Thursday, April 19, 2018

Perth to Darwin - Days 16-17 - Tom Price and the Rio Tinto Mine

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We departed early on our second big drive day...this time another ten hours to Tom Price in the Pilbara region...some 500 kms east of the coast.  We drove through beautiful high bush plan for several hours before getting into the hill area where the elevation rose to about 2,000'.  Then it was a gentle winding highway through green/grey high grass gum trees and beautiful red rock karsks with our destination being the small mining town of Tom Price on the edge of Karajini National Park.

The town was built as a company site in the 60's and named after the American VP of Kaiser Steel, Tom Moore Price, who was instrumental in getting the mine started.  

We stopped in at the local shops, purchased a small electric fan for sleeping, and checked into the only campground in the city of about 3,000 people.  The camp was quiet and less than half full.  We got our rig set up, had dinner, and enjoyed a quiet evening.


In the morning we went on a tour of the Rio Tinto Mine, the second largest open cut iron ore mine in the world and the largest in production.  This mine produced 37% of the ore used in the entire world and it was huge.  Our tour consisted mostly of a narrated journey through the mine, the open pit, and the processing area.  We were able to get out at the pit site and look well into the goings on far below.  
Entrance to the Rio Tinto Mine - The pits have individual names.
 Trains being filled with the processed ore and ready to be sent on to Port Hedland.
 A big shovel.

One of the main haul roads wide enough for the big dump trucks to go back and forth between the pit and the plant.

 The main pit called Tom Price.
 Ore deposit.

 Yup, they are big.

The conveyor belts that carry the crushed ore to the separators.

 In these buildings the ore is washed and then sorted by size of crush for transport.  At this point the ore is 53% raw iron.

 Through a series of conveyors it is then sent to holding areas and then loaded on to the trains.

This area is for storage of "vehicles" and repairs.  The big dump trucks are 100 ft tall and cost 4 million each.  The tires are $40,000 each.

 After our tour of the mine we headed out of the city to the Hamersley Gorge.  It is part of the western region of Karajini National Park.  Two hours on a washboard unsealed road...ugh.
 A five trailer road train going VERY FAST.  We had to pull over to let it pass.  The cloud behind it took a while to fully dissipate enough so that we could see the road and continue.
 The rock formations at the gorge where amazing.

 We hiked down into the gorge and to the river where there was an awesome swimming hole.

 We swam the gorge for about a 1/2 mile and then back.  The water was cool and refreshing on a 90F day and also real deep!  We could not touch bottom in the middle.

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