Day 78 – Still at Kambalda – 20 Sept 2012

We quite enjoyed our evening meal last night over at the canteen, but did not meet any of the ‘locals’ – they were all too busy watching the TV.

Around 8.30am we drove just a short way in to the town of Kambalda to the top of their lookout tower overlooking a gigantic salt lake. We thought some of the lakes we saw yesterday were large – mere puddles compared to this one which is called Lake Lefroy. It is over 510 square kilometres in area. It was in 1945 when there was a shortage of supply of salt that this lake was harvested for its salt and as far as we know the W.A. Salt Supply Co. is still in production. Because of the extreme high salinity there is an abundance of salt bush, but there are many other plants which are salt tolerant and survive quite well.

Lake Lefroy (Salt)

This lake was HUGE – we could not find out how often it fills with water, but there is so much salt lying about it looks as though they have many, many years of harvest in front of them.

We then drove back on to the Highway and headed to Coolgardie. The drive along this road continued to amaze us. Mallee and other eucalytpus as well as lots of smaller shrubs and the odd wildflower every now and then. It was quite pretty. We both expected flat, dry and desolate country, but it was anything but. However, just before entering Coolgardie the countryside did begin to look a little like what we had expected for the whole trip. Coolgardie is a lot smaller and less populated than we thought it would be. It seems to be a town which has been forgotten – Kalgoorlie has taken everything. However, we enjoyed being able to read the various history plaques set up around the town. The main street is the widest street we have ever seen (sorry I completely forgot to take a picture). The advertisements for the streets boast that a camel train could still turn around in it – they would be right.

Entry into Coolgardie

We then travelled 39kms to Kalgoorlie and the first thing we did was visit the Information Centre to get a map of the town to make sure we knew where Ian had to go to get on on his 1.30pm bus trip. While I was getting the map Ian rang his second cousin Bev. Clarke who lives in Kalgoorlie. She kindly invited us around to their place and so we had morning tea and lunch with her and her husband Hector. We had a great time. Bev. is related to Ian on the Thomas side and this is the first time thay have met so they had a good chat about some of the family history research they have been doing. They invited us to pull our van up at their place if we are ever in Kalgoorlie again,but dont think that we would fit.

We left there in time for Ian to catch his bus. He only just made it as we had a bit of a walk from where the car was parked.  There were 26 people on the tour. While Ian did the 2.5 hour tour I took the opportunity to just wander around the shops. Kalgoorlie has a population of 30,000 people but much to my surprise they do not have a shopping centre complex – just separate shops along the main streets. I quite enjoyed as we have commented a few times that whenever you enter a shoppiing complex you could be in Townsville, or Brisbane, or Melbourne, or Bendigo or Broome – they all look the same. I managed to fill in my time quite well.

I will let Ian write about the tour to the Superpit here in Kalgoorlie.

Superpit at Kalgoorlie

While I have certainly looked forward to seeing the superpit for a good while, actually booking a seat over the internet was not all that easy, however as we said yesterday, we did manage to get the last seat on the bus for this afternoon’s tour. Sometimes I wonder whether these web site designers actually ever try to use their creations as would a client, or whether they just look at their design from a purely IT view. Anyway, at least I got a ticket! The superpit is not very far from the centre of town. Compared to the open pit at Mt Tom Price it is not as big nor is it a regular shape but nevertheless it is a huge hole in the ground. Dotted all over the mining area are old mine sites, shafts etc and in the superpit itself you can see plenty of shafts and drives that were sunk when all operations were underground many, many years ago. At the turn of the 20th century there were over 100 mine companies operating on the so called “Golden Mile”  and in those days they were not all that fussed about documenting where their shafts and drives were located. In one particular area any ore material that is contaminated with old steel or wooden supports is dumped and all this foreign material is hand picked out and dumped in a heap for later burial. Although some of the timber pulled out is over 100 years old it cannot be reused even though it is in relatively good condition because in those early days it was treated with arsenic for preservation purposes, so is still highly toxic. The mine itself produces over 800,000 ounces of gold each year. Seven out of eight dump truck loads are waste or overburden the other one contains an amount of gold in the ore equivalent to the size of a golf ball! Seems a lot of work for little reward! The mine has enough reserves left to operate through to 2021 and after that operations will have to be underground as by that stage the open pit would need to start encroaching on the town. Currently the depth of the pit is 450 metres and planning for the future will take it down to 600 metres.When you consider that some of the early mines went down to a depth of 1600 metres, I think they will be mining gold here in Kalgoorlie for many more years yet. Besides the KCGM Mine (Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mining) there are numerous other smaller mines dotted all around the place. There are quite a few New Zealanders working here at the mines and the tour guide said the acronymn of KCGM really means ‘Kiwis Can Get Money’! 

Large loaded dump truck at Kalgoorlie

We drove back to Kambalda via the Goldfields Highway (called the Historic Golden Mile on the outskirts of Kalgoorlie). Kambalda is 60 kms out of Kalgoorlie and we were surprised just how busy the road was. Mining is certainly a big-time employer!

I was able to get a good detailed map/brochure on the Nullabor so we will have a good look at that tonight because we will be heading east — towards S.A. eventually —- tomorrow.  Must mention that it is possible we will be out of mobile/internet range on and off for some time now so if you cannot see a blog that will be the reason why. I will always catch up when I can.

Love to all, Janese and Ian

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