Southern Highlands, NSW, Australia

Thursday, July 18, 2013


We drove on and on through Savannah country towards Weipa on the west coast of Far North Queensland. It is the site of the biggest bauxite mine in the world. It is the biggest town on Cape York Peninsula with a population of 3,500. We visited the mine and I was amazed at the industry.

 Before we reached Weipa we stopped at a tiny country town of Coen with just one main street. All the town residents were dressed in their best and heading for the open air community hall because the Governor of Queensland (Penelope Gibson) was in town on her way to Weipa to unveil a plaque to commemorate the landing of the Dutch on the west coast of Qld. I wonder what she thought about the name change of the hotel opposite her function. It is no longer the Exchange Hotel as someone added an "S" to the front. (see it on the roof.)

After morning tea in Coen we drove on and on further to Archer River Roadhouse for lunch. It is a popular stop for tourists as it is the last place for petrol if going straight up to the tip of Oz. However, we were detouring across to Weipa first. The road goes through the Archer River but on a concrete ford. We were standing on the concrete watching this silly photographer walking into the croc infested river. We yelled at him about the crocs but he didn't believe us. Lucky for him none appeared.

Finally we arrived at Weipa. we stayed at the Albatross Resort which was really a country pub but it had a great view of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Once again we were reminded to be croc wise while walking. That means stay off the beach. It is a bit sad not being able to enjoy the beaches up there.
Not only do they have crocs but when we arrived at our room, there was a snake trying to get under the door. A staff member came and swept it away and it slithered into the garden. The insects and bugs are also on steroids up there.

The next morning we met a local tour guide who drove us through the Rio Tinto Alcan Bauxite mine. We were not allowed to get off the bus for safety reasons so all the photos are through the windows.
The haul roads are specially built for these humungous trucks, which are also specially built for this type of mining and they are much larger than normal mining trucks.The roads are as wide as a 4 to 6 lane highway.

Bauxsite mining doesn't have pits or tunnels the bauxite is just scraped off the top. Firstly the trees and top soil are removed and then the red bauxite ore is loaded onto trucks and taken to the treatment plant.
The Bauxite ore is made up of little round red pebbles like ball bearings you can see it at the bottom of this pic. When they have finished, the miners replace the top soil and plant the same type of trees that were there. We saw regenerated areas and they looked good.

 Loading the truck with bauxite ore. They are a long way off and it is hard to tell how huge are these machines.

The trucks bring the ore here where the ore is washed and then goes on a conveyer belt to a train. See the truck at the top it is waiting for its turn to dump the load into the treatment plant. It tips the load sideways out of the truck. These trucks work non stop 24 hours a day every day. The mine produced 16.3 million tons (2009).
 The conveyer empties the ore into a funnel which feeds it into the train wagons which are operated by computers to move slowly along at the right speed for the wagons to be filled. The trains take the ore to the wharf not far away.

The ships take some ore to Gladstone alumina smelters on the Central coast of Queensland where it is turned into aluminium.  The rest goes  to overseas customers.

I'm not sure what these huge road trains are used for. There were six of these monster trailers hanging on the back.
Bauxite was discovered in Weipa in 1955 and production started in 1964 and it has been producing non stop for the last 49 years. There is enough ore here to mine for another 40 years. The Rio Tinto lease covers an area of 3,860 square kilometres. The land is owned by different aboriginal councils. The Land Use Agreement provides economic, education and employment benefits as well as cultural heritage support. It was a most informative, interesting tour.

  Then it was lunch time, we had a picnic on the shores of Patricia Lakes. Ann enjoys the view.

At last I found a Cooktown Orchid, which is Queensland's floral emblem.


  1. i was going to look up bauxite when i finished reading to see what it is, but then you explained it. i had no idea how they make aluminum or what the ore was called. now i know. i was thinking what a wonderful place to wade when i read the comment about the crocodiles... yowsa...

  2. the 'sexchange motel' had me laughing. :) that's quite a lot of ore mining!

  3. Looks like an interesting place to visit. Love the water scenes.

  4. Loved the bit about the bugs being on steroids. A really informative post Dianne.

  5. It is quite an industry so non stop and that for all those years.

  6. I had a few laughs here, Diane! The Sexchange Motel, the photographer in the water with the crocs and bugs n steroids. What a nice place to visit! Great photos and post. Have a happy weekend!

  7. Hahaha, LOVE the 'Sexchange' Motel - wonder if they get more or less customers because of it??!! But now I'm torn ... do I stay away because of the snakes? OR do I visit because it's so RED?!?!?! Have a great weekend, my friend!

  8. Well, we all know a bit about bauxite mining now. There seems to be a red hue about everything, so I am sure Red would love it. I didn't know QLD had a female Governor. Whatever would Joh say.

  9. Interesting about the Bauxite ore... I had never heard of it --and was interested in reading that it is used in making aluminum... VERY interesting. Thanks for the great post...

    Wow--you are going to be talking about this trip for a long long time.


  10. very interesting photos Dianne; I've loved seeing your travels and how pretty the colour of the water; lovely setting. I also love the REDS of the soils when travelling; you've seen so much; thanks for sharing.

  11. Talk about mining on a truly industrial scale! After the snake episode I don't think that I would have slept a wink!
    I love the orchid.

  12. What an amazing trip. Six trailers on one truck, bauxite being loaded 24/7 - such a big country we live in. Shame about the crocs and other not-so-pleasant wildlife!

  13. I looked for an orchid in Cooktown but they had just finished their flowering season ... glad you have better luck seeing one.

    I'd love to go see Weipa one day ... perhaps another time.

  14. Hi Diane, what an adventure! You go on some great trips and we are very lucky that you share your photos with us. Brilliant and a big thank you for making my armchair traveling so enjoyable :)

  15. lol!
    the sex change hotel had me laughing, diane. what a great trip!

    always a delight to pop by your lovely spot for a visit.

    big hugs.

    missed you!

  16. ooops, i meant to say "motel!":))

  17. So I'm thinking, why is aluminum gray and not that lovely shade of red???

  18. The Australian cheekiness comes for with the change of name! Love that delicate looking, but tough Cooktown orchid. An area far removed from us.

  19. The mine is fascinating, and I'm glad you could get some pictures to share with us. It was hard to gauge the size of those trucks, but I imagine they are huge. The beach scene is beautiful, but I don't think I want to encounter any crocs (or snakes!).

  20. At least you had your camera ready to take a snap should a crocodile take its own snap!

  21. Thanks for teaching me what bauxite is ...I love this painless and beautiful way to learn. Lovely floral emblem Queensland has.