Western Australia: Key Industry Locations
March 10th, 2020
We’ve put together a list of locations throughout Western Australia based on the most popular mining destinations. This is a basic guide for anyone less familiar with the states resource industry.
Geraldton has an enviable coastal location, only 424 kms north of Perth, the state’s capital. It has a population of just over 40,000 making it the fourth largest city in Western Australia. Today, the city is an important centre for mining, fishing, wheat, sheep and tourism, with major infrastructure projects currently under construction generating hundreds of job opportunities. The Oakajee Port and Railway project approved in 2009 by the Western Australian Government, for example, will service the iron ore mining industry and open further expansion opportunities for a number of organisations.
The city boasts mature infrastructure and services including the local Library, open seven days a week and providing free access to the Internet. It is also serviced by most phone companies including Telstra, Vodafone, and Optus who all provide 3G network services. Other facilities include the Geraldton Regional Hospital (providing 66 acute beds, 24-hour emergency services and acute medical, surgical/paediatric and maternity wards), two public and three private schools, university, TAFE and community education providers.
With a rugged coastline, long sandy beaches, coral reefs and a warm climate, Geraldton residents are drawn to the outdoors with popular pastimes such as fishing, swimming, windsurfing, sand-boarding, sports, diving, and four-wheel- driving.
Major resources companies include The Midwest Corporation, Murchison Metals and Gindalbie Metals. In 2009 the trio formed an alliance to develop the region’s growing iron ore industry.
If you’ve heard the term, ‘Eureka’ – which these days is typically used to express a ‘great find’ or ‘aha moment’ – it has its origins squarely in Kalgoorlie. Paddy Hannan used the term in 1893 when he stumbled upon a large nugget of gold, igniting one of this country’s great gold rushes. Together with his prospecting partners, Tom Flanagan and Dan O’Shea, Hannan filed a Reward Claim, leading to hundreds of men swarming to the area in search of gold and Kalgoorlie, originally called
Hannan’s, was born. Kalgoorlie, known as Kalgoorlie-Boulder is a city in the Goldfields-Esperance region of the state and is located 595Kms east-northeast of Perth. Also dubbed the “Golden Mile”, it has a population of 28,246, making it the largest urban centre in the Goldfields-Esperance region and the fifth-largest in Western Australia.
Gold and nickel mining have been major industries ever since, and today employs about one-quarter of Kalgoorlie’s workforce and generates a significant proportion of its income. Kalgoorlie also boasts one of the biggest open cut gold mines in the world, which is operated by Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines and at approximately 3.6 kms long, 1.6 kms wide and 512 metres deep, it is so large it can be seen from space. Dubbed ‘The Super Pit, it was created by Alan Bond, who bought up a number of old mine leases in order to get the land area needed. Every now and again the digging reveals an old shaft containing abandoned equipment and vehicles from the earlier mines.
The mine operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and a visitor centre overlooks it. The mine blasts at 1:00 pm every day, unless winds would carry dust over the town. Each of the massive trucks carries 225 tonnes of rock and the round trip takes about 35 minutes, most of that time being the slow uphill haul. Employees must live in Kalgoorlie; it is not a fly in, fly out operation. The mine is expected to be productive until about 2017.
Since 1992, Kalgoorlie is home to the ‘Diggers and Dealers’ conference, held annually in August. It is Australia’s premier international mining conference. A bustling busy regional centre, Kalgoorlie-Boulder offers an extensive network of bus, rail and air services linking through to Perth, the eastern states and the nearby coastal town of Esperance, a major recreational centre called Goldfields Oasis, including a 50m indoor swimming pool, children’s pool, multi-purpose indoor and outdoor courts, playing fields and gymnasium, together with sporting associations offering AFL, cricket, netball, soccer, tennis, hockey, swimming, basketball, dancing, bowls, horse racing & trotting and touch football. There are nine primary schools and four secondary schools, Curtin University of Technology, including the Western Australia School of Mines and the Curtin VTEC (Vocational Education Centre).
For its population size, Kalgoorlie is recognized as having more pubs per head of population anywhere
in the world – 25 pubs in fact. There is good shopping along Hannan and Burt Streets with a mixture of retail outlets and shop fronts; supermarket chains Coles, Woolworths and IGA; department stores K-Mart and Target. Like its other famous gold-rush mining town, Broken Hill in New South Wales, temperatures can be extreme with long stints at 40+ degrees experienced in the January and February months. By contrast winters can be cool with July average maximum and minimum temperatures being 16.5 and 4.8 degrees respectively.
Local employers include Barrick Gold Australia, KCGM Australia and BHP Billiton Nickel West.
Located just over 1,500kms north of Perth and 850kms south of Broome along the North West Coastal Highway, Karratha is a town adjoining the port of Dampier in the Pilbara region. Developed in the 1960’s to accommodate the processing and exportation workforce of the Hamersley Ironing mining company, and later in the 1980’s, the petroleum liquefied natural gas operations of the North West Shelf Venture, the town’s name means ‘good country’ or ‘soft earth’ in the local Aboriginal language.
