Welcome to the hugely enjoyable Mining Hall of Fame, which showcases not only the technical side of mining, but also the larger-than-life cast of visionaries, entrepreneurs, robber barons and rogues that it has spawned.
One of the things that I most like about Kalgoorlie (and, for that matter, my adopted home town, Johannesburg) is that they are towns that have always remained true to their mining roots. The Mining Hall of fame is an excellent example of Kal's willingness to embrace its colourful (and often less than cultured) heritage, and is a 'must see' for anyone wanting to understand the history of Western Australia's Eastern Goldfields.
The Australian Prospectors and Miners Hall of Fame (to give it its full and rather cumbersome title) provides a nice mix of historical context and interactive displays that allow the visitor to gain a basic understanding of mining and marvel at the immense physical challenges that needed to be overcome to develop mines and settlements in this hostile environment. As with most mining museums, it is possible to go underground and to watch a gold pour, although for me, the highlight was the series of exhibits on the giant personalities of yesteryear who have dominated the Australian mining industry (but then that's my community, so I'm biased). It also boasts a "world class minerals gallery", although I can never work out why people get so excited about these: I'm a geologist by profession and rows of mineral specimens bore me rigid (but maybe that's why I'm a lapsed geologist ...)
A collection of old mining equipment and buildings has been assembled outside the museum building and it's also possible to try your hand at gold panning should you feel the urge (although don't expect the proceeds to cover the cost of your trip!)
The museum is perched up on a hill just outside town and the Observation Deck lends an unusual bird's eye view out over Kal - a perspective that you only otherwise get from a plane in this pancake-flat landscape. There's also an indigenous Eremophila (emu bush) garden as well as a Chinese garden whose relevance in this setting I struggle to fathom, although it is a pleasant place to bring a picnic. If you're not organised enough to bring your own, then there's is also a cafe, which proudly boasts of "an alfresco dining area with sweeping views to our new Giant 793C Truck exhibit!". Well, how could you possibly resist the prospect of such a captivating view??? ... I think you've got to be a seriously hardcore miner to consider that attribute to be a drawcard :)
A much heralded feature of Kal's pub scene are its 'skimpy' barmaids. For those of you who have not yet been exposed to Australia's unique take on staff uniforms in pubs, a 'skimpy' is a young lady who (wo)mans the bar in nothing but her underwear. This is a wildly popular practice in the remote rural towns of inland Western Australia, and is particularly a feature of mining towns with heavily skewed gender ratios such as Kalgoorlie where blokes hugely outnumber sheilas.
Kal is stinking hot in summer, so I can begin to understand that over this period, the minimalist 'uniform' is probably quite welcome. However, Kal has a desert climate, and as the mercury can drop well below zero at night during the winter, this is one hardy breed of service provider!
Kal is a small town with a lot of pubs, and so keeping them in skimpies must be quite a challenge. I was amused to find out that - in common with a lot of the mineworkers - a number of the skimpies operate on a 'fly in, fly out' roster from Perth!
For a unique insight into the secret life of skimpies, have a look at the pithily written article below.
Well, there are no prizes for guessing why the Superpit is called the Superpit!
The Fimiston Pit (aka The Superpit) has no 'Guiness Book of Records' claim to fame in that it is not the deepest or widest pit in the world, and neither is it the only one located smack bang in the suburbs of a town. However, at 3.5km long x 1.5km wide x 400m deep, there is no doubting that it is a colossal great hole in the ground, and well worth a look, especially if you've never had the opportunity to get up close and personal with an open pit mine before.
The Superpit is actually quite a recent phenomenon, which only came into being in 1989 as a result of the consolidation of a number of earlier pits into one big hole by Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines (KCGM). To date the Superpit (including the earlier previous pits) has generated 50 million oz of gold - that's a staggering 1,550 tonnes of gold!
The orebody in Kal is located quite close to surface (which is why they mine the ore in an open pit, rather than from underground), but because the orebody is quite complex and controlled by geological structures, it's quite a trick to mine the minimum of waste (barren) rock to expose the gold-bearing ore, whilst maintaining a stable pit that provides safe working conditions. Obviously the deeper the pit extends, the more waste rock they have to mine to expose new ore and maintain stable sidewalls and the higher the operating costs become.
For those interested in the mining process, the pit has long since extended past the zone where the ore can be 'free dug' with earth moving equipment, and so regular blasting is required. If you look at the main photo, you can just see a tiny drill rig on the large flat bench, which is drilling blastholes in which the explosive will be placed. Once the blast has taken place, the broken rock is loaded with massive bulldozers onto equally massive trucks and driven up the access ramps. The waste rock (which contains no gold) is discarded onto waste rock dumps, and the gold-bearing ore is driven to the metalllurgical plant.
At the plant, the rock is ground down into small fragments in a mill, and then mixed with water and a cocktail of chemicals, most notably cyanide. The cyanide chemically bonds with the gold and the 'pregnant' solution (containing the gold complexes) is then passed through an electrowinning circuit, where the gold metal is extracted from solution by electrolysis.
So far, so good. But what's most mindboggling about the operation are the economics. The average gold grade of ore mined from the Superpit is about 2g/tonne. That probably doesn't mean much to most people, so let's put it into layman's terms. In other words, every tonne of ore mined contains less than a teaspoonful of gold, which has to pay for all the activities outlined above AND make some sort of profit. Moreover, the Superpit's stripping ratio (less exciting than it sounds, even in a town full of skimpies!) is about 5.5:1, which means that for every tonne of ore mined, they need to remove an extra 5.5 tonnes of waste rock. In practical terms, this means that 6.5 tonnes of rock need to be drilled, blasted, loaded and transported just to generate that half teaspoon of gold. Even at the all time high gold price at the time of writing (September 2011), that's what the Aussies would call, "A big ask"!
There are some really excellent information boards displayed at the Superpit vantage point. Note that access to the viewpoint is usually not possible during blasting for safety reasons, but check at the tourist office in town just in case, as it's quite a sight to see.
See the website below on details of guided tours of the Superpit.
The open-air museum shows original heritage buildings from the gold rush era. Here you'll understand that the life of a gold digger was not romantic at all...
The modern building known as the actual Miners' hall of Fame includes a museum which shows prospecting methods in the past and present, minerals and ores, machinery and interactive presentations.
Guided tours take you into 35 m deep into an underground mine (see separate tip).
If the gold fever bug bites you, you can try your luck at gold panning.
In the Miners' Hall of Fame, guided tours take you underground to a depth of 35 m into the original shafts and galleries. The guides are retired miners who report first-hand from their own experience. A presentation of the machinery noise is included - hard to imagine how people can stand this day after day for years.
The Boulder Town Hall is an historic hall with pressed tin ceilings and wrought iron balustrades.
You can see the last surviving example of a working Phillip Goatcher stage curtain. This curtain depicts the scene of the Bay of Naples and has hung in the hall since 1908. I
t has been restored and is lowered by its original pulley system every Wednesday 10:00am to 12:00pm and 13:00pm to 15:00pm.
The main street in Boulder is kind of a smaller edition of Kalgoorlie's Hannan Street. Heritage buildings tell the tale of the gold rush era. Today it's a bit run down, though. Not exactly pleasant in the evening.
Good cappuccino and the hugest Hamburgers I've ever seen to be obtained at Mama Maria's cafe (if I remember the name of the place correctly).
Mount Charlotte is the lookout closest to the town and provides a great overview of the landscape with the two towns, old gold mines, superpit and the surrounding bushland.
The hilltop is used as a water reservoir that stores a good more precious than gold. Water is delivered through a pipeline from the Perth hills.
The main street of Kalgoorlie, named after Paddy Hannan, the Irishman who discovered the Golden Mile, is framed by carefully restored heritage buildings from the gold rush times. The architecture can be described as a mix of Wild West and Victorian historism. The wide street once provided enough room for the camel caravans that were used for transport.
The model shows what the Super Pit will look like in 2017 when the Golden Mile is expected to be exploited. The mine will then reach a depth of more than 500 m.
The model is on display in the Super Pit Shop, which sells Super Pit souvenirs.
The open-cut mine in the area that once was the Golden Mile is the largest man-dug hole on Earth. The view from the lookout is impressive.
Observe the drills, shovels and trucks at work. It's hard to imagine how huge the machines which move down there like toys actually are.
Blasting occurs 3-4 times a week, enquire times at the Super Pit Shop (Baoulder, 2 Burt Street).
The lookout is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., no entrance fee.
All you wanted to know about mining - and particularly gold mining - and more, the Australian Prospector and Mining Hall of Fame is a great place to see it all and get down and dirty underground and see the way it was done before the days of open cut mining.
Comprises theatrette, cafeteria, gift shop, historic buildings, ever-changing displays, miners hall of fame where there is a fascinating array of memorabilia, minerals gallery where many different minerals are displayed, prospecting gallery, money and law gallery, exploration zone for kids of all ages, old mine buildings, gold melting and pouring display and the highlight is an underground tour with an ex-miner - which takes about an hour and hard hats must be worn (supplied). We got to hear how some miners were able to smuggle nuggets out of the mine in the dunny (loo if you don't understand Aussie slang).
Suggest you allow a full day to experience all that the Australian Prospector and Mining Hall of Fame has to offer - and it is very well done.
Open 7 days a week 9am - 4.30pm
Cost - Adult $30, Child $15, Concession $25
Imagine standing on the edge of a cliff and looking straight down some 350 metres (about 1150 feet) or the height of a 100 story sky scraper, then gazing across the width of 1.5km (1 mile) and the length of 3.5 km (2.2 miles) and you get some idea of the scale of one of the largest open cut mines in the world. The hole is so large it would swallow whole entire central business districts of major world cities and still have room to add a few more city cores to the maw of the pit.
The Super Pit is the result of the combining of a number of gold leases into one single entity. Work goes on 24 hours a day 7 days a week. There are 34 monster dump trucks working around the clock hauling the gold bearing ore to the processing plant. Each truck (all driven by women) carries 225 tonnes of ore, which on average will produce a gold ball sized blob of gold weighing about 500 grams (about 17.5 ounces or $US16,650)
One hour tours of the Super Pit are only available every 3rd Sunday (coinciding with market day), but there is the Super Pit Shop at
2 Burt Street (Crn Hamilton)
Western Australia 6432
Ph: 08 90933 488
Fax: 08 90932 488
A/H: 08 9022 1100
This old hotel was built in 1900 in a mix of Federation and Anglo Dutch style. The hotel was run by Paddy Whelan who was a well known storyteller, poet and politician. The hotel also was know for a world record drinking record being set there in 1953 when ‘Shorty’ Western managed to thrown down 12 pots of beer while the clock at the Post office struck 12.
The hotel is now Sylvester’s Nightclub.
Built in 1902 and is listed as a heritage site. It was designed in a Federation Gothic style in a cruciform layout and built from Coolgardie brick. Inside the church has timber floorboards and pews and is highly decorated.