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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Wyalla, South Australia

The Wyalla at the Tourist Information Centre

In 1899, BHP leased an iron ore mine at Iron Knob, 53 kms from Wyalla. In 1935 they bought Australian Iron and Steel and its Port Kembla steelworks and later a blast furnace and shiping industry at Wyalla. The Whyalla shipyard became the largest in Australia, eventually employing 1500 men.

There was a tremendous amount of work to be done and not enough men to do it so the Federal Government and BHP placed ads in overseas newspapers for fitters, turners and machinists. When they arrived, it created a housing problem and they had to live in tents until the South Australian Housing Trust could build new houses and home units for them.

Whyalla, the mighty steel city, started as a small company town, a factory in the desert, and became a boom city built on the muscle of many hard working Australians and European migrants.

After nearly 100 years, mining at Iron Knob ended in June 1998, when the last ore was taken from the Iron Monarch open cut pit.