Port Hedland – a Major Mining Centre

Mining Boom – Major Growth

William Dampier couldn’t imagine why civilzed people would ever want to live in the area that he observed and charted that later became known as Western Australia. Lately, however it hardly seems a day goes by without announcement of more billions to be made from the resources boom in this part of the world. Port Headland is the largest exporter of iron ore on earth – about 170 million tons a year with intention to double this quantity in the next five years

Iron ore carriers like this one queue up to load up to 300,000 tonnes of iron to deliver to zChina, Korea, Japan and other major steel producing nations.

A bus tour of the BHP Billiton ore loading facility provides you with a mass of statistics but doesn’t allow you off the bus. You are belted in, wearing long sleeves, long trousers (OHS rules) but only viewing what they  allow you to see and hear what they want you to hear

The ore trains from Newman (World’s biggest open cut iron mine) travel 426 km to Port Hedland carried by the longest and heaviest rail carriages anywhere.

This one was small, only two engines and 112 carriages, about 1.5 km long.

BHP Billiton doesn’t actully mine the ore, it makes it’s money out of the handling and transport. The costs and profits are mind blowing. There are more than 100 train engines in the fleet at 6 million dollars each. Trains regularly are made up of three “rafts” of 112 ore cars. In June of 2001 B.H.P. Billiton tested their locomotive control system which was then new. They assembled 682 loaded ore cars with eight locomotives and just one driver. The train was 7.35 kilometres long with a total mass of 99,732 tonnes. It carried 82,262 tonnes of iron ore to Port Hedland, earning itself a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest and heaviest train in the world.

The flat land, and dry hot climate are ideal for salt production. The huge mounds here, dwarf the B Triple salt carriers,

which cart the salt to stockpiles near the wharfs where they are loaded via conveyer belts onto huge bulk carriers

There are many other minerals exported via Port Hedland but salt is very prominent, with huge snow white mountains alongside the road into town, close to the huge salt pans where salt water evaporates to brine and then to salt crystals. Most salt is not for cooking use but for industrial and chemical processes.

The trucks of salt might travel faster on their short trip to the wharf but the enormous quantity of iron ore transported is unimaginable

In comparison with many of the other places we have stayed on this trip, Port Hedland is big, noisy, dirty – utiliterian , not aesthetically pleasing. However, it employs thousands and puts a billion dollars a year into Australia’s coffers. The iron has to come from somewhere and someone has to mine it.

The view from the back of our caravan across the river outlet towards the skyline with the main train line from Newman to Port Hedland.



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