From superstorm to superpit

After our windy night from hell and with the bad weather continuing in the morning, we only stopped long enough in Esperance to refuel the car (by the time I got to the servo the fuel light was on and turns out I only had 0.5 ltrs of fuel left in my tank – talk about cutting it fine!) and do some grocery shopping for our next leg of travel.

We left Esperance by mid morning and didn’t get to Kalgoorlie until around 5pm after stops for lunch, fuel and a stretch of the legs. I was absolutely exhausted by the time we’d set up and had dinner and was looking forward to a more restful sleep this time.

I was obviously still pretty knackered in the morning as I think I pressed snooze on the alarm about five times before getting up so we only just made it to the tour bus in time to collect our safety goggles and high vis jackets for our Superpit tour at the KCGM mine. Our tour guide Jill (or Jilly) was very informative and not only took us into the mine but gave us some history and insight into towns of Kalgoorlie and Boulder and the local gold rush.

In 1893, A few Irish lads by the names of Paddy Hannon, Thomas Flanagan and Dan Shea found nearly 100 ounces of gold (no they didn’t walk into a bar) in the Kalgoorlie/Boulder area which sparked a gold rush and the subsequent discovery of one of the richest gold deposits in the world – known as The Golden Mile. The rush saw around 49 individual mines established and in operation before Alan Bond started buying up the leases in the 80’s to create one giant open cut mine (I’m pretty sure he found himself in a bit of trouble around this time so the deal was never finalised and KCGM – Kalgoorlie Conglomerate Gold Mine – took over). The mine is now owned by two overseas companies, one of which is putting their half up for sale if anyone wants to loan me a heap of cash to buy it??

The mine looked similar to the Cobar open cut mine we saw on our trip to Birdsville last year but much bigger and the tour took us through areas of the mine where we could also see the machinery. The kids were pretty excited by the huge dump trucks emptying loads of rock (Miss6 was especially excited at the sight of the pink and blue ones which supported different mens and womens charities) and some of the massive tyres in the yard used on the trucks.

The colours in the rocky walls were quite lovely with reds and yellows through the first few layers of the mine, running into the darker grey with some black dotted throughout as the mine got deeper. KCGM have done some significant replanting of native trees and shrubs in the area with plans likely to include letting the superpit fill with water once operations are complete in 2029 – the water coming out of the mine has five times the salinity levels of the ocean so I’m not sure what kind of plant and wild life that will support in the future?

The tour finished at lunchtime and the bus parked back at the tour office conveniently across the road from the old York Hotel so we decided to stop in for lunch. The pub is a beautiful old building with gorgeous ornate ceilings and an equally gorgeous wooden staircase leading up to some accommodation and an outdoor belcony with views down the main street of town where we enjoyed a scrumptious lunch in the sunshine.

We made what was supposed to be a quick little stop at the Town Hall for a look where we bumped into the local historian. I mentioned that I worked for local government back in Melbourne so he opened up the Council Chamber and Mayor’s private meeting room for us to have a look. The ceilings were made with ornate pressed metal and the furniture was carved out of solid wood (unlike the ‘office’ furniture of our Council chambers). The Mayor here still wore the Mayoral chain and robe for formal occassions and we found out that the very first Mayoral robe was imported from the UK for a cost of around 200 Guineas which at the time was equivalent to buying four houses! Talk about blowing the budget! The robes were the same as the Lord Mayor of London and the Mayor of the day thought that Kalgoorlie deserved the same.

Next it was off to Hannons North Tourist Mine where the kids and I got to climb up into a giant dump truck and pretend to drive it – it’s so unbelievably massive to be in the cabin of one of those things. We also looked around the old buildings and equipment before trying our hand at panning for gold – needless to say we didn’t find our fortune and I haven’t been able to fund an extension of this trip with the proceeds.

We finished the day with a drive out to the public lookout at the Superpit for sunset – it was a pretty spectacular sunset and I wished I’d taken more photos. Tomorrow we start our official ‘drive home’ hitting the Eyre Hwy and making our way across the Nullarbor.

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