The British journalist and mining expert John Baptist Austin (1827–96) moved to Adelaide as a young man with his family. During the 1850s he became closely involved in the South Australian mining industry and the gold rush in Victoria. Austin was rewarded for his outstanding expertise and became secretary of several corporations, including the Adelaide and West Kanmantoo mining companies. His extensive knowledge is reflected in this work, first published in 1863. Offering a first-hand account of South Australian mining culture, it contains a great many descriptions of individual mines along with details of the everyday life of the miners. The book also provides insight into the region's Cornish mining heritage: many mines were named 'Wheal', family names such as 'Rodda' are mentioned, and direct comparisons of the mineralogy and the regulations for mineral prospecting are made.