A Pilbara Snapshot: Two

21 07 2012

Consider the case of Goldsworthy.

What?                   Where?

Exactly. No one even remembers it any more.

But Goldsworthy was home to the first iron ore mine in Western Australia, established in the 1960s just outside present-day Port Hedland.

At its peak, the town was home to 700 residents, including my sister’s partner who grew up there among the red iron hills and tree-lined creeks of the Pilbara.

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But then the ore ran out.

So in 1994, in accordance with government policy to ‘avoid ghost towns’, the streets were torn up, buildings removed and a whole town was wiped off the map.

Like it was never there.

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Many people who call Port Hedland home have probably never heard of Goldsworthy.

But they ought to think about it when considering their own future.

Because what will happen to Port Hedland when the Pilbara’s ore deposits run dry?

You can be damned sure the mining companies won’t stick around.

Why would they?

Gina Rinehart and Twiggy Forrest are only concerned about the bottom line, not about building sustainable futures

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You only have to visit the Port Hedland garbage dump to see the scale of their excesses.

Apparently there’s no money in fixing old appliances anymore. Not for the local electricians who work out of town on-site and not for the cashed-up miners who just buy a replacement.

One section of the town dump is reserved solely for retired whitegoods –   a soaring pile of fridges, freezers and washers which probably just needed a tweak.

The plasma screen TV pile is only slightly smaller.

Waste. Excess. Wealth. These are just a few of my favourite things.

Actually they’re some of the reasons I moved to Melbourne.

And not because I envy the rich.

I realized long ago that I value lifestyle too highly to ever become wealthy.

But because I’m sick of hearing about that vacuous shit.

You hear a lot about it in Western Australia.

Who has that job, how much are they making, how big is their TV…

Never mind that these people are living right on the edge of one of the country’s outstanding areas of natural beauty. As featured on Foxtel.

Because, the thing is, the Australian wilderness isn’t friendly.

Spectacular, yep. But harsh, too.

And as Calvin – my sister’s partner  – pointed out, The Bush is simply alien to so many people who have moved up to the desert country in search of their fortune.

Spiky, dusty, dry, long distances;  you gotta earn those views.

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Happily, my family in the Pilbara is right into getting outback and getting amongst it.

Hell, they used to live 300km from the nearest supermarket, so an hour’s drive outside Port Hedland was nothing.

Calvin drove us out past Goldsworthy where he grew up, to a deserted river bordered with twisted ghost gums where the only crowds were roaming Brahman cattle.

The kids ran wild in the water, we drank a few beers in the shade of the paperbarks and never once wished we were rich miners watching 52-inch plasma screens in Hedland.

But what do you think, dear readers? This is just one poor, non-miners opinion.

Is it a positive move that we’re tearing holes in the outback and sending our dirt overseas so a small part of the population can become filthy rich?

Should the traditional owners of James Price Point stop whining about a few faded rock paintings that stand in the way of progress?

Or should we just accept all this as the new future while we continue to drive round in petroleum-fuelled steel cars and keep our damn mouths shut? Over to you…………

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Hilariously, this is just a small portion of the many, many people who have been banned FOR LIFE from the local pub. The Wall of ‘Fame’.

Wild passionfruit bush snacks

Brady killing it on the soccer field. More or less.

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A Pilbara Snapshot : One

16 07 2012

In case you hadn’t heard, Australia, or more specifically North Western Australia, is in the midst of a resources boom.

What does this mean? Simply put, huge swathes of our red desert dirt are being sent to China to be turned into steel so that they can take over the world. Probably.

Closer to home, it also means every second person in WA is earning six figures, pushing prices and rents through the roof, particularly in those towns  lucky enough to be near a mine.

Port Headland is one of those towns. Flat and dusty, there’s not much to recommend it except as a hub to visit some of the incredible country further inland.

And that seems to be how the big mining companies view it too. Not as a bustling coastal community to house their legions of workers, but just as a necessary train stop on the way to more mining dollars.

The town, which comprises Port and South Hedland is simply functional. There are few restaurants or cafes because no one can match the mining salaries.

Ore trains rumble non-stop through town and a salt factory dominates the main road. Every second vehicle is a yellow-striped mine truck and a high-visibility uniforms dominate. It’s like you’re inside some sort of remote industrial plant yourself.

The thing which really struck me was how it seemed no one was looking ahead. There’s been no community investment in the town by the Big Miners who earn so much from it. When the minerals are gone, they’ll pull out and Hedland will have no reason to exist.

It’s just a shame they couldn’t spend a few more bucks to give their workers something nicer to come home to.

Just out of town near an abandoned mining settlement.