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
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.
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.