A close-up look at the Australian mining industry in Pilbara

By Du Juan | chinadaily.com.cn | 2013-07-16 08:37

China Daily reporter Du Juan gets a close-up look at the Australian mining industry in Pilbarar.

China's growth benefits Australian miners

Iron ore miners face lackluster demand

A day at the mines

It is rewarding when you get up at four in the morning, yawning and stretching, to be greeted by a spectacular sunrise.

But the beauty of the breaking, fiery dawn was not uppermost in the minds of the miners, my colleagues for the day.

After a 5 am breakfast, I attended the daily pre-work meeting for miners at the Fortescue Metals Group Ltd, the fourth-largest mining company in the world.

An hour later I was mining iron ore, the raw ingredient for development.

I was working with Alan, an experienced miner, and he taught me how to operate the huge excavator that weighs 400 tons.

Within 60 minutes we put 1,800 tons of iron ore from the ground into trucks that can carry about 200 tons each.

The miners work from 6 am to 6 pm, seven days on, seven days off, with two breaks for refreshments and lunch. They get well paid but the nature of their work means they lead an often isolated existence. It is not for everyone.

They have to stay at the dormitory for the week and the brilliant night sky — a real treat for someone from Beijing — like the fiery sunrise may be unappreciated.

Though loneliness is not an issue for Alan.

"I don't feel lonely, but bored sometimes," he said. "When I feel bored, I listen to music."

Apart from the actual mining, most procedures are carried out automatically by machines.

Iron ore sites in western Australia are huge. But then so is demand, especially from China.

When I saw ships waiting silently at the ports for loading, I felt the full enormity of China's economic growth and rapid urbanization.

China's development has brought global opportunities and is affecting the lives and careers of millions of people.

At night, I dined with the miners in their cafeteria. The food was good and nutritious.

Following supper, I enjoyed the local nightlife —sipping a cold beer out in the open, beneath a starry quilt.

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