20 February 2018
Looking at a massive hole in the ground and seeing development, prosperity and global growth requires an appreciation of the bigger picture.
And that's just how Pat Bourke, General Manager Whaleback Eastern Ridge, sees the Mount Whaleback mine in Mount Newman, the biggest single open-pit iron ore mine in the world.
“Since we began mining at Mount Newman in 1967, BHP has removed 3 billion tonnes of material, one billion of which has been iron ore,” he said.
“When you then think about where that ore has gone and our customers, like the Japanese steel mills and, in last decade, the Chinese steel mills, you start to appreciate how much has been created using Whaleback ore.
“The infrastructure of both those countries from an internal consumption point of view alone and has helped transform the lives of hundreds of millions of people for the better.
“Then, when you look at what both China and Japan have done globally, you see how pivotal this ‘hole in the ground’ has ultimately been to global growth", he said.
But despite the global impact of the mine, it is the local impact that Pat feels most strongly.
An avid cyclist, Pat is often seen riding the black ribbon of tar that is Great Northern Highway which runs between the town of Newman and Mount Whaleback.
During these rides among the vast red outback he often marvels at the commitment of BHP to the town of Newman; building the power and water systems and all the other infrastructure needed to support a town of five thousand people.
“I often attend long service awards and many people have 30 and 35 years tenure with the company, virtually all of which has been at Mount Newman.
“The common story is that they turned up for two years and they’re still here,” he said.
Our family has been working for BHP for two generations - my father was the chief chemist at the Port Kembla steelworks. He chalked up 40 years with BHP
He remembers how his wife broke down in tears when he told her they were going to Mount Newman for an 18 month stint.
“But when I told her the time was almost up she told me I could fly to BHP’s corporate office in Perth during the week and fly home to Newman at weekends because she wanted to stay.”
According to Pat, the success of the mine and BHP is thanks to the smart people the company attracts who develop and implement innovative and highly effective production techniques.
“Our family has been working for BHP for two generations - my father was the chief chemist at the Port Kembla steelworks. He chalked up 40 years with BHP.
“The core values of the business today of sustainability, integrity, respect, performance, simplicity and accountability are the same as when my dad first started and have never lost their relevance.
“That is why BHP has been able to achieve great projects like Mount Whaleback and will continue to do so into the future.”