Rio Tinto Mine Tour

This morning we had booked in for a mine tour which picked us up from town and lasted for about 1 1/2 hours.  We’ve done many mine tours before, some underground, some open cut, some working mines and some demonstration only. We’ve been to diamond mines, gold, bauxite, iron ore, copper etc, but we still find the whole mining process interesting. Yes there are environmental issues which we don’t necessarily always agree with, but it’s very interesting to learn about the mining industry and view these huge machines at work, as well as hearing the steps that are taken to lesson the environmental impacts. Within the Tom Price area and surrounds there are 16 mines, all wholly owned subsidiaries of Rio Tinto.The Rio Tinto mine in Tom Price is 8km wide by 15km long and is one of the worlds largest open cut mines. Here they are mining Iron Ore only as pictured above.When these trucks are fully loaded and going up a hill they are using 20 litres of diesel per 1 km! And we complain about our fuel bill! Also on a truck like what is pictured above, each tyre costs $40,000! The tour consisted of a short tour around Tom Price with some local information and history of the area before heading into the mine.

First we saw the truck workshop area before driving out into the main pit area. From here we saw the trucks and shovels working and carting their loads around.

We stopped at a lookout area, put on our helmets and safety glasses and jumped out to get some photos of the mine and watch the trucks drive past. Amazing how many of the drivers were females. Next we moved on to the processing area where they crush and split up the iron ore ready for loading onto the trains.We also learned that the trains we were driving alongside yesterday have a gross weight of 30,000 tonnes and a length of over 2km long.

Tom Price

Yesterday we left Millstream National Park early for the drive to Tom Price. The route we took was very pretty and very secluded, we saw very few cars all day.IMG_7293Generally the only car was passed was a mining vehicle, but for the majority of the day it was just us and our surroundings…… and lots of dust!IMG_7294Oh and the odd traffic jam that held us up! IMG_7302Our journey took us via a town that used to be called Wittenoom. We say used to be called because in 2007 the State Government wiped this town from the map, the town was degazetted, their electricity and postal services were taken away and all reference to the town has been deleted (as shown on the photo below), it simply doesn’t exist anymore.IMG_7306For those that don’t know Wittenoom’s history, it was where they used to mine the deadly blue asbestos from the 1930’s to mid 1960’s. Many people have subsequently died from this.

The town is now basically a ghost town, a former vision of a once thriving town of 20,000 people. Apparently there are still a few people who remain living in the town. Such a shame as its in such a beautiful location. The signs that greet you as you reach the town tell of a not so beautiful story, a stark reminder of how not everything is as it seems on face value.From Wittenoom we continued on towards Tom Price. This involved driving on the Rio Tinto Rail Access Road (the one we applied for our permits for). IMG_7311This is a dirt road that runs alongside the Rio Tinto rail line.  The trains are huge and you don’t want to get stuck at a railway crossing waiting for one to pass as they are 2km long!IMG_7313IMG_7315When Tom Price was first established it was a lot different to now, although now still predominantly a mining town, initially you couldn’t live in the town unless you worked in the mines. It was described to us as being a town full of rather colourful characters, and as “a drinking town with a mining problem!”

The town is now a lot different, a lot larger than it started out, a lot more facilities and full of families. At 747 meters above sea level, Tom price is the highest town in Western Australia.

Tom Price is set in quite a pretty location, nestled within the Hamersley Ranges and at the base of Mt Nameless (Jarndunmunha).We drove to the top of Mt Namesless and were rewarded with a great overview of the Tom Price township, the mines and the surrounding areas.  We also found that we were at the highest vehicle access point in Western Australia.


Playing with the big boys!