This picture is the road into Leonora, then nearest inhabited place to where the mine site was. The road was constructed
by the mining company in order to get their equipment to the
Once you get over the fact that you are in the middle of a desert, that you can’t leave even if you wanted to and that you work ten hours a day Monday to Saturday and five hours on Sunday, life in a mining construction camp is pretty good.
For a start you don’t have to make your bed or cook your dinner (or breakfast or lunch). Everyday your room is cleaned and your bed is made. As for the food, an important bit wisdom known by all mining companies is that production is directly related to morale, and morale is directly related to the food that is served. As a consequence, this particular camp had a head chef, two sous chefs, three breakfast chefs, a pastry chef, a dessert chef and two bakers. I’m not kidding! I ate some of the best food in my life at that camp.
The alcohol was cheap too (some camps were dry, but fortunately this wasn’t one of them). Mind you this did have its drawbacks. One morning as I went to get my ice from one of the ice machines in the wet mess, I saw a guy I was drinking with the night before still sitting in the same spot I had left him. Being one who always cuts things close in order to stay in bed as long as possible (I missed breakfast more than a few times), I didn’t have time to deal with him. Plus I didn’t know him all that well, and anyway it was his responsibility to make sure he got to work, not mine. After our shift that day while we were having a beer at the mess, we learned that he had died during the night, some months later we we told he had died of alcohol poisoning. Just as well I didn’t try to wake him, I would have been there for hours.
But despite the copious amounts of booze available there were very few fights. The reason was twofold, first and most important; it was like Survivor – immediate exile for fighting. No kidding, you get hurt you wait for the next flight out, you get into a fight and they send a plane to get you. Second, people mostly got on pretty well and all had a common interest…living in the middle of nowhere and making lots of money. Plus everyone was just so tired after a shift that they were too pooped to fight, plus there was very little free time, by the time you had a few beers, had a shower, had dinner and a few more beers it was time for bed.
There was the occasional drama, like the American guy who went crazy and started yelling that he would kill everyone. It took about about three minutes to subdue him, and ten to make the subduers stop beating the crap out of him (they must have been ex LA cops).
The funniest thing was that the pilot refused to have him in the cabin because he was crazy, so they trussed him up and put him in the luggage compartment (picture the trunk of a car).
These are what the dongas looked like. The little boxes outside at the head of the are air conditioners.
Then there was the time that one guy took a dislike to another guy who he though was in the next room. The walls were just two sheets of three ply with no insulation and they were baiting each other through them. Suddenly he just smashed through the wall to get to the other guy. Now here’s where it gets funny, turns out that the other guy was actually two rooms away and not right next door. So the first guy steps over the stunned guy lying in bed reading a book, and smashes through the next wall too. Then the fight really got going. I was in the same block but at the end so I was never in harms way, but I did hear everything.
As they say "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy", so every six weeks you got four days R&R. You could either go to Kalgoorlie or Perth depending on what you were after. Normally went to Perth, but I did go to here one time just to see what it was all about.
The picture on the left is in Hay St. Kalgoorlie and it’s worth clicking the link. This is something that happens nowhere else in Australia. It was an experience like no other too. I don’t mean it was good, I mean it was the ultimate in kitsch.
That’s the good news, the bad news is that it is very dangerous work…….
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