A mine of innovation

The Australian continent is rich in natural resources. Coal was first discovered in 1794 near Newcastle, New South Wales. Since then, Australia has become one of the world's biggest miners and exporters of coal.

Silver lead was discovered at Glen Osmond in 1839, and today Australia produces about 1,000 tonnes of silver a year, 8 percent of the world's production. Copper was discovered at Kapunda in 1843. Gold was struck in 1851 in both New South Wales and Victoria. The world's largest gold nugget weighing 70kg (154lbs) was found at Moliagul, Victoria in 1869.

Australian gold miners were quick to make use of explosives to reduce their burden of work. Until the 1860s explosives required the use of gunpowder. In 1842, the powerful explosive properties of nitroglycerine were discovered by Italian Ascanio Sobrero. The highly volatile and dangerous chemical was put into useable form by Alfred Nobel, whose three inventions the igniter (1863), dynamite (1867) and gelignite (1876) were fundamental in the development and subsequent prosperity of Australia's mining industries.

Nothing was allowed to stand in the way of resource procurement and processing, and no problem, however large, was seen to be insurmountable. The problems of supplying water and fuel to establish mining centres in remote and arid locations were significant. Water was so scarce and expensive that in 1903, a 700 kilometre pipe line was built from Perth, Western Australia to the mine fields of Kalgoorlie. A project acknowledged as one of the most outstanding engineering achievements in the world at the time.

In 1935, mining engineer George Kenneth William from the University of Melbourne, developed the continuous lead refining process at Port Pirie, where today, the world's largest lead smelter has an output of 230,000 tonnes of refined lead a year. The following year, Australia produced the best bullet proof steel in the world, using manganese, silicon, chromium and zirconium as alloying elements could be welded and shaped in the as rolled condition, eliminating the use of nickel and molybdenum.

More recently, the Argyle diamond mine in the Kimberley region of Western Australia became the world's largest and richest producer of diamonds. The diamond recovery process makes use of unique x ray fluorescence technology.

Hamersley Iron and Mount Newman, two of the largest iron ore mining operations in the world, operate 2 kilometre long trains with up to 200 wagons and a gross payload of 25,000 tonnes the longest and heaviest trains in the world.

Today, Australian producers are technologically outstanding in the fields of geology, mining and metallurgy, particularly in the innovative manner in which they have overcome problems in cost effective resource procurement. Many mining and metallurgical practices developed in Australia have become accepted standard procedures in the industry.

The flotation process for separating minerals and the in stream analysis technology using radioisotope probes, are two notable examples. Using high speed cameras to photograph blasting operations, engineers developed more efficient use of explosives, drill hole spacings and better rock fragmentation. Sophisticated new techniques were developed for the analysis of mineral drill hole samples, replacing traditional wet chemical techniques. These, and other specialised processes such as lead and zinc and copper smelting and refining, and sophisticated equipment like the atomic absorption spectrophotometer, are now used by companies all over the world.

The following is a selection of the very best currently commercially available products and technologies that Australia has to offer for natural resource procurement and utilisation.

World first products and technologies in natural resource procurement and utilisation

Public Notice: Due to an unresolved dispute with the Australian Trade Commission (Austrade), who copied and adopted as their own certain material from Tomorrow's World, the Australian Initiative, and published the material in their Australia Open for Business website, without remorse or recompense, access by Australian Government servers to this online edition has been blocked indefinitely.

Print Edition: ISBN 0646252119 - Paperback - 224 pages - 350 illustrations - $55.00 incl. GST.

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