The Coppermine Story

The Coppermine Trail traverses Nelson’s Mineral Belt, a geologically significant area formed 280 million years ago. It is distinct for its barren, rocky landscape and unique plant species such as the Dun Mountain Forget-Me-Not.

After copper deposits were discovered in the Maitai River in the 1850s, the Dun Mountain Copper Mining Company Ltd was formed to mine it. Nelson’s copper proved uneconomic, and the pioneers’ focus shifted to the chromite found in the same area. But they needed cost effective transport.

The Dun Mountain Railway was opened in 1862 to transport the chromite to the Port. It was built in less than a year by about 200 men using picks, shovels and wheelbarrows.

Quantity and quality of the chromite was variable, and soon uneconomic. The last shipment left Nelson in 1866 and the Dun Mountain section of the railway was subsequently dismantled.

Dun Mountain’s name derives from ‘Dunite’, a silicate rich in magnesium and iron that weathers to a rusty reddish dun colour.

The Dun Mountain Trail was opened as a New Zealand Great Ride in 2011, and then renamed Coppermine Trail to reflect its roots.