The Pilbara is a unique place. We have travelled down from Port Hedland, visited Karijini, checked out Tom Price and a few other towns on the way.
At first it seems quite harsh and desolate but spend a few dusks and dawns in the place, you then start to see the richness of the colours. The deep red of the earth, the green dotty spinifex, the purple hues of wildflowers and the white Snappy Gums, come alive at these times, revealing an intense beauty.
One afternoon we conquered the highest mountain in WA, Mt Nameless, to look out over the beauty of the Pilbara and admire the scenery…..
Turn around on the top of Nameless and you can see the whole Pilbara and all that it represents….
With the natural beauty, thoroughly explored on our trip so far, we descended Nameless, with the intent of discovering the economic wonder of the Pilbara. We got ourselves into the Pilbara’s second natural environment, the Iron Ore Mine.
Tom Price Mine may not be the biggest but it was one of the first and highest quality mines. Started by Hamersley Iron, now owned by Rio, Tom Price Mine is one of 12 (ish) iron ore mines operated by Rio. I would expect BHP has similar if not more mines in the area. At Mt Newman, BHP run the largest Iron ore mine in the world.
At Mt Tom Price near-pure Haematite was discovered in about 1962. The beautiful hills of the Pilbara have since started to be exported to all and sundry.
On our tour of the Tom Price Mine, we donned the hard hats and safety glasses and saw close up, the mining process and discovered how enormous these operations are.
At 26,000 tonnes of ore per train, 4 trains per day from Tom Price mine only, the stuff just keeps heading down to the ports. Trains are generally 230 cars, over 2km long on average and run on the largest private rail networks in the world. It works out about 250 million tonnes per annum for Rio and over 300 million tonnes for BHP.
Down at Port Hedland, we saw the ore coming into town and heading out to sea. On Saturday night, with the wind howling around us, we lay in bed and listened to the trains rolling in and out of the Port most of the night. The skyline was lit up like Sydney…..24 hrs a day, 7 days a week, the ore keeps coming.
Seeing the scale of mining operations both at the mine and all the way down in the ports, you see that there is incredible economic activity happening here. Everywhere new infrastructure is being put in, ports doubling in size, new rail yards, etc etc. massive investment continuing. When will it end ? Avoiding forecasting the demand side of the boom, the word from the Pilbara (obviously derived from mining interests) is that there is enough iron ore to last well over a hundred years at this rate.
So get up to the hills of the Pilbara before it becomes the Pilbara Plains !