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Nuclear 'Tools' For Iron Ore

also see Iron Ore Pits WA

First mooted in Australia to develop the Pilbara iron ore fields in the early 1960's by Professor J.P. Baxter, then Chair of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and supported enthusiastically by Iron Ore Mining Entrepreneur Lang Hancock (since 1962), who also backed plans to construct a 150-megawatt nuclear power station off Western Australia's north west coast.

Hancock enlisted expert advice from Dr Edward Teller about the use of nuclear 'tools', where nuclear blasts would be used to blow up and release minerals. This method of 'mining' would apparently have been cheaper than mining viaconventional methods. Teller, who visited the Pilabara in 1968, was interested in a one-shot blast at Wittenoom, but his real interest was a series of nuclear blasts to create a huge crater just inland from the sea, which would then allow ocean water to flood in, creating a harbour big enough to take iron ore super tankers. Teller's chosen site was for this 'experiment' was at Cape Keraudren on the Pilbara Coast.

The Gorton Government cautiously supported the plans to explode five 200-kiloton nuclear charges, exploded at a depth of 243 metres, 335 metres apart, but soon lost interest due to increasing environmental pressure.

Cape Keraudren on the Pilbara Coast.

Yellow dot shows approximate location of Cape Keraudren

After these plans fell through Hancock then proposed an agenda of other sites where nuclear 'tools' could be used for;

"1. A contained underground explosion in an ore body at Wittenoom or Marandoo, with no atmospheric discharge

2. A blast to create a rock dam to supply water for existing and potential mines at Tom Price, Paraburdoo, Wittenoom and Marandoo...

3. Nuclear blasts to dam the Fortescue River at Gregory's Gap, also the Sherlock and Shaw Rivers, to supply water to the mining towns on the coast

4. Augment the present meagre water supply in the Pilbara by blasting undulating terrain and channels to enable the otherwise unusable Ord River water to be brought south. This supply could be further augmented, when required, by blasting dams on the Fitzroy and Margaret Rivers.

5. Cheapen the cost of the proposed (Hanwright) downhill railway, leading from 90 per cent of the known ore in the Hamersley Ranges to the port site of Ronsard, by blasting the Chichester Ranges in appropriate places.

6. Blast a channel near Depuch Island so that in the foreseeable future iron ore carriers of one million tons can be used, thus keeping Australia up with the rest of the world.

7. Blast some thousands of millions of tons of iron ore and leave them dormant as a reserve for years to come. This is particularly applicable where deposits have an expensive overburden removal problem, and it will beat inflation.

8. Install a nuclear a nuclear power plant on Depuch as part of any 'Pilbara concept'. Depuch is a natural, impregnable, basalt platform in the sea, which should satisfy éco-nuts'worried about leakage of waste into the water table." p116-117 Rogue Bull. The Story of Lang Hancock King of The Pilbara. By Robert Duffield 1979.

According to Duffield in regard to Lang's daughter Gina p223 "Like him, she dreams tunnel-visioned visions - nuclear mining, a transcontinental railway, secession - dreams which start with mining and come back to mining"

Wittenoom. Dr Teller proposed a nuclear explosion 213m underground

Yellow dot shows approximate location of Wittenoom. Lang Hancock was also involved in the asbestos industry.