Both Sides of the Pilbara

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.

The colours of the Pilbara

Mulla Mulla Wildflowers

Quintessential Pilbara Landscape

One afternoon we conquered the highest mountain in WA, Mt Nameless, to look out over the beauty of the Pilbara and admire the scenery…..

Speechless about the view from Nameless

Turn around on the top of Nameless and you can see the whole Pilbara and all that it represents….

The Other Side.

Mining infrastructure and shrinking hills

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.

Ready for action !


First blast out the hill and load up the Haematite...

Truck it down to the processing plant in the biggest trucks you can find...

Stockpile it, crush it and blend it with other deposits from the mine. Load up the trains...

Hill formerly known as Mt Tom Price

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.

Watching the hills of the Pilbara float out to sea. The winds of change!

Get the longest trains you can and take the ore down to your very own port at the coast...

Use the biggest thingamy to unload the trains at the port and....

Load up a ship bound for.....

Make sure its a really big ship....

and, count your profits and royalties as it sails away on the high tide.

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 !

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14 Responses to Both Sides of the Pilbara

  1. Mia Currie says:

    hi ellie
    ive reeeeaallly been missing you!
    I like the nature in the backround
    thinking of you!

    love from mia

    • Hey Mia,
      Thanks for the comment and I love the scenery too! What did you do in the holls? We are in coral bay now and it is sooooooooooo fun. We play spotlight and go for bike rides with our friends. There are some giant fish around here. I am missing you too.
      Love BloggiE

  2. Stellamarie says:

    Wow! So educational! You are making me want to go today! Fantastic scenery. Makes me think of the Karoo where my grandmother used to farm and where I spent all my holidays growing up. Love xxx

  3. Libby says:

    It certainly is a place of beauty. Hey – who was Tom Price?

    PS – love the vid over on axo1000’s say too 🙂

    • Hey Lib, Tom Price was a US Steel exec whose company was one of the original backers of Hamersley Iron. He did loads of lobbying to encourage the govt to allow exploration and then mining in the Pilbara and then died back in the US just after they found mega rich iron deposits. So he got a mountain & a town named after him.

  4. Thea Bloomfield says:

    Just checked out your map and can’t believe you are in Coral Bay. We were in Coral Bay today (Monday) but decided to push further south and are now at Carnarvon. Onto Monkey Mia tomorrow for a couple of nights. Hope to catch up with you again soon.
    Thea, Phil and the kids.

  5. Marnie says:

    Very impressed with the pics and all the info you have absorbed! One tries to imagine the enormity of the industry in the west but you have captured the essence of the changing landscape – where will it end???
    We are really enjoying all the blogs – they have helped us share so much in your adventures!

  6. Marnie says:

    Another thing I have wanted to mention re the Tom Price/ Newman area is that Grandad was very involved in the opening up of the area in the 60’s – working with the Premier Charles Court and Russell Madigan – head of Hamersley Iron – to provide support facilities for the miners and their families in very primitive early settlements. Facilities were mainly for the social and spiritual needs of the communities – especially at Karratha where the new township was being developed. Just a bit of family trivia for you!

  7. SamR says:

    Newman area.
    Makes me think of Seinfeld.

    Hello, Newman.

  8. Lozzy says:

    Was Tom Price the mining tycoon who first saw Mt Nameless and said, “Let’s not get too attached by giving it a name. Once ‘Tom Price Mt’ is missing & people start to panic & get all environmental, just let it slip to the govt that there is a load of Haematite under some nameless hill nearby & we can start there next to settle the waters a bit. No one’ll ever miss it.”

  9. That is the biggest ship I’ve ever seen! And I haven’t seen any big ships in my life, except for a beached one in Newcastle. But judging by the posters on my wall, it IS pretty big.

  10. Pete says:

    Glad to see you did Mt Nameless. Good drive up?

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