Gold Mining in Kalgoorlie
In June 1893, Paddy Hannan, Thomas Flanagan and Dan Shea found close to 100 ounces of alluvial gold near Mt Charlotte, a short distance from what is now the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder. This find sparked the Western Australian gold rush and unearthed one of the richest goldfields in the world, the famous Golden Mile. By 1903 the Golden Mile was home to 49 operating mines, 88 roasters, 100 headframes and more than 3,500 kilometres of underground development.
For nearly 100 years, small, individual operations worked and controlled the Golden Mile. In the 1980’s, Western Australian businessman, Alan Bond began purchasing the individual leases in a bid to gain control of the area and create one giant mine. Bond’s company was unable to complete the takeover. However, in 1989 the dream was realised when Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines Pty Ltd (KCGM) was created to manage and operate the mines, which were now the assets of joint venture partners, Normandy Australia and Homestake Gold of Australia Limited.
Almost immediately, work began joining together the existing mines to create the Fimiston Open Pit. This pit was initially nicknamed the Big Pit and is now known across the world as the Super Pit. During this time, all underground operations were phased out except Mt Charlotte. KCGM’s Mt Charlotte Underground Mine continues to be a strong gold producer, currently extracting approximately 750,000 tonnes of ore, yielding around 54,000 ounces, or 1.6 tonnes of gold per year.
At the same time, the Fimiston and the Gidji Processing Plants were constructed. These sites treat more than 12 million tonnes of ore per year, producing up to 800,000 ounces of gold annually. The Gidji processing plant uses ultra fine grinding technology to process the concentrate.
In December 2001, Canadian company Barrick Gold Corporation merged with Homestake. A few months later, in February 2002, Normandy merged with Newmont Mining Corporation. Today, Barrick and Newmont are equal joint owners of the Golden Mile’s mining leases and KCGM, the company which manages them.
In March 2014, just in time for the 25th anniversary of its formation, KCGM poured its 16 millionth ounce of gold from the Golden Mile. During these 25 years, KCGM has produced in the region of 800,000 ounces per year, nearly 23 tonnes of gold, from a gold reserve of 8.8 million ounces. The ore yields an average of 2 grams of gold per tonne. KCGM’s operations account for approximately eight percent of Australia’s gold output and for a long time, KCGM was Australia’s biggest gold producer. This status was only relinquished to Newmont’s Boddington Gold Mine in the final quarter of 2012.
Since its discovery, the Golden Mile has produced more than 58 million ounces of gold, the fifth largest gold producing region in the world. Today, KCGM’s operations directly contribute to Australia being the second largest gold producer in the world, with China being the largest. At 3.5 kilometres long, 1.5 kilometres wide and more than 600 metres deep, the depth of the Fimiston Open Pit is equivalent to the length of 6 soccer fields and can be seen from space! This awesome site, together with the historical legacy of the area, draws thousands of tourists to the Goldfields each year.
Conscious of the popularity of the Super Pit as an attraction, KCGM has made this accessible to the public with a public Lookout and tours of site. The opportunity to view a working mine site in action and the chance of watching a blast keep the KCGM Super Pit Lookout firmly on the local must do list.
The first Super Pit Lookout was a fenced area with a small viewing platform constructed 100m south of the original Hainault Tourist Mine, near the Boulder Block. Over the years the Lookout has been moved to accommodate the changing pit and is now at the top of Outram Street in Boulder (off the Goldfields Highway, 6.4km south of Hannan Street).