Koolanooka Mine

Morawa has a significant mining history being the original site in which the first iron ore was mined and exported from Australia. This occurred back in 1966 and now forty years later we are seeing another exciting development as Sinosteel SMC Blue Hills Mungada East Expansion Project has been given the green light.

As it has done in the past, the resources sector is becoming increasingly productive for the Shire of Morawa. In 2006 four major commercial agreements worth in excess of $6 million were signed with Midwest Corporation Limited. This deal will secure both immediate and ongoing financial and employment opportunities for residents of the Shire. The Sinosteel Midwest Corporation Limited have also provided the Shire of Morawa with support through the provision of an annual community benefit fund as well as significant road upgrades and a memorandum of understanding to employ and buy local.

Morawa’s Mining History

In 1961 the first deposits of iron ore were discovered in the Shire of Morawa by geologists J Lalor and D Barr. Exploratory drilling commenced in November that year.

During 1965-66, the design and construction of the mine facilities at Koolanooka, railway spur line, power house, housing at Morawa and the ship loading facilities at Geraldton were completed. The first cargo iron ore from Australia left Geraldton for Japan on March 16, 1966. The Japanese ship “Margaret Maru” was especially built in Kobe, Japan for ore carrying. There also was a ship called "Geraldton Maru" which sailed at the same time.

The Koolanooka Hills deposit was mined as an Open Pit Operation. The Pit Wall had a 45 degree slope. Face height 9m (30ft) with 4.5 (15ft) safety beam. The operations were conducted on a two 8 hour shift six day a week basis for all operations, using a total labour force of 114 men.

Approximately 4,500 tons of explosive were used during mine operations. The explosive used was Ammonium Nitrate Fuel Oil (ANFO), prilled fertilizer grade material mixed with Fuel Oil. Cordtex shot firing with millisecond delays.

Thirteen miles of Railway Line were constructed by WMC from Tilley’s siding to the Mine Site at a cost of $1,400,000. Accidents were few and only of minor nature, and work was never delayed by strike.

Click here to download 'Kooloonooka 1961 to Today - a Historic Mine Brought to Life'. An informative brochure produced by Sinosteel Midwest Corporation and presented to the Shire of Morawa.

Why Koolanooka?

The Koolanooka Hills are formed of Archaean banded ironstones. This iron formation was flanked to the East by a late Proterozoic dolerite dyke and to the West by barren cherts and sediments. The deposit which was shipped to Japan was located along the sediment, the banded ironstone formation contact being at the Northern end of the range.

The high grade ore zone was formed as a result of oxidation, hydration silica leaching of fresh, primary, magnetite-ankerite and magnetite-grunerite iron formations. The resultant ore minerals comprise martite, goethite and ocerous limonite with the fresh iron formation variants upgrading from approximately 45% and 30% soluble iron respectively to plus 60% in the oxidised zone.

Koolanooka for Tourists

The minesite covers an area of 1,000 acres and is the private property of Sinosteel Midwest Corporation. You are invited to visit and enjoy the flora, fauna and panoramic views. There is a well designated and signed picnic area, as well as a newly constructed lookout into the mine. Other rest facilities are being developed.

In season you will see an abundance of flora including species of everlastings, eremophilas, melaleucas, grevilleas, acacias, orchids and numerous other varieties. The fauna includes euro and grey kangaroos, lizards, ducks, wrens, bellbirds, thornbills, honeyeaters, hawks and finches.

Lake Nullewa to the north is not always full, but the water life and bird life is interesting for naturalists when rainfall is plentiful.