Engineers use laser technology to check the condition of the mine beneath the surface, and also long-reach and remote drills.
Solved the problem
Create a huge open pit gold mine
Used engineering skill
Thousands of tourists visit the site each year. Over 1,000 people are employed at the pit, and local companies also supply goods and services to the mine.
Create the biggest open pit gold mine in Australia
The Kalgoorlie Super Pit – also known as the Fimiston open pit - is a gold mine in Kalgoorlie, western Australia.
Kalgoorlie is a rectangular open pit mine. It’s approximately 3.5km long, 1.5km wide and 600m deep. The structure is big enough to be seen from space.
The Super Pit was the biggest open gold mine in Australia until 2016, when it was surpassed by the Boddington gold mine, also in western Australia.
The first gold strike in Kalgoorlie was in 1893. It was followed by the development of many small mines – some of which struggled to make money. All the mines on the site were eventually bought out by Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines (KCGM) in 1989 – creating the Super Pit.
The Super Pit produces around 800,000 ounces of gold a year – around 8% of Australia’s total gold output.
The area - known as the Golden Mile - has produced approximately 58m ounces of gold since the first strike by prospector Paddy Hannan in 1893.
The Golden Mile was the fifth largest gold producing region in the world in 2014. Australia is currently the second biggest gold producer in the world – China is the first.
Open mining on the site is set to end in 2019. Pit bosses plan to process stock piles of lower grade ore at Kalgoorlie until 2029.
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Kalgoorlie Super Pit
Mark Scott, from Efficiency North Holdings Ltd, talks to us from the National Coal Mining Museum in Yorkshire, close to where he grew up in a mining village. The project he is discussing however is not a coal mine but a gold mine on the other side of the world in Australia called the Kalgoorlie Super Pit.
Did you know …
Although the Super Pit operates 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, explosives can only be used between 7am and 6pm.
Production requirements mean there’s usually an explosive blast between 1pm and 5pm.
Mine owners KCGM describe ‘the afternoon blast’ as ‘a feature of life in Kalgoorlie, a reminder that gold is still coming out of the ground’.
Difference the project has made
The Super Pit is credited with making a major contribution to the local economy. It employs over 1,100 people and around 30% of the mine’s suppliers are companies in the Kalgoorlie area.
The structure is also a leading tourist attraction, with thousands of visitors every year – bringing revenue to the area.
How the work is done
Mining engineers working at the Kalgoorlie Super Pit face unique challenges. The mine is on top of a network of more than 3,500km of historical workings, stretching 1,200m below the surface.
The historical workings are known as voids – no other open pit in the world has so many. All of them need to be navigated safely for the mine to produce gold.
Engineers use historical plans and drilling data as well as laser technology to check for voids beneath the surface.
Mining around the voids has led to the development of ‘long-reach’ and remotely-operated drills so work can be carried out without excessive risk.
Engineers using long-reach drills can work from firm ground while the unit’s extended drilling arm probes the void. Remote drills allow engineers to work even further away from the target site.
Once engineers have worked out the exact positions of old workings, they’re mapped onto current mining plans.
People who made it happen
- The Super Pit is owned and mined by Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines (KCGM)
- KCGM is jointly owned by the Barrick Gold Corporation and Newmont Mining Corporation