We have just spent the night at a caravan park on the edge of the mining town of Tom Price. It's the highest town above sea level in western Aus and is part of this gorgeous Pilbara region with its rolling mountains and stunning vistas. As we drove from Karijini to Tom Price, the mighty aussie-sounding Mount Bruce dominated over the others. But right next to our park, is an oxymoron - Mount Nameless. Hmm. Ben read one of the excerpts by a local indigenous elder at the Karijini visitor centre talking about how her people were never consulted when the mountain was being named. They've had a name for it for thousands of years!
This town is all about mining. It started up and continues to operate due solely to the business that mining and its workers bring. Rio Tinto rules here. They have a lease on land that is approximately 13km by 8km right near the township, but have numerous leases across this region. It's all iron ore, and pretty much all exported (high grade mostly - fine at 64% and chunks at 66%, if you're interested).
We went on a mine tour this morning. Our bus went right into the mine site and stopped at the top of one of the active open cut mines - I don't know if this is a word but I'd describe it as GINORMOUS! And it's only one of the 22 that exist in the property. The tour guide made very clear a number of times that the mining industry is not shrinking in Australia, at least not in this region. It's growing and will continue to do so indefinitely. We also drove around and through various sifters, sorters, conveyor belts, and other mining related machinery. Suffice to say, these also were massive. And dusty. Soooooo dusty. Dusty dirty machines, road, trucks, buildings and people. So, if you like being covered in red dust, being around big machines and want big bucks, this place is for you! I'm mildly contemplating getting my massive truck driving licence...
The kids had a little interest in the tour but they were more excited about actually being on a bus. We had to wear safety glasses and hard helmets which was a bit uncomfortable for them, but pretty cute. Ben was pretty interested and took lots of photos. Probably hard to tell the scale of it all from looking at them though. I found myself feeling both awestruck and sad as we bussed around. Mining at this scale is mind-bogglingly complex, expensive and powerful. Its simply amazing to me that it can be done. However, it also causes such massive destruction of the beautiful natural landforms and changes the natural habitats of local wild flora and fauna. This is not to mention my guess at how disturbing this must be to local aboriginal people and their attachment to the land. What do you think?