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One Steel Tour and Leaving Whyalla.

Road Trip Day 13: 4th June 2007

Whyalla is, and always has been, a mining and steel making town. No visit would be complete without a tour of the steel works that was built and run by BHP until 2000 when it was sold off, by public float, to OneSteel.

Rose and I have a personal interest in the steel works in that our Dad used to be employed there by BHP pre 1978. I never really knew what he did or what part of the plant he worked in though I remember him one time, when I was kid, saying he worked in the coke ovens. That's about all I know about what he did and I'm not entirely sure if that's correct.

I'm not even going to try and describe the tour of the steelworks in great detail. There's a lot to see in the two hour bus ride around the plant. Our guide, Trish, explained a great deal about the production of steel and pointed out as many of the more spectacular processes as she could based on which areas were actually operating.

We did get a very good, close up look at the coke oven in operation. Coke (not the soft drink) is made from coal and is burnt in a blast furnace in order to produce enough heat to separate the iron content from the mined, raw materials (iron ore). The coke oven is a huge oven that bakes the coal at extremely high temperatures in order to turn it into coke.

OneSteel produces 'long form' steel products such as structural beams and railway lines. In fact it is the only company producing railway lines in Australia. Whilst OneSteel is the biggest steel producer in Australia, Trish said that in comparison to China (the biggest producer of steel in the world) they produce a quantity of steel in one day that OneSteel would produce in a year.

The OneSteel tour is quite long and I must admit the bus seats were starting to feel a little hard towards the end but it's not everyday you get to see equipment and machinery on this scale in action. Whyalla exists because of the mines and steel works and is central to the South Australian story. If you're looking into the history of mining around this region then a tour of One Steel's plant should definitly be on your list.


Leaving Whyalla.

After the One Steel Tour Rose and I headed out of Whyalla bound for Perth. When Rose drove over from Perth she followed the shorter route at this end along the Eyre Highway (which by passes Whyalla and takes you directly to Port Augusta. One the way back she wanted to take the coastal route down the Lincoln highway (to Port Lincoln) and up the Flinders highway before getting back to the Eyre highway.

The whole reason for this longer route was because it might be a nicer drive with coastal views.

Tonight we've made it as far as the fishing town of Elliston (part way up the Flinders Highway). Rose did the lions share of the driving so I had plenty of time to evaluate the scenery. If I was doing this again, I wouldn't take this detour just for the views.

Granted a few spots do have nice coastal views but to this point, most of the road has been far enough inland to not get a view of the coast. Not enough of it looks sufficiently different to the usual route to go quite so far out of the way.

If I came this way again it would be because I wanted to spend more time in the various towns along the way. Like the drive from Laura to Port Augusta there are many small towns with a lot of interesting history to be explored. Another time perhaps. Tomorrow we will be heading over the WA border. If we make good time my next post will be from Balladonia.

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