The first thing we did on my arrival in Kalgoorlie (apart from sleep off the flight) was head to the centre of town to the Kalgoorlie Tours & Charters office for a tour of the Superpit (Fimiston Open Pit). Now considering I’d left the UK at a tepid 9°C, and Kal was building up to a wonderful 44°C I packed my bodyweight in water and a big hat for this trip.

We were greeted by the super friendly tour guide, who introduced himself as Wes, who guided our little group onto his wonderfully airconditioned bus before giving us the safety talk. 

Following this we were off, heading through town towards the main entrance to the mine. 

On our way we passed by the Museum of the Goldfields, the conveyer belt linking Mount Charlotte Mine with Fimiston’s processing mill and several trucks pulled over on the side of the road.

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After the guide took us through the gate, he drove the bus past the truck workshop and a number of old and new bits of machinery. Here he showed us the different between the well-worn tracks from an excavator compared with new ones that were off to the side, waiting for their new assignment.

We then headed down the main track towards the lookout post, stopping for fully laden trucks on the way and passing other smaller light vehicles with various roles. Once we got to the lookout, we were allowed out of the bus to really take in the scale of the Superpit.

At 3km long, 1.5km wide and 700m deep, it’s the biggest open pit in Australia and the third largest in the world. As this pit remains active, this size is increasing every day and the company expand the outer edges. We were also able to clearly see the wall slip from May 2018 on the eastern side of the pit, which took out the main route to the bottom of the pit. Work to remove this slip is estimated to take 3.5 years and will require the removal of a lot of earth so that company can get back to the high ore grade just below it.

After a quick talk about the superpit, its ore and fault zone, we headed back onto the bus and down the track towards the mill. On the way we got to drive past the decline to Mount Charlotte, follow a truck as it finished its journey to the ore dump and watch materials being put into the big crusher. 

We then went down into the mill, taking the narrow track under all of the machinery as our guide gave us a quick breakdown of each part of the process. 

Following this, it was back to the front gate and into town to be dropped off again.

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This was a really fabulous tour, giving great insight into the goings on of a large gold mining company working along the Golden Mile of Kalgoorlie. Scott and I had both anticipated that the tour would just involve looking at the mine from an extensive distance in the name of health and safety, but instead we were able to get up close and personal with the mine itself, follow the trucks around as they went about their work and see the mill in action (while still being safe!). Real credit to Wes as well who was full of information about the mine, its equipment and the mining process.

A Bit of History

Following the western goldrush of 1892, mining began in earnest in Kalgoorlie-Boulder. In 1988, Bond International Gold bought control over Gold Mines Kalgoorlie (GMK), a major owner of smaller ventures along the Golden Mile. With this new ownership, work began on creating this open pit and building the new Fimiston processing plant.  
1989 saw Homestake Gold of Australia take control of 50% of the stake, turning into a new venture called Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines (KCGM); these then owned Fimiston, Mount Charlotte, Aroya, Mount Percy, Superpit and Croesus mines, along with their respective mills.
As the years went on, there were several merges involved Poseidon Ltd, Barrick Gold Corporation and Newmont Mining Corporation. At the end of 2019, Saracen Mineral Holdings Ltd and Northern Star Resources Ltd became the new joint owners of the mine, making it 100% Australian owned. The company now work Fimiston open pit and plant, Mount Charlotte and Gidji processing plant.

Since its discovery all those years ago, its estimated that over 60 million ounces of gold have been mined, and KCGM itself produces 8% of Australia’s gold, second only to Boddington Gold Mine.
Current projects see the companies estimated life lasting until 2034, with Fimiston finishing in 2026, Mount Charlotte in 2024. KCGM is a major employer in the area, contributing over 1000 jobs and supports local businesses.

References

Kalgoorlie Tours & Charters (2020) Kalgoorlie Super Pit Tour the only tour that goes into the Super Pit Operations. Available at: https://www.kalgoorlietours.com.au/tours/super-pit-tour-2-5-hours (Accessed: 12 February 2020).

KCGM (2019) History – KCGM. Available at: http://www.superpit.com.au/about/history/ (Accessed: 12 February 2020).

Mennell, J. (2019) Option revealed for KCGM Super Pit wall collapse fix, Kalgoorlie Miner. Available at: https://www.kalminer.com.au/news/kalgoorlie-miner/option-revealed-for-kcgm-super-pit-wall-collapse-fix-ng-b881386293z (Accessed: 21 February 2020).