Northern Gold and other metals
Since leaving the Great Central Road we have spent our time in Laverton and Leonora, in WA’s north-east goldfields to the north of Kalgoorlie. One of things that is good about this is that we have returned to something like normal diesel prices. Along the GCR the top price paid was at Warakurna, $2.40 l. On the Plenty Highway the Station owners got plenty at $2.00 l. We are now down around $1.40 l.
It’s all about gold out here, with nickel thrown in for good measure. Laverton is famous for the Windarra Nickel Mine. For those old enough Windarra is the nickel mine that Poseidon NL promoted in 1969-70 and went from almost nothing to $280 a share within a few weeks. As with a lot off these situations Poseidon did not ultimately develop the mine as it went broke, others did. It is now almost 25 years since the mine closed and the area rehabilitated. Some of the old equipment has been left in place, but the whole site is now returning to a ‘natural state’. Many tons of seeds were planted and the landscape ‘moulded’ back to its ‘original’ form. It does look good. A bit of new exploration is going on in the area, maybe a new mine will emerge.
Laverton, like Leonora, is a bit of a shadow of its former self. Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s there were thousands of people on the gold fields. The town around the nearby old Mt Morgan’s Mine (not to be confused with Mt Morgan in Queensland) had 3,500 people there, only one building remains today, the Council Chambers. The old railway platforms are there also, leading off to Perth 550 km away.
The town of Menzies, where we went a couple of days ago had over 10,000 inhabitants in the early 1900s. The whole Shire of Menzies today number a little over 400.
Back in Leonora the main street is very quiet. But there are three pubs to keep the locals amused. In a sister town nearby Gwalia, there is a large gold mine, Sons of Gwalia. This is a famous old mine dating back to the late 1800s. It shut up shop in 1963 a few days before Christmas and the population left almost immediately, several hundred people. They left a ghost town, the remnants of which have been preserved.
The butcher in Leonora, Neil Biggs, lived in the early 1950s as a young boy in one of these shanty type houses. He is known as Niggy, it took Allthego a bit of time to work that one out. We spent an hour so wandering around looking at this amazing little human landscape.
Up overlooking the open cut mine is the grand Mine Manager’s House. It was built by Herbert Hoover in 1898 when he was the Mine Manager at Gwalia. He later went on to become the 31 st President of the USA in 1931. Today it is a B & B.
In recent years the mine has reopened. The old open cut mine pit is also one of those postcards you see from time to time. Deep. The mine today goes further underground to a bit over a kilometre, it takes an hour and half for trucks to come to the surface.
We now move on to Sandstone, a little bit further north and west and on the edge of the eastern goldfields, fields and heading for wheat and sheep areas. The wild flowers are also starting to emerge as we come into Spring.