Western Australia’s newest gold experience the ‘Mine to Mint Day Tour’ takes you inside Australia’s largest gold mine, Newmont Boddington Gold, to Australia’s oldest Mint still in operation, The Perth Mint.
Courtesy of tour company Go West, the Gold Industry Group were treated to a day of exploration through the entire gold production process.
The day tour began and finished at The Perth Mint, one of Western Australia’s most iconic attractions. After greeting our driver and tour guide, David, we boarded the coach and set out for the township of Boddington located approximately 130km south-southeast of Perth in the Peel region of Western Australia.
Whilst we journeyed through ever-changing landscapes of metropolitan suburbs, forestry, farmland and quaint country towns, David kept us entertained with a running commentary of interesting facts and historic tales that provided the background to how Perth and Western Australia as we know it today was ultimately shaped.
Upon arrival in Boddington, we stopped at a cafe overlooking the Hotham River for a morning tea break and a chance to speak with the locals. After donning our own personal protective equipment (or PPE), a hard hat, safety glasses and high visibility vest, we drove to our ultimate destination: Newmont’s Boddington Gold Mine, the country’s largest producing gold mine and just 16 km northwest of the township.
Newmont Boddington Gold Mine
During the quick drive we watched a short video on the gold mine, which gave us a quick history lesson about an initial gold discovery in 1980 through to the mine’s structure and processes today. David also explained the process of designing a public tour through a working gold mine, established four years prior by Go West and Newmont Boddington Gold. The decision made earlier this year to include The Perth Mint completes the story of gold from discovery to refinery - creating a tour unlike anything offered in Australia before!
Passing through the gates of Newmont’s Boddington Gold Mine, a Security Officer boarded the bus to count our number and check we were equipped with, and understood, the PPE before we could be permitted entry.
Entering the mine site was via a long and winding driveway, passing through the surrounding - and largely untouched - forest. Safety signage adorned each bend whilst an electronic display indicated the mine’s production rate. The Boddington gold mine runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week and utilises innovative state-of-the-art technology - some of which was developed in Australia.
David took the time to explain each section of the mine, from the 700-strong mine camp capable of holding up to 2,300 workers, hangars for each of the gargantuan 220 tonne haul trucks, maintenance and workshop spaces, the colossal ore deposit pile, and the admin offices (affectionately dubbed ‘meerkat manor’).
Arriving at one of the mine’s open-cut pits, we were able to disembark from the bus and, looking very much the part, see the pit from the designated look-out point. From here we could see right to the bottom of the multi-tiered landscape where green and brown veins showed copper deposits. Newmont mine both gold and copper at Boddington, at around an 80/20 split between the two metals.
A blast was scheduled for later that same day, but in the meantime we watched as seven haul trucks rumbled up and down the pit, carrying their precious cargo towards a conveyor line that would take the ore back towards the mine’s processing area where it would be carried skywards before releasing it on to the stockpile.
After taking a number of selfies we left the look out and drove from the pit towards the processing plant, following the conveyor line carrying the football-sized chunks of ore. Watching them ascend to be tipped onto the stockpile, David informed us the pile holds around 500,000 tonnes of ore at its peak.
Driving through the processing facilities, we looked up at gigantic rollers, crushers and grinders that continuously turn to transform rough ore into a fine powder.
Saying goodbye to the mine site, we jumped back into the coach and headed back into the town site of Boddington, but not before another Newmont Security Officer jumped aboard to ensure we were all accounted for.
Back at the Rusty Camp Oven Cafe and Gallery, we enjoyed a delicious buffet lunch and shared our stunning mine site ‘selfies’ with each other. David guided some members of our group in a gold panning session (using a shallow dish to scoop a small part of the earth then gently swilling it with water to slowly unveil tiny specks of shining gold), whilst others explored the nearby park and riverside, adorned with sculptural artwork made out of recycled materials.
Boarding our coach for the last time, we fare-welled the Peel region and headed back towards Perth city.
The Perth Mint
Upon arriving at The Perth Mint, we joined their 3:30pm Heritage Tour – a spectacular experience that begins in the Mint’s forecourt where our tour guide Nathan gave an entertaining recount of the Mint’s history, including some of Western Australia’s most famous gold nugget discoveries.
We followed him inside, to a room where a short clip was played on a semi-circular screen. It described the history of mankind’s gold obsession, with uses spanning history, from religious or ritualistic, decoration, scientific and medicinal. It spoke of the man’s lust for this shining material and how it has shaped the world, generating economic trade, and even sparking conflict.
Here, Nathan also revealed to us the Mint’s star attraction - a 1 tonne solid gold coin, crafted in 2012, and the largest in the world. Leading us further down into the Pour House, we took our places in a grandstand before Nathan switched off most of the overhead lights and began a live demonstration.
We watched in awe and silence as he donned a mask, Kevlar-based protective gloves, shin guards and apron, before opening a furnace operating at 1,200 degrees Celsius. Using a long handled pair of tongs, he lifted out a white-hot crucible of molten gold, then carefully poured it into a mould, before letting it set (around 90 seconds), then turning it out into a water bath.
Switching the lights back on and removing his mask, Nathan proudly lifted a solid gold 200oz six-pointed star to our round of applause. Typically, the daily gold pour demonstrations at The Perth Mint involve watching the creation of a gold bar, however in light of the festive season upon us, Nathan explained they had created the new festive mould.
Upon conclusion of our tour, we left the Pour House to wander other stunning displays, which include coin press machines, a weight scale to indicate how much your body would be worth in gold, and a customised medallion station, along with cabinet after cabinet of gorgeous gold and silver jewellery some set with Western Australia’s most precious stones, commemorative coins, figurines and of course gold nuggets.
Book your Mine to Mint experience here. More information and gold experiences can be discovered within the free Heart of Gold Australia app (available to download from iTunes or Google Play), or continue your golden adventure on Perth’s #heartofgold Discovery Trail.