Day 188 – Monday, 28 November 2022

We woke up just before the alarm went off this morning. I quickly showered and put all the towels in for their weekly wash while Russ had his shower.

When he rang mum to talk with her she said she was not feeling real good so he told her to concentrate on getting better and that he would ring her the next day and rang off. It was a short conversation.

On our last day in Ravensthorpe, we headed out to see some of the Farm Gate Art Trail. We headed down the Ravensthorpe-Hopetoun Road and stopped at each place with the artworks. We were then so close to Hopetoun that Russ decided it was too good an opportunity not to wash Hornet while we were there. It is incredible just how dusty he gets when we travel on gravel roads.

Some of the Farm Gate artworks were very interesting and extremely creative. While photographing the Franke Family gates I was enthusiastically greeted by their pet Labrador who finally had a captive audience. He jumped up so much that I could only get one of the gates in the photo and gave the second gate up as a bad idea. He then wagged his way to the car to make Russ’ acquaintance.

Much of the art has been created using many of the different discarded implement used on farms, and in way that astound when you look at them. Queen Beatrice, for instance, is a 1938 Fargo truck loaded up with wildflowers and so named because she was found in amongst trees full of bees.

The Watering Can is another that is striking in appearance and very large. It started life as a field bin and has been prettied up with lots of painted flowers and sits on the corner of the farm clearly visible to passing traffic.

While I was taking my photos I laughed to see a caravan go past, slow down, do a u-turn and come back, perform another u-turn and then stop to get out and take a photo. The guy I spoke with had never heard of the Farm Gate Art Trail, so I provided him with as much information as I had to hand, and he was very intrigued at the idea there were more of them along his travel route.

We passed three stumpy-tail lizards, one blue tongue lizard and one quail standing in the middle of the road. We also have finally found a bitumen road that is in terrible condition with severely broken edges and large, deep potholes. This is the South Coast Highway to the east of Ravensthorpe and is used by many trucks from the nearby mine. The road is obviously not made to handle the weight and constant source of traffic.

We also passed by Nindilbillup Road which is where we came across the Shoemaker Levy Mine outside of Ravensthorpe (the mine I wrote about above).

Shoemaker Levy is the name of the Ravensthorpe facility which is a laterite nickel operation producing around 30,000 tonnes per annum of a mixed nickel-cobalt hydroxide intermediate product used in the production of nickel sulphate.

Nickel sulphate is a key material in lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles.

Around 650 people work at the Ravensthorpe operations, with the new orebody expected to extend the mine’s life by at least 20 years.

Since being restarted by First Quantum Minerals (FQM) in 2011, the operations have had nickel sales of 202,782 tonnes and cobalt sales of 7,527 tonnes.

Three of the operation’s 18-megawatt steam turbines generate power using waste heat from the mine’s production process.

The mine is generally known as the Ravensthorpe Nickel Mine, and describes both the mine and associated plant. Halley’s and Hale-Bopp are two nickel deposits on Bandalup Hill next to the processing plant. Halley’s is presently being mined.

Shoemaker-Levy is a nearby deposit on the north side of the South Coast Highway. Some sources call Halley’s, the Bandalup Hill Mine after its geographic location. In 2002 BHP initiated a feasibility study on opening a nickel/cobalt mine here, 27 kilometres east of Ravensthorpe. Construction commenced in 2004 and production started in 2008. Nickel would be extracted by the Pressure Acid Leaching (PAL) process. This method was introduced into Western Australia in the early 1970’s and resulted in several nickel mines closing. The technology did not suite Western Australian conditions, resulting in higher costs than expected. In 2004, BHP had estimated a construction cost of $1.3 million. By November 2006 it had spent $2.2 billion. In January 2009, less than a year after opening, BHP announced the sudden closure of the mine. 1800 workers lost their job, and the closure had a severe impact on the small community of Ravensthorpe resulting in widespread and severe criticism in the media. Several senior executives involved with the project were removed. In December 2009, Canadian miner, First Quantum Minerals (FQM) purchased the mine/plant for $340 million US, and production started again early 2012.

Once we arrived back at the van we had some afternoon tea then took down the awning, folded the chairs and packed them all into the canopy ready for tomorrow.

I caught up with Ken (Caravan Park Manager) and asked whether bookings could be made for the Wildflower Festival time but he said it remained the same as now – first in, best dressed.