Yesterday while planning our current little side trip I wondered about the name of the Borefield Road but this mornings drive south towards Roxby Downs answered at least part of my question. The road was lined with capped bores (spear point wells down to the artesian water table) with periodic larger structures including filling stations for water tankers.
It was only as we approached Roxby Downs and the Olympic Dam Mine that it occurred to me that the bores were all about providing water to the mine.
Roxby Downs is a purpose built town, opened in 1988 to support the Olympic Dam Mine. It has a population of approximately 4500, and boasts the youngest population of any town in Australia (as was evidenced by all the young families we saw even in our short visit). Seems like a nice town with lots of facilities.
We could not help get a few facts about the mine. Most of its revenue (70%) comes from copper, with 20% from Uranium and the other ten from silver, gold and other metals. It is the 2nd largest Uranium producing mine in the world (Canada has the largest). The Ranger mine in the Northern territory is 3rd largest giving Australia 2 of the top 10 Uranium mines. Kazakhstan has 3 of the top 10.
As interesting as OLympic Dam and Roxby were the aim of the day was to see Woomera.
Woomera is a name that is probably known to every Australian who grew up in the 50s and 60s. It was a rocket testing and launching range for Australian and British rockets and immediately after WWII and during its hey day (1947- 1972) had a population of up to 7000.
Today the town is open to the public and gets a lot of tourists, how come just to see this famous place and to see the two museums (inside and outside) with displays from Woomeras rocketry past.
Woomera and the associated Woomera Protected Area (WPA) of some 47,000 square miles is under the management of the RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) and is used by a number of nations for testing of defence and civil equipment that requires a large and/or isolated location. We talked to an RAAF officer who was visiting the place to oversee some renovation of the outside displays of old rockets and aircraft and he pointed out that there is wide interest in using the WPA for testing as there are few places in the world with this WPA's size and lack of people, and absence of electronic, light and air polution. Photo 7 above highlights this fact with its display of the test corridor that runs from Woomera out to the Indian Ocean
We returned to Roxby Downs to camp. A nice caravan park with good facilities. Many of the guests are clearly mine workers residing permenantly (or semi permanently) in the park.