Karijini and Tom Price

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Having arrived at Karijini and got settled in last night, all was peaceful although our neighbours who are a multi national group of folks had some music playing and were chatting and having a laugh and in no way were bothering anyone.

That was when it happened. A woman stormed up to their camp and asked them to turn the music down and keep the talking to a minimum!! At this point it was 7.15 pm but they said sorry and promised to be a bit quieter but they then noticed the time and carried on as they were before. Well, the woman came back with smoke coming out of her ears and insisted that they be quiet or she would call the Park Rangers. At that point, would you believe the Rangers came by purely by chance and were asked to tell the poor campers to be quiet as she had not come to a National park to hear their music and talking. Funny, as at this point she was making more noise than they were originally. They said they didn’t understand where she then screamed at the top of her voice “SHUT UP”. If the Rangers were unsure what they were dealing with, they certainly knew at this time. The Rangers then explained the time it was and she said she was up early next morining and needed silence in camp!! She was informed that this was probably impossible at 7.15 but it would be quiet later. She then stormed off in to the darkness and we were in our van trying not to laugh too loud.

Today we are up and head off to the town of Tom Price which was built and owned by Rio Tinto up until 1982 when it was given to the local government to run.
The town is named after the American Thomas Moore Price who worked for Kaiser Steel an American company. He was brought to Australia to find deposits of iron ore to ensure the supply to Kaiser Steel kept coming. Tom was insistent that mining in the area would return a huge amount of iron ore and in fact he had to convince the WA government to let mining begin. He then returned to the US where back at his desk was told of the huge discovery of iron ore in the Pilbara and died 2 hours later.

We arrive at the Tom Price visitor centre and are in luck as there is only one mine tour today and it leaves in 10 minutes. We have to grab a hard hat and safety glasses which must be worn at all times when we enter the mine.

The mine is one of several owned by Rio Tinto and has been mined for over 50 years and they reckon there is another 40 years to come out of it.
We jump on the bus and head out a short distance to the site. The bus driver is spitting out heaps of facts and figures both in terms of cash, production figures and machinery costs which are staggering. We drive along checking out some huge diggers and trucks etc and then we arrive at the mine pit where the digging occurs.

Our initial thought is WOW that is a huge hole then pretty much disgust as this should not be allowed to happen. They are taking a mountain down to ground level, then continuing down even further to the water table. This is when you would think the digging and blasting would stop but no chance. As there is water everywhere they just drop huge hoses in and pump it out to enable more digging. This of course is affecting all plant and wildlife which rely on this water to survive.

The Tom Price mine is only one of several owned by Rio Tinto and there are several more such as Hancock and BHP. We get back on the bus and Kaz convinces me to sit on the seat behind which will give us both a window seat. I had no sooner sat down when the couple who were sitting there before get back on and hubby is not happy with me. Kaz of course finds this hilarious as I am made to look like the villain.
Having toured the entire operation which interestingly is all controlled from Perth, including our bus movements, we return to the visitor centre and the entire tour was about an hour and a half long.

The town has the added bonus of having one of the highest peaks in Western Australia, Aboriginal name (Jarndunmunha) or Mount Nameless which we are amazed to find you can drive to the top of in a four wheel drive of course. You would not be doing that on any Scottish Mountain. We drop the tyre pressures on the Pajero and with Kaz driving in low range we start our crawl to the top. It starts of with the usual ruts etc but then the climb and the rocks increase in size. We are rocking and rolling whilst the Pajero without any drama just continues to drive over anything in its path and before too long we reach the top where the views are stunning both of the town and also the horrible slash in the landscape created by Rio Tinto.

A wee fact – Rio Tinto translates to Red River.

We head back and on the way head in to some of the many gorges in the Park, first one being Weano Gorge followed by Hancock Gorge which we thought we would have plenty time for but as we left the sun and the light was fading and we ended up in the dark on a 4×4 road with dirt and ruts etc. only good thing we kept our tyre pressures down and we drove pretty fast at 100 km jumping all over the place. It was like a computer game but full of red dirt.

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The poor Pajero is certainly getting some rough treatment.

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