21 October 2002
This postcard comes to you from the salt mines... or more correctly, from Dampier Salt's solar salt fields. Yesterday's open day was a celebration of the 30th anniversary of their first shipment of salt from the field in 1972.
The first thing you notice about the operation is its size, 12,500 hectares, or more simply, 125,000 quarter acre blocks! This is amply demonstrated by the white smudge toward the left of the horizon in the attached image (Pond Zero - 4.jpg). That white smudge is a stockpile of three quarters of a million tonnes of salt, at a guess between 50 and 100 metres high, viewed from the western edge of the pond system at the sea water intake. The stockpile is roughly at the midpoint of the southern boundary which runs approximately 25km west to east.
The production process passes sea water through a series of evaporation ponds before ultimately feeding the growth of salt crystals. From sea water intake, through harvest, cleaning and export, the entire process takes approximately three years. Solar salt is used in industrial processes such as the manufacture of caustic soda which demand an extremely pure product.
You'll get an idea of the intensity of glare on the crystallisation pond if you notice the vertical shadow effect seemingly cast by the people in those shots. Sunglasses were a must.
I was very impressed by the whole afternoon, which was especially good value. I was collected in an air-conditioned coach, taken out to Dampier, driven around the huge site with a very knowledgeable guide. Drinks were provided en-route and at the end I was fed and even got a show bag with a Dampier Salt baseball cap and a chuppa chup. Not to mention the colouring in competition entry form and coloured pencils! And all this for the princely sum of nothing! Cheap, huh?
If you guyz had any doubts about how bored I am up here, the fact that I found this free tour at all should be some indication. The was a small notice on a pinup board in the shopping centre. I'm passing my time hanging around shopping centres reading noticeboards!