Karratha’s economic base includes the iron ore operations of Rio Tinto, sea-salt mining, ammonia export operations, and Woodside’s largest resource development and newest Natural Gas project called Pluto LNG, which is situated adjacent the existing North West Shelf LNG facility.
Located along pristine coastline, Karratha is large and its facilities are modern. The city centre offers take-away food outlets such as McDonalds and KFC, grocery stores Woolworths and Coles and boasts the largest shopping centre in the Pilbara, Centro Karratha. The centre has major good and grocery retailers and department store chains. Close by, there is a smaller centre called Karratha Village, which has health services including pharmacy, medical and dental practices. There is a hospital in the town also.
Kununurra is a town in the far northern of the state, located at the eastern side of the Kimberley Region approximately 37 kms from the Northern Territory. It was built on Lake Kununurra, the flooded section of the Ord River valley between the Ord Diversion Dam and the Argyle Dam 55 km upstream. With 3,748 residents, many of whom are Indigenous Australians, it is the largest town in Western Australia north of Broome and more than 3,000 kms from Perth and 780kms from Darwin by road, so in
a word, isolated!
The regional centre however is surrounded by some of the most pristine and stunning country that Australia has to offer with ready access to Kimberley’s and the Bungle Bungles. The largest employer in the industry located here is Rio Tinto, who operates the Argyle Diamond Mine, employing around 750 people on a combination fly in, fly out and residential arrangement. The mine has produces 20 million carats annually since its inception in 1985 and is famous for ‘the pink diamond’. As a resident, you have the following facilities and services:
- Kununurra District High School comprising a primary school and high school teaching up to year 10, and up to year 12 via distance education. It also has a number of additional smaller schools including St Joseph’s primary school and the Barramundi School.
- Local hospital, birthing centre, emergency home and community care, dentist, occupational therapy, outpatients, paediatrics, pathology, physiotherapy, radiography, speech therapy and general surgery.
- Library, leisure centre including a 25 metre pool and a range of playgroups.
- Daily and weekly flight services between Darwin, Broome and Perth.
Be aware that the climate can be extreme, with up to four months of high humidity and temperatures above 40 degrees. The other eight months are less so, with minimum temperatures of around 14 degrees and maximum around 30 degrees.
The founder of Mount Newman, Stan Hilditch went off in search of manganese in 1957 and instead discovered one of the largest mineral deposits of iron ore in Australia, located in the West Australian Pilbara region.
Newman is now home to the largest open-cut iron ore mine in the world – BHP Billiton’s Mt Whaleback mine, measuring a staggering 5.5km in length. With a population of 7,000 people servicing the Mt Whaleback mine and smaller nearby mines plus a
FIFO workforce numbering around 4000, BHP Billiton Iron Ore exports more than 124 million tonnes of iron ore from the region each year.
Newman is located inland – 458kms south east of Port Hedland and more than 1,000kms north of Perth. Put simply, the town is remote! More than 200 days of the year are about 30C and nearly 30 days on average a year reach past the 40C mark. As you would expect of a remote residential mine site town, the town is a social hub and great for raising young families. Not only that, but you have the beautiful Marble Bar and Karajini National Park a short two hour drive away. Karijini National Park is a National Park centred in the Hamersley Ranges of the Pilbara region and is the second largest national park in Western Australia (the largest being Rudall River National Park). Million years of erosion have created the winding jagged gorges and beautiful swimming holes. The National Park has varying levels of hiking difficulty, from easy strolls along spectacular lookouts to paths among sheer rock cliffs crystal clear pools and cascading waterfalls.
Located on the coast in Western Australia, inside the Pilbara Region, Port Hedland is a busy industrial hub with all the facilities you’d expect in a town of 15,000 people. BHP Billiton is the major employer, exporting 70 million tonnes of iron ore annually via its iron ore processing and shipping facilities. The company’s massive Mt Whaleback mine, 400km to the south of town, is the biggest single-pit, open-cut ore mine in the world. Likewise, Dampier Salt produces more than three million tonnes of industrial salt annually for export
from solar salt ponds. Smaller companies export manganese, copper and tantalum.
The town’s facilities and services include:
- Five pre-primary schools, six public and private primary schools, Hedland Senior High School and two campuses of Pilbara TAFE.
- Port Hedland Hospital, offering a stack of services (see link below).
- The JD Hardie Recreation Centre: indoor and outdoor fitness activities and sports for all ages, a school holiday program for kids and special events during term time. Local activities include fishing, tennis, golf, whale and turtle spotting.
Located just over 1600km north of Perth in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, the 2770 population of Tom Price has a median age of just 29, reflecting the young workforce on Rio Tinto’s Tom Price mine and the town’s family-orientated community. Facilities include a good-sized supermarket, bank, GP, hospital, two primary schools, a secondary school, TAFE and several motels and restaurants. There’s also a friendly visitor information centre, an Olympic-sized pool, an open-air cinema in summer and a stack of sports on offer, from motocross and speedway to netball and soccer. Flight access is via shuttle bus to Paraburdoo Airport, 70km away. Mount Tom Price (the town, the mine and the mountain) takes its name from the vice-president of US steel company Kaiser Steel. Mr Tom Price was a major supporter of the opening of the Pilbara region. The region is also renowned for its explosion of colour during wildflower season each year.
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