(29th Aug – can finally add photos)
Another lovely quiet night. We had booked into the Rio Tinto Mine Tour for 10.30am so had time to chat to our neighbours after breakfast. They were retired orchardists from the Adelaide Hills. We had a mutual interest in dairying as their daughter and son-in-law had recently starting dairying for the first time just a few months ago after leasing a farm in S.A. milking 150 cows.
We also took the time to refill one of our gas cylinders before leaving the Park. This Park was certainly one of the nicest in outlook with green lawns in most of the parking spots. It was also very open with spacious room for each Van.
After paying for our tickets for the Mine Tour we were all issued with safety glasses and hard hats. These are compulsory wear whenever anyone enters a mine site.
Our driver was a very good guide giving very clear commentary as we started off and continued to do so for the entire tour. We were visiting the mine close to Tom Price but Rio Tinto have 10 mine sites in this area.
On entering the mine site we stopped to look at a repair shop – the vehicles in there were those large TONKA TOYS. In fitting with the size of the vehicles, the building was massive.
We then continued on to the actual mine site where our bus drove on the roads open to small traffic (mine cars etc.) and criss-crossed the large roads used by the huge mine vehicles – dump trucks etc. Our bus stopped a few times so we could see the size of these vehicles as they passed by. Ian was green with envy – he really would have liked to have a drive in one (he and all the other men on the bus I guess).
One interesting fact we were told was that these trucks have huge diesel motors which power generators and the wheels are actually driven by electric motors.
We were pleased to see that those large wide loads which we were stuck behind the other day were at this mine. They are the first delivery of a trial of Chinese made dump trucks.
We then drove to a viewing site which overlooked the open cut mine – up to 500 metres down. It looked amazing. It is impossible to describe the immensity of this operation. The whole time we were at the viewing platform there were large dump trucks passing by all the time. The operation is 24/7. The drivers are 60% men and 40% women. The bus driver joking said it was because of the women drivers that the roads were so wide!!!
We then drove to the two large crushers which prepared the ore for stockpiling and ultimate loading on to rail wagons. One crushed top grade ore and the other was lower grade ore.
The trains on which this ore is loaded are unbelievable. They are pulled by 3 engines with a total horsepower of 13,200. The length of the train is 2.5kms long, and pulls up to 230 wagons. When fully loaded it carries 26,500 tonne of ore. Depending on which method the wagons are loaded it can take over 4 hours to load. This is a conveyor method. The other method (tunnel method) is 1hour and 20 mins. Unloading at the port it can take about 50 minutes.
All Rio Tinto ore goes to the port at Dampier and then transported mostly to China. When China no longer wants it (or can afford it), the driver said India is waiting in line.
(BHP ore from Newman nearby is railed to Port Hedland).
At one stage our Bus driver sought permission to enter a special site, and we could hear the ‘O.K’ from the controller. We were then told that this voice came from Perth and that some of the major work on this mine, loading etc., was all done by someone in Perth. There is plan for the future to have driverless trains and driverless dump trucks. The mind boggles!!
It was a great tour and well worth the money – $28 ea.
We then got back to our Van and left Tom Price. We arrived at Paraburdoo around lunch time and stopped at a roadside stop for lunch. This town was also a surprise – green lawns outside the homes. We know this area is extremely HOT in the summer but it looked pleasant this time of the year.
It was another 280kms until we could get back to Highway No.1 to continue our trip south.
Once again the scenery was different. Sometimes amazingly beautiful, sometimes very dry and uninviting. But always interesting.
At one stage we could see rising dust ahead and we came upon a cattle muster. There must have been hundreds and hundreds of head of cattle (all ages from very young, to large bulls) and they were running about 50m from the road alongside a fence, but the road side of the fence – but at no time did any of them run out on to the road.
We saw a couple of utes with farmers near by and there was a light plane banking this way and that, although we know he could not possibly be herding them – perhaps he was letting the men on the ground know where other parts of the herd were. Anyway it was very interesting to see it all.
We arrived at a little roadside stop called Nanutarra where there was a small caravan park at the back and booked in there for the night. $25 with power so we thought that was ok. as we thought we would not get a powered site.
Surprise, surprise, the lady in the van next to us came from Mudgegonga originally and had also lived in Myrtleford. When Ian said he had boarded in Myrtleford for 12 months while with the NAB and then said his landlady was a Mrs. Teakle, this lady said her father was great friends with Teakle family. What a small world. (Her maiden name was Hanna – this info. is for Pauline C. as she came from Mudgegonga and just may recognise the name). They had a good long chat.
Weather has warmed up a little – 33C today, but once again the evenings are very nice.
Hope to get to Exmouth tomorrow.
Still lots to see and lots to do.
Love to all, Janese and Ian