The Mt. Whaleback Mine

One of the first stops is the tyre store, holding approximately $2 million of tyres at any given time.
Each tyre cost $25'000 and last between 9-12 months.

tyres can measure up to 3.6 metres in diameter and weigh up to 5 tonnes with the rims inserted.
To move them around special vehicles are required.
Each truck tyre can carry a 60 tonne load.

Then we head up to the first lookout giving a good view of the crusher, the beneficiation plant and the railroad loading facility.

The power station is gas fired using a 47 km spur line from the Karratha to Kalgoorlie gas pipeline, which can generate up to 105 megawatts of power.

Waste rock from the mine, which is low in iron content, is retained for use in rehabilitation.
A beneficiation plant was built at Mt Whaleback in 1979 to retrieve the ore mixed in with waste, providing an additional 8 Mtpa (million tonnes per annum) for sale.

The beneficiation plant separates ore and waste. Ore that is mixed with waste is tipped into crusher no. 3.
Once the ore is crushed it travels along a conveyor belt where the ore is processed by both wet and dry sorting.


Crusher No. 2 is the primary crusher.
The crusher breaks down ore boulders of up to 1.5 metres in diameter into lumps about the size of a football.
It is then transferred to a secondary crusher, where it is broken down into grapefruit-sized lumps.

Once the ore is crushed it is stockpiled on one of the two 'Live' stockpiles, each of which has a load out tunnel underneath with 13 gravity fed chutes.
This is where the trains are loaded at the rate of 14'000 tonnes per hour.

The first trainload of iron ore left Newman in 1969 and the first shipment left Port Hedland in April 1969 bound for Japan. Since then over 1 billion tonnes of ore has been railed out of Newman.
The 426-kilometre railway line from Newman to Nelson Point is one of Australia's longest privately owned railways. The company has more than 80 locomotives and more than 3'300 ore cars, which represent a major investment.

All train movements are managed from a traffic control centre at Port Hedland.
Specialised computer software and digital communications powered by solar technology, control train movements, warn about unsafe conditions and weigh the ore cars as they pass by.
An average train measure 2.4 kms long, consisting of four to six 4'000 horsepower locomotives, 208 to 300 ore cars and one driver.
Each car holds approximately 115-120 tonnes of ore.
Loading time is approximately 45 minutes and when fully loaded a train will weigh approximately 30'000 tonnes and can reach up to 65kms/ph with a breaking distance of 3kms.
The trains are up to 3.75 kilometres long and the journey from Newman to Port Hedland takes approximately eight hours.

In June 2001, BHP Billiton Iron Ore set a record for the world's longest and heaviest train.
Comprising eight locomotives and 682 ore cars, it measured 7.353 km and weight 99'732.1 Tonnes.
It carried a world-record net mass of 82'262 Tonnes of iron ore, over a distance of 275 km from the mines to Port Hedland.

Then we are driven to the lookout into the open-cut mine.

Well, we thought that the mine at Kalgoorlie was big, but Mt. Whaleback is much bigger!

Mt Whaleback is the largest Single Open-Cut Iron Ore mine in the world - currently 5.5km long and 1.5km wide.

Iron Ore was discovered by Stan Hilditch in 1957 and mining Commenced in 1968 after a Commonwealth Embargo was lifted.
The Mt Whaleback seam is approximately 1.6 billion tonnes.
It still has more than 20 years of mine life remaining.

Mt Whaleback was originally 805 metres above sea level, currently it is mined down 420 metres.
The steps on the sides of the pit are called benches - each bench is 15 metres high.

The water table starts at bench 18 - currently mining on bench 28.
80 million litres or water is pumped out each week and used in the beneficiation plant, water carts and drill rigs

The company uses the open-cut method of mining, which involves drilling holes into the pit floor and inserting explosives to break up the solid rock. Blasting takes place four or five times a week, depending on production requirements.

Drill rigs drill 15m deep and when ready to blast each hole is filled with approximately 1 tonne of ANFO explosive which is Ammonium Nitrate and 6% diesel.

After blasting, excavators scoop up to 63 tonnes of iron ore and load it into haul trucks - which can carry as much as 240 tonnes - to be transported to the primary crusher.

The machines used are:

A 120 tonne haul pack converted into a tow truck - can tow ore trucks or carry up to 130 tonnes of machinery on a truck tray.

Water Carts
They hold 104'000 litres of water taking approximately 3 hours to empty.
they are used for dust suppression on the mine roads.

Drill Rigs
They are used to drill for exploration and blasting, weight 110 tonnes

Ore Trucks
The mine currently has 12 x 190 tonne trucks and 36 x 240 tonne trucks in its fleet, due to reach a total of 63 by the end of 2007.

Ore trucks are made by Caterpillar, mechanically driven with 6 gears forward and 1 reverse, automatic.
Truck cabs have 2 way radios, air conditioning, power steering, dust suppression kits and a CD Player.

"The Whitehouse" co-ordinates the Modular Mining System - this is a GPS system that tracks all the machinery in the pit.
The Whitehouse can determine the position of each machinery with a 10cm accuracy at all times
Information provided by this system includes the weight of the ore carried by the trucks, their speed, fuel levels and how the machine is running mechanically.

The type of ore mined at Mt Whaleback is Brockman Hematite - which is 68.8% iron and blue grey in colour and is one of the highest grades in the world.
Ore is blended to 65.1% using another ore called Goethite Limonite, which is 61% iron and ochre in colour.

The Iron Ore is exported to steel makers in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China, Europe and Australia through Port Hedland, which is one of the busiest commodity ports in the world.

Two separate port operations are located on opposite sides of the harbour, at Nelson Point and at Finucane Island.
Ore from Mt Whaleback is sent to Nelson Point, while Finucane Island receives ore from other mines.
A sophisticated conveyor system runs under the harbour, through a 1.16 kilometre tunnel that carries ore from Nelson Point to Finucane island.

The port is capable of handling four ships at a time, each up to 320 metres long and carrying up to 220'000 tonnes of ore.

The ore is unloaded from the trains into one of three car dumpers, screened and being put into stockpiles.
Each stockpile contains about 200'000 tonnes and is about 200 metres long and 15 metres high.

Giant bucket-wheel reclaimers scoop up the ore from the stockpiles and transfer it to a conveyor system, which carries it to the ship-loaders.
A ship-loader can load at a rate of up to 10'000 tonnes an hour. On average, it takes about 35 hours to load a ship and more than 600 ships are loaded each year.




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Last updated: Friday, 08.02.2019 8:42 PM