Ken Shirley

Kenneth (Ken) George Shirley (1914-1992) was a prospector and discoverer of the nickel find at Mt Windarra (near Laverton) for Poseidon Nickel that sparked a stock-market boom and bust in 1969/70.

Born in Queens Park, his family lived in South Australia and Western Australia, moving to follow his father’s occupation as a carrier and camel driver.

Shirley attended school in Adelaide until the age of 13, then began fencing and shepherding work in the Gawler Ranges of South Australia before the family moved to Coober Pedy to try their luck at opal mining.  In 1930, Ken was introduced to prospecting by his elder brother Stan, and the brothers prospected around Altunga and Tennant Creek for gold with limited early finds.

In 1936, he pegged the Jubilee mine in Tennant Creek and was later joined by his girlfriend, Billie. With the outbreak of World War II, Shirley joined the RAAF aircrew in Perth and commenced staff-pilot flying until he joined 96 Squadron serving in Borneo, until the wars end when they returned to Tennant Creek.

From 1960 to ‘61, Shirley supervised work to drill Consolidated Gold Mining Areas N.L.’s Queen of Sheba prospect and re-pegged the 150 acre mineral lease known as Golden Forty. When Kambalda’s nickel discovery spurred nickel exploration in Western Australia, Ken and Billie returned to the state, prospecting from Kambalda through to Laverton. In 1968, Norm Shierlaw and Clem Wegener contracted Shirley to prospect on Poseidon’s lease.

Shirley ranged as far as 402 km  north of Laverton and over 160 kms to the south searching for nickel. In September 1969, he noted caps of nickel sulphide  in a banded iron ore formation and pegged 10,800 acres of land at Mt Windarra, 24 kilometres north-west of Laverton. Following his role in the discovery of the Mt Windarra nickel deposits, Shirley continued to work on miscellaneous sampling campaigns then moved to Port Douglas in 1975.

Further Reading

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