Rio 50th

Ground­break­ers toast mile­stone

Pilbara News - - Front Page - Ali­cia Per­era

It has been 50 years since Rio Tinto, then Hamer­s­ley Iron, laid the first bricks on the red dirt plains of what would be­come Tom Price and Dampier, and this month the two Pil­bara towns are pay­ing trib­ute to that his­tory.

Though iron ore was dis­cov­ered in Tom Price, Rio’s first Pil­bara iron ore mine, in 1962, and rail net­work and port in­fra­struc­ture in Dampier soon fol­lowed, it took un­til 1966 for the towns to be built in earnest.

That work cul­mi­nated in the first fully-loaded train trav­el­ling from Tom Price to Dampier in July, 1966 and the first ore ship­ment leav­ing Dampier for the Ja­panese Yawata Iron and Steel Com­pany on Au­gust 22, 1966, and in many ways the West Pil­bara has never looked back since.

The crux of the Rio Tinto 50th cel­e­bra­tions has been a Pil­bara tour of its his­tor­i­cal ex­hi­bi­tion Ground­break­ers, which chron­i­cles the com­pany’s legacy in each town over the past five decades.

Tom Price hosted the ex­hi­bi­tion on July 13-30, and af­ter trips to Pan­na­won­ica and Wick­ham, it opened in Dampier on Thurs­day night.

Rio Tinto Pil­bara sup­ply chain man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Clay­ton Walker said Dampier had come a long way since the first in­dus­trial and res­i­den­tial in­fra­struc­ture saw news­pa­pers re­fer to “sub­ur­bia ... com­ing to the out­back” in the 1960s.

“Dampier is where it all started,” he said. “Our first ship­ment went out from here, and from then we’ve grown to be one of the largest min­ing houses in the world. It all started here. “I think it is a claim to fame. “There are not a lot of min­ing com­pa­nies, or towns, that have been around for 50 years.

“A lot go through the boom and bust and Dampier I think, is thriv­ing and I think it’s got an­other 50 years-plus ahead of it.”

Rio Tinto Dampier ports gen­eral man­ager Jess Far­rell said the com­pany was proud to have laid the foun­da­tions for the strong, en­dur­ing com­mu­ni­ties of Dampier and Tom Price to­day.

“Tom Price was around mak­ing sure that we were build­ing the mine and mak­ing sure we had iron ore to go on that first ship,” she said.

“We cre­ated a sense of com­mu­nity that’s still a re­ally vi­brant well-es­tab­lished com­mu­nity and (as with Dampier) good foun­da­tions have built what it is to­day.”

The Dampier Com­mu­nity As­so­ci­a­tion also held a se­ries of back-to-back events over the week­end to cel­e­brate the 50th an­niver­sary mile­stone.

Chief among them was a sold­out gala ball on Hamp­ton Oval on Satur­day that had guests dressed to the nines and ac­knowl­edged the town’s his­tory with dis­plays of his­tor­i­cal pho­tos.

The DCA also held Twi­light Tunes on Fri­day night, fea­tur­ing lo­cal acts and food stalls, and the al­ways-pop­u­lar Beach­side Mar­kets on Sun­day, which this time in­cluded a per­for­mance by Lit­tle Belle and a pop-up Ground­break­ers in­stal­la­tion.

DCA pres­i­dent Sharon Ver­ti­gan said Rio’s im­mense in­flu­ence on the town made it im­por­tant to ac­knowl­edge this oc­ca­sion.

“Dampier as we know it would not be here to­day if it wasn’t for Rio (then Hamer­s­ley Iron) estab­lish­ing port and rail op­er­a­tions in the town to sup­port its nearby min­ing ac­tiv­ity,” she said. “This was the cat­a­lyst for the cre­ation of the town 50 years ago and Rio’s op­er­a­tions have con­tin­ued to grow and sus­tain Dampier in a range of ways since then.

“As ev­i­denced by the re­sponse to cel­e­bra­tions and ac­tiv­i­ties hosted by the DCA and by Rio Tinto in the past few days and in the lead up to the 50th an­niver­sary, it is clear there is a gen­uine ex­cite­ment and sense of pride among com­mu­nity mem­bers around this mile­stone.”

For more in­for­ma­tion, visit ri­ot­in­toground­break­

Erin Shay­lor, Shane Moore and Wendy Van Don­gen.

David Yakas, Angie Ay­ers and Jason Mas­ters.

Pic­tures: Ali­cia Per­era and Louise Alling­ham

Dampier Vol­un­teer Fire and Res­cue Ser­vice Bri­gade sec­re­tary Mandy Quince and Cap­tain Ron Quince.

Rio Tinto Dampier man­age­ment Fin­layson, Robyn Ser­mon, Clay­ton with the com­pany's orig­i­nal

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