel making operations - at Newcastle, Port Kembla, Port Pirie and Whyalla - were supplied with iron ore from the Iron Knob area.

* Iron Duke started mining operations in 1990.

* In 1998 BHP closed the mine and the population of the town dropped from around 800 to 150 in a few weeks.

* BHP handed the administration of the town back to the local residents.

* The remaining residents purchased the local Post Office, improved the local caravan and campsite and established a visitor centre run by volunteers.

* The mine was reopened in 2014 by Arrium Ltd, a mining company which was previously part of BHP.


Visitor Information

Iron Knob Tourist Centre, tel: (08) 8646 2129. Open weekdays 9.30 am - 3.30 pm.



Iron Knob Camping Grounds - located behind the Post Office. Donation for use of the facilities would be appreciated.



There are no eating facilities in the town.


Useful Websites

There is a useful Progress Association website. Check out http://www.ironknob.org.

Got something to add?

Have we missed something or got a top tip for this town? Have your say below.

19 suggestions
  • Hi, My Name is Marco Tommasini. I found out that my grandfather worked in Iron Knob S.A. in 1927. Do you have any information about him or can you say where I can find it?
    Thank you very much and best regards
    Marco Tommasini

    Marco Tommasini
    • There are now so few people living in the town that records don’t seem to be collected in any Historical Museum. You could try writing to the Iron Knob Visitor Centre, Iron Knob, South Australia (that is all you need as an address) and they may be able to help you.

      Bruce Elder
  • hi i’m Tracy and i think you forgot to add the economy in.

  • The hotel is operational and open 7 days a week. Meals 7 days a week from 11am till close. Accommodation cheap.

    Michelle rushworth
  • The Iron Knob has reopened…
    Serving meals during opening hours cold beer and a good feed awaits

    Allan Pollard
    • A history of the hotel would be interesting. I remember it, many, many years ago, as an elegant place, with a big 4 sided bar. Brass knobs on doors, way back.
      Then, much later, 2 women?
      A horse in the back yard?
      Then bikies.

      (I see from comments that the pub is now open)

      Sandra Copley
      • The history of the Iron Knob Hotel was built by Douglas and Millie Kite in 1901 but fire destroyed it in about 1968. They then rebuilt where the hotel now is – in about 1970.

        Maxine Jones nee Kite

        maxine jones
    • Not anymore pub closed left town in a hurry

  • Hello My name is Margaret I am researching my late husband father (Harry Russell) I found in his records from the Army that he left his Will with a Miss Evelyn Marshall, Iron Knob
    dated 5/10/19 that is all the information I have. Hope you can help
    Thanking you Margaret Burton

    Margaret Burton
  • Good to hear Iron Knob is still an active town. I often visited Iron Knob during the years 1974 – 1986, when my wife and I taught in Whyalla.

    Richard Irving
  • Hi. Does anyone know if there mobile phone reception at Lake Gilles please?

  • I know this a different request but I am looking for a Evelyn Marshall back in 5/10/1919 m husbands father was living in Iron Knob and mentioned Evelyns name. We are just trying to find out his background as my husband Bill thought somebody else was his father.
    Hoping you can help.

    Margaret Burton
  • Iron Knob, in my life from 1970 to 1986 was the best town to grow up in, the people that worked in the mine and other people that worked there (eg. Post office, hotel, Heaysman’s store, Stocker’s store, R/House and other Clubs) were the friendliest people I have ever known, sorry I forgot Barnett Butcher shop (best bacon and meat I have ever bought) and Heather Carpenter’s shop. I still think of all the people that are still alive and deceased, and love them dearly, it brings back good memories, I didn’t have a good child life until we went to live there, they accepted any people of any race or culture, so I got to say thank you KNOBBIES I LOVE YOU ALL and hope to catch up with you in the near future. Love SUTHO Shane Michael Sutherland All the best to all

    Shane Sutherland Murray Bridge SA
  • Hi I’m looking for the deli shop my uncle owned around 1973/1974
    Would like to know where it was ?
    His name was Edward Henry George Nichols

    Marlene Seymour ( Nichols)
    • I think the deli was at 276A Sharp Tce in Iron Knob a block east of the swimming pool. A photo is available on google maps street view.
      The town has been ruined by a fool, continuously running around with barking dogs in his utility. And do not, what ever you do, ask at the Museum about the massacre of indigenous women in the area, which Iron Knob was where they came to give birth as it had reliable water holes to wash and drink.

  • Hi, where is the nearest petrol station to Iron Knob?

    Ivor Wilkins
  • I found dynamite there very nice ?

    Ben dover
  • Sadly there is no history of the first nation people offered at the information centre. Iron knob is womans country. A place for the aboriginal woman to give birth and with access to permanent water. Pregnant women were murdered and split open by white settlers using the spears taken from the aboriginal men they captured and killed this diverting blame. It is no surprise that the brutal and dark history continues to remain unacknowledged.

  • I stayed at the Iron Knob campgrounds in 2023 overnight, fresh water and toilets with some lighting. The general store has some frozen meals and snacks. There were distant sounds of diesel machinery from the mine but quiet enough to sleep well. I traversed the straight road from Iron Knob to Whyalla and it was fairly quick to get to supermarkets, fuel, doctors etc services with the only concern that there was risk of seasonal flooding on some parts of the road. Iron Knob is served with town water and electricity and serves as a good stopover on the A1 motorway. There were a few interesting points of interest around town as well as the organised mining tours, well worth a visit just be sure to take food and fuel with you.

    Brett keiller