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!”