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Leigh Creek, South Australia

Some 560km north of Adelaide, Leigh Creek is a coalmining town in the centre of the vast expanse that is the South Australian outback. It’s west of the northern Flinders Ranges – one of Australia’s most famous and stunningly beautiful mountain chains.

It’s a relatively modern town – mainly in the sense that it’s actually quite new. In the early 1980s the entire town was moved 13km to the south to allow the expansion of the very mine on which the town’s fortunes depend. Don’t be fooled though – Leigh Creek is one of Australia’s historic mining towns. Coal was discovered there in the 1880s, but it went through a bust cycle for a few decades until mining was ramped-up in the 1940s.

Coal from the mine is sent 250km by rail to Port Augusta, where it helps generate electricity for South Australia. Both the Leigh Creek mine and the power stations are operated by NRG Flinders.

Leigh Creek is home to about 600 people. It has a school and a hospital but it is a proper mining town in the sense that it is controlled by the mining company. It’s NRG Flinders policy that you or your partner must work at least 20 hours a week in the town before you can live there. When you retire or resign, you have to leave.

This long-held policy means Leigh Creek has traditionally been viewed as a closed mining community, but the locals are fighting hard to combat that idea. They’re trying to open up to tourism. The Leigh Creek Visitor Information Centre website has a few details about the town. More information about what is available generally in the wider area can be gleaned from the Flinders Ranges Council website.

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