Australia is carving a new town and port from the desolate outback of its north western region to serve the mineral boom.
Australia is carving a new town and port from the desolate outback of its north western region to serve the mineral boom. Just a few years ago, Port Hedland in Western Australia was a run-down centre serving a declining pastoral region and a few small mines. Now, it's one of the key outlets for Australia's new iron ore export industry and reclamation of thousands of acres of land is progressing to establish a sister city -- South Hedland.
Drastic changes have taken place at Port Hedland in the wake of mining activity. A new Decca navigational aid system costing 1--million dollars has been built 30 miles inland. It sends radio waves to enable giant ore vessels to find the narrow twisting channel into the harbour.
Ore carriers, like the Japanese vessel of 58-thousand tons shown are regular callers. The port, which only recently had about 90 vessels call each year, now has 50 a month, and the number is increasing.
The changes began when two iron companies, Goldsworthy and Mount Newman poured men and equipment into the town to prepare for the ore shipments from Australia's north-weat coast. They reclaimed hundreds of acres of swamp and then spent hundreds of millions of dollars in ore storage and loading facilities. Great stockpiles of iron ore have become a normal feature of the landscape. This year, 18-million tons of ore will be shipped from the port.
A new export produce, industrial salt, has also started to flow through Port Hedland. The area's natural advantages for solar evaporation of sea water will lead to annual shipments of 2-million tons of salt to Japan.
Dredging necessary to prepare the port for the big vessels took five years, but will be finished in two months. Surrounded by sand bars, Port Hedland could take only small ships and a 40-feet deep Channel, 800 feet wide and seven miles long, had to be dredged. The first of the 100-thousand ton ore ships is expected to arrive soon.
Special ship-loader belts at the wharves allow all hatches to be loaded without the vessel being moved. But dense clouds of choking ore dust float over the town, making conditions unpleasant for residents.
Now, roads, electricity and other services are appearing in a bare, sandy area two miles to the south as Port Hedland prepares for rapid expansion. The new town, South Hedland, will have 400,000 inhabitants by 1980 --- five thousand live there already.
And a new industrial area has been opened up, providing services for the big mines.
The NorthWest tyre company is one example -- re-slugging and retreading huge tyres that come in from the outback mines.
140 companies have been committed to begin operations in the town -- 40 have started business.
Meanwhile, the steady tipping of crushed ore onto stockpiles continues as trainloads arrive regularly from the mines.