What’s in a Name?
Seen from the bus, our guide Baz describes this huge retired grabber with a 50 tonne bucket inside the Tom Price Mine site
Tom Price is an interesting name for a town, isn’t it? Well it is an interesting place as well. Tom was the American geologist, who when shown the mountain of iron ore now named after him, said “In America we would give anything just to have the dust from this place” referring to the extra-ordinary quality and quantity of the ore. He then spent decades convincing the main players in world iron production that it was worth spending billions of dollars on building a town 300 km from absolutely anywhere, a railway, a port and roads before making a dollar back. The day after they announced they would fund the project, Tom died of a heart attack so they named the mine and the town after him. It was Western Australia’s first big Iron Mine, and it is big.
This is one big Tonka Toy worth about 6 million dollars and the fleet contains 105 of them.
It, and the other mines around, are all owned by Rio Tinto and their ore is shipped out by a company owned railway to a loading facility at Cape Valentine, next to the restored ghost town of Cossack near Karrartha. Their main competition, BHP Billiton owns WA’s biggest mine at Newman, only about 250 km away, but shipping out via its own line to Port Hedland.
Julie gives an idea of the scale of the monster bulldozer near the lookout within the open-pit
It’s a nice tidy, friendly town – population about 4000, average age 11! The only grandparents in this town are the travelers in the caravan park. Originally the town was owned by the company but they sold it to the government for a dollar about 30 years ago.
This 50 tonne steel bucket which usually lifts 50 tonnes of iron ore dwarfs Gary wearing the compulsory Rio Hard Hat and safety glasses
This was the best mine tour we have been on. It wasn’t scripted so Baz the Bus driver and guide was not only knew his stuff but was entertaining. It was not just the repetitive statistics that we got in Port Hedland. We were also allowed to drive up the runway (they stop the carriers while the bus is on it so we don’t run into as loaded carrier!) and get out at the lookout, standing on a mountain of iron and watch the machinery in action.
The entire mine site is continually kept watered, not only to control dust but to reduce tyre wear on the monster trucks.
They can cost $80,000 each and last about 8 months before needing replacement
The heavy, very tough Iron Ore is smashed with enormous blasting operations 3 times a day, then transported to the crushers, where in up to three stages, it is reduced to the consistent size required by iron ore smelters. It is transported in open wagons on trains up to 3 km long.