Tasmanian Times


Australia is about to join the Big Holes of the world

Today one can stand at the observation deck in Hibbing Minnesota where I spent many good summers and look down into one of the biggest holes in the world.

Father used to work on one of the tiny trains that puffed up the side, pulling equally tiny iron ore cars. They were tiny until they got to the top of the mine ridge. There the engines stood, chuffing quietly for a moment, huge behemoths, enormously powerful and hippopotamus-like. Their string of ore cars were waiting for the trip to the ore docks in Duluth, some one hundred miles away.

They were pulled by the largest steam locomotives in the world. It was said the 220 series of locomotives had a draw bar pull of over one million pounds. Translated, that meant they pulled one and one half kilometre long trains. The ore cars were filled with 10,000 tons of ore. That is small considering the Kimberley trains of today but we were proud in the 1940s that without Hull-Rust we may have lost the war.

The hole in Hibbing was our raison d’etre.

Over the years I watched the large open-pit mine grow until one day a sign was erected. The sign read, “Hull-Rust-Mahoning, Largest Open Pit Mine in the World.” The hole had grown to three or four miles long and 600 feet deep. Now, the bragging point is that approximately two billion tons of ore and burden have been removed. The ore is gone.

Today Hull-Rust is a big, mostly empty hole. It is said that one day it will be a mighty lake.

Steep Rock Iron Mines of Atikokan, Ontario tells the same story as Hibbing. In the 60s and 80s they had one of the big holes of North America. Now they look for more and bigger iron deposits. Last time we were there it was said the new mine they opened had enough iron ore for at least twelve years!

For Big Holes we can add Anaconda Copper Mine of Butte, Montana. That was the biggest copper mine in the world in the 1950s. At the pit head there was a sign which read, “Anaconda Copper Mine, Largest Copper mine in the World”. It is a really big hole now…a really big hole! Or, if you are into Biggest Holes there is the Kimberley Number 1 Big Hole in South Africa or the Diavik mine in Canada which boasts its own 737 airport. Or the Mirny mine in Siberia which is so big it can suck helicopters out of the sky…or so it is said.

But take heart all lovers of Big Holes! Australia is on the verge of being the biggest hole. Darren Hedley, Ian Junk and other mining entrepreneurs are planning new mines for Western Australia. Soon, in a few years as some of these holes merge with other holes which merged, we will probably have the Mother of All Holes! Then we can see our very own signs which will read, “Site of the formerly largest hole in the world!”

Need I say that these holes will not be repeated.

Our present government wants to put on a super tax because, they state, the resources belong to the people, not to the companies. The shadow minister for finance, Andrew Robb said recently on ABC that the companies must make high profits for THEIR STOCK HOLDERS for whom they have responsibilities!

Wait a darn minute! Responsible to whom? Who owns these resources? Stockholders in New York or Bejing? The Australian people own these resources; you and me. The companies are only renting the resource and leaving a hole…a great Big Hole.

Once a renewable resource is gone there will be no company that wants to claim that they used to own the Biggest Hole in the World. No, they will be moving on to make the next Biggest Hole in the World.

Our resources are ours and must be treated carefully and delicately. A mining hole, once dug, does not get filled again some years hence, awaiting the next mining boom.

As Gertrude Stein might have said, “A hole is a hole is a hole!”

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  1. Buck and Joan Emberg

    May 25, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Good one ALF. Well accepted. My accent is Canadian! You are forgiven.

  2. Russell

    May 24, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    Re #2
    There’s a new one ALF1, “Gunnshole.”

    “Hopefully it will become a hole in the ground for those who don’t know how lucky it is to be in love with country, countryside and justice.”

    As indigenous Australians do, and we all would do well to learn from.

  3. ALF1

    May 24, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    C’mon Buck. I BBQ with people whose lives revolve entirely on ways to limit paying taxes to their beloved country, investment schemes which rip the guts out of our forests and anything that can make a quid. The only distraction from money-money-money talk is sport; footy, cricket and a few Tiger jokes. Their souls are as dark as the shadows in your big holes, but they take risks and keep the industry turning…or at least that’s how they rationalise their lives. Of course Gunns falling into a 30cent hole is hitting hard on some and some of their mates who have left the sinking ship for another rising star are no longer spoken of in super-nova terms. But at the end of the day they really are nice people who have thrived on the miracle of making money out of thin air. Of course they only patronise me when I raise the dreadful spectre of surreptitious foreign-ownership of the sunburnt country and doomsday being the denouement in the Gunns series; my darling Fingal Valley’s beauty transformed into military plantation ranks and the soft lull of the ancient bush lost to chainsaw cacophony. I patronise their disgust as one of their mates readies for the judge on pastry-based tax-avoidance. Taxation is vexation and vacuousness when the question is put: ‘who will pay for the soldiers who go off to keep terrorists at bay to allow you to have your barbies-without-bombs’? Duh?
    You see Buck when there’s a buck in the air, whether its here or there, all perspective is lost and for those who really care (and thank you, a yank expatriate for caring) will probably take some ironical pleasure in knowing that one day soon that those who have helped dig the hole will fall into it…just as they have fallen into the Gunns hole. I’ll have to use a nom-de-plume here, in case I don’t get invited back to the next barbie. Interesting places to be for those who love this country and justice. Do you know that a very pretty girl has just separated from a very nice man and its all related to the hypocrisy of a very slick man who showed no feelings for a very sick and very pretty girl? Maybe watch this space. Hopefully it will become a hole in the ground for those who don’t know how lucky it is to be in love with country, countryside and justice.

  4. Russell

    May 23, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    Exactly Buck, Australia’s natural resources are the sole property of the entire Australian public and a fair share of the profits must return to the public either as payment or compensation for loss.

    Individuals can pay 50% tax, why shouldn’t we expect these giant to cough up the lesser 40%?

    Or should access to the public’s resources be withheld for the time being?

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