A Future Beyond the Pit

Article | Updated 3 years ago

The Super Pit

The Kalgoorlie goldfield originally comprised a large number of small underground mines. In the 1980s there was an attempt by businessman Alan Bond to purchase mines and then consolidate his holdings into a single open pit mine. Although he was unsuccessful, the Super Pit was to be created in 1989.

Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines Pty Ltd. (KCGM) manages the assets and operations of the joint venture partners, Newmont Australia Limited and Barrick Gold.  Due to be completed by 2021, the Super Pit will reach a size of 3.8km by 1.35km and more than 500m deep. It will have consumed many of the underground mines of the former Golden Mile.

A Sustainable Future: Where do we go from here?

Since its foundation over one hundred years ago, Kalgoorlie’s economy has been narrowly based on mining, pastoralism and government services. Many of these activities, while creating economic wealth, leave an environmental and social legacy that is not always positive.

Sustainability will enable people to satisfy their basic needs without compromising the quality of life for future generations. A sustainable future will be based on a just and fair society that addresses the economic, social and political marginalization imposed on the Aboriginal population. It will be a society that recognizes the value of Aboriginal culture and its connections to the land and water. It will be a society where people work together to meet the challenges ahead.

The main goal of developing sustainability within a community is to enable people to satisfy their basic needs and enjoy a good quality of life, without compromising future generations.

Image showing a aerial panorama of Kalgoorlie, c2001.
Panorama of Kalgoorlie, c 2001.
Image courtesy State Library of Western Australia, 341377PD

Living in the Desert: Kalgoorlie’s Water Future

For thousands of years, the Indigenous people of the goldfields region managed and survived in the area’s harsh environment. The key to their survival has been the keen respect for, and necessity of, traditional knowledge, especially in regards to the mapping of water sources.

Explorers and miners relied on this knowledge, particularly so early on, when the sparse population density, great distance from centre’s of government and markets, and the extreme climate, all took their toll.

Low rainfall meant that a shortage of water was always an issue for the community and the individual. This issue was solved with the construction of the 650km pipeline, designed by C.Y. O’Connor, to transport potable drinking water from Mundaring. However, the catchment for this water source is now under pressure from declining rainfall.

How sustainable is Kalgoorlie’s dependence on this lone water source, and what, if any, are the alternatives?

Living Sustainably: What's being done? 

The City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder is Australia’s largest outback city, with a population of more than 30,000. It is currently on the path towards becoming a ‘sustainable regional city of the future,’ positioning itself as the Solar Centre of Australia. On top of this, the city is the largest user of treated effluent in the country, and is irrigating more than 55 hectares of parklands and playing fields with this sustainable water source.

Together with strict water restrictions since 1999, water efficiency measures such as retrofitting dual flush toilets and low-flow shower heads means that Kalgoorlie is reducing its dependence on the pipeline from Mundaring.

The Goldfields annual Sustainable House Day allows the community to see sustainable living in practice, and how this lifestyle might easily fit with their own.

A new housing estate, The GreenView at Karlkurla, will eventually offer more than 2000 sustainable-living homes. It has been planned by Landcorp to set new regional benchmarks. Design guidelines will ensure that sustainability requirements for water and energy efficiency are met, and block layouts will ensure passive solar design.

The End of the Super-Pit?

The Super Pit closure is going to be a long conversation, after all, we’ve got another 11 years to go and possibly more.

KCGM’s Community Relations Manager, February 2010

Many suggestions have been made for the site of Kalgoorlie’s famous Super Pit when it eventually ceases operation as a mine. A casino? An Australian Las Vegas? An inland lake? A race track? What does the future hold for the nearly four kilometre long, 600 metre deep Super Pit?

Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines (KCGM) is the biggest employer in Kalgoorlie. The working life of the Super Pit, as it currently stands, has been extended to 2021, but the future remains uncertain.

What will be the impact on the town of Kalgoorlie when mining ceases?

As a way of getting Kalgoorlie residents involved in thinking about life after the closure of the Super Pit, KCGM has initiated an open discussion, which can be contributed to on their website.  Some residents have voiced concern about the effect on the local housing market, whereas others see great possibilities.

One response proposed a luxury resort "with great views of the internal pit:"

I’d love to sit on the deck overlooking the water and have a meal and a beer and watch the sun go down.

Everyone seems to have their own ideas.

The Super Pit with the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder in the background, ca. 1999.

The Super Pit with the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder in the background, ca. 1999.
Image courtesy State Library of Western Australia, 341380PD

Managing Landscapes: The Future of the Great Western Woodlands

The challenge now and in the coming decades is to maintain the natural values of the Great Western Woodlands, protect the ecological processes that sustain these values, and repair any environmental damage that has already occurred.

The Extraordinary Nature of the Great Western Woodlands, 2008

The Great Western Woodlands is an environment of global significance. There are a range of threats facing the Woodlands, which supports a range of endemic flora and fauna. The increase in the size and intensity of fires, climate change, weeds and feral animals, and the loss of critical habitat, are issues that must be addressed in order to properly manage these natural landscapes for future generations.

Visionary planning is required, along with collaboration between communities, government and industry.

One such group is already putting words in actions: Gondwana Link. This association consists of seven organizations and a range of individuals, who are responding to the challenges the Woodlands face. Its vision is to connect, protect and restore critical elements of the landscape in order to provide connected habitats that will allow native species’ to survive. To achieve this, Gondwana Link has begun to use strategies such as land purchase, ecological restoration, and community education.

Better Environment, Better Lifestyle!

The Kalgoorlie-Boulder Urban Landcare Group (KBULG) has worked to improve the local environment for more than 35 years. It began in 1973 as the Goldfields Dust Abatement Committee, as a response to severe dust storms that were affecting the entire Kalgoorlie-Boulder community. Over time the Committee assumed a broader scope. Greater emphasis was placed on community involvement in the development of educational programs and activities, and in promoting community awareness of land care.

The group’s Greening the Goldfields program has involved a range of activities, including community tree planting days. This has resulted in the propagation of thousands of native plants each year that help to rehabilitate damaged areas throughout Kalgoorlie-Boulder.

Karlkurla Bushland Park

Karlkurla Bushland Park (pronounced gull-gurl-la) is a 200 hectare plot of natural regrowth bushland that is located four kilometres north-west of Hannan St, Kalgoorlie-Boulder.

Karlkurla is the name for the native silky pear, also known as the Bush Banana or Cogla. This is the plant from which Kalgoorlie derives its name.

This bushland is jointly managed by the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder and KBULG. The park, restored by KBULG, is one of six regeneration zones originally established to control dust, but now forms a green belt around the city.

Karlkurla Bushland Park, once used for prospecting, pastoral activities and timber harvesting, is now a successful conservation area that can be enjoyed by everyone.

Image of flower - Marsdenia australis (R.Br.) Druce

Marsdenia australis (R.Br.) Druce
Image courtesy Florabase, Department of Environment and Conservation

Kalgoorlie-Boulder Today

The Kalgoorlie Boulder region is home to a youthful, energetic and vibrant community of more than 30,000 people. The average age is around 30 years, the majority of the population is of Australian and British ancestry but ethnic diversity is high.

Aboriginal people are 7.5% of the population; more than double the State average. New Zealanders are 5% of the total.

This diversity makes for a unique modern community that also celebrates and values its past.

Celebrating mining - St Barbara’s Festival

Tray of HUGE 793 Dump Truck opening at the St Barbara's Parade 2005

Tray of HUGE 793 Dump Truck opening at the St. Barbara's Parade 2005
Image courtesy Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines

The legend of St. Barbara, one of the Patron Saints of Mining, dates from the seventh century. Mining communities throughout the world have long honoured St. Barbara for her protection of miners from accidents.

The inaugural St. Barbara’s Festival was held in Kalgoorlie in 1999. Since that time the early December festival and street parade has become an important event in Kalgoorlie’s calendar. Thousands gather for the Parade of mining equipment that highlights the key contribution of mining to the Kalgoorlie community.

The Round – ‘Australia’s Biggest Party’

The Kalgoorlie-Boulder Racing Club hosts one of the most iconic events on the national racing calendar, the Kalgoorlie-Boulder Race Round. This has been an annual event since 1896 and the horses, the fashions, the stakes, the colour and the excitement attract thousands of visitors each year.

Kalgoorlie Cup 2009

Kalgoorlie Cup 2009
Image courtesy Kalgoorlie-Boulder Racing Club

Football

The goldfields has a long sporting history, with Australian Rules Football and cricket being the two traditional sports played from the earliest days on the ‘fields. Both are still strongly supported.

The Goldfields Football Academy, a Clontarf Foundation program was established in 2002 with the aim of offering opportunities to Aboriginal young people through football.

Now boasting rooms at the Kalgoorlie-Boulder Community High School the schooling, together with training in both Australian Rules Football and life skills has proved very successful. The program is supported by local businesses, sporting clubs, state and local governments.

2010 Nickel West Cup
2010 Nickel West Cup
Image courtesy Clontarf Foundation Inc

The Annual Nickel West Cup is the largest Clontarf Foundation football carnival and featured 10 Clontarf Academy teams from Perth, Bunbury, Esperance, Geraldton and Kalgoorlie. The Goldfields Academy Marlus won their second Division 2 Cup in three years, in an exciting game against the South East Stingrays from Esperance.