My (Life) Journey

4 Months at Wiluna Gold Mine

by | May 13, 2018 | 11 comments

After being made redundant from my job as an enviro on Barrow Island I was really really lucky to land a short-term contact as Environmental Coordinator at Wiluna Gold Mine. The original enviro was leaving and they needed to hire someone in a hurry. I had recently put on Linkedin that I was looking for a job and I was recommended to the HSE Superintendent to give me a go (never underestimate Linkedin, it is so good! I have got my last 2 jobs from updating my profile saying I was looking for work).

The view of the Goldfields, Western Australia. I love the red dirt and drainage lines that snake through the landscape.

Wiluna Gold is an open pit and underground gold mine run by Blackham Resources about 10km out of the tiny town of