Leigh Creek is situated on the Traditional Lands of the Adnyamathanha people in South Australia, located approximately 600kms north of Adelaide. Often thought of an “Oasis in the Desert”, Leigh Creek has a climate typical of the arid Australian inland, with temperatures ranging from 0 to 50+ degrees. Due to the Summer months getting to such high temperatures the best time to travel to Leigh Creek and the Far North of South Australia is between the months of April to October.
Coal was first discovered in Leigh Creek in the early 1800s by John Henry Reid, it took over 50 years before large-scale mining began in 1948, with the South Australian Premier of the time Thomas Playford being a driving force.
The Electricity Trust of South Australian (ETSA) made the decision in 1976 to move the town of Leigh Creek (Old Town) 22kms south, as there was a large coal deposit under the town. A massive undertaking gave ETSA a unique opportunity to construct an “Environmentally Friendly” place for its then 2000+ residents. In 1982 the “New Town” of Leigh Creek was completed.
When the New Town was built 250,000 native trees were planted and many, many more have been planted in subsequent years. All the street names in Leigh Creek are all names for Australian native trees. Black Oak, Moonah, Acacia, Coolabah just to name a few. Each street has several trees it is named after planted along it.
Leigh Creek had always been considered a closed mining town. It was a mining policy that you or your partner needed to have at least 20 hours of paid work in either the mine or the town before you could reside in the town. Once you retired from the workforce, you must move on. Although in the past 10 years the town started to “open its doors” to welcome tourism. As changes with mining happen and the introduction of bigger equipment the town declined significantly, as a result, a large number of houses were sold in the early 90s, and the streets and vacant blocks were returned to natural form. When the Coal mine closed in November 2015 there were about 300 residents living in Leigh Creek.
Today there approximately 100 residents living in Leigh Creek. In January 2016, the mining company handed back the lease to the State Government. With the help from The Outback Community Authority (OCA), Department for Planning Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI) and the Leigh Creek Futures Committee, the town began transitioning from a Closed mining town to an Open town and is currently concentrating on tourism as a main source of income.