street scene in Roxby Downs
Roxby Downs (including Olympic Dam)
Controversial modern uranium, gold and silver
It would be reasonable to argue that in recent
times Roxby Downs has become one of the most
controversial townships in Australia. The
anti-nuclear lobby has seen the township as a
fair target for their criticism of the uranium
mining and nuclear power industry and there were
a number of widely publicised demonstrations
near the site in 1983-84. Ironically the names
are wrong. The protesters were objecting to
Olympic Dam not Roxby Downs.
Roxby Downs, originally the name of the local
station, is now a rather pleasant modern town
which houses the mine workers and their
families. It has all the modern amenities, an
attractive wide main street, good quality (if
somewhat identikit) housing, pleasant
streetscapes, an excellent school, a very
modernistic hotel motel and a wide range of
public facilities including a police station, a
TAFE college, a post office and a
state-of-the-art telephone exchange.
Located 92 km from the Stuart Highway, 265 km
from Port Augusta and 571 km from Adelaide, the
Roxby Downs-Olympic Dam area boasts a huge
mineral deposit which was discovered as recently
as 1975. After an initial expenditure of $750
million the township of Roxby Downs was built
and mining began on the vast ore lode which
covers an area of 7 km by 4 km to a depth of 1
km. A workforce of 800 was employed to exploit
the estimated reserves of 450 million tonnes.
The Olympic Dam operations were opened as
recently as November 1988 by the Premier of
South Australia, John Bannon.
The joint venturers, led by Western Mining
and BP Australia, estimate that at full capacity
the mine will produce 45 000 tonnes of copper
cathode, 1900 tonnes of yellow cake (it is this
that caused the protests in 1983-84), 27 000
ounces of gold and 555 000 ounces of silver.
construction huts at Olympic Dam
Olympic Dam, originally nothing more than a
waterhole on the Roxby Downs station, is now one
of the biggest mining operations in Australia.
It is possible to drive to Olympic Dam but all
the visitor sees is a construction site with
most houses being made out of permanent mobile
homes with extensions on the outside. The town
has a supermarket (with limited opening hours)
and a post office. The actual worksite is
somewhere beyond the horizon.
Things to see:
Tours of Olympic Dam
WMC conduct the tours on Mondays, Thursdays and
Saturdays from 9.00 a.m., leaving by bus from
the bus bay in Richardson Place, opposite the
Post Office. The tours run for approximately 2
hours and cost is a gold coin donation to the
Royal Flying Doctor Service. Bookings are
essential - 08 8671 8600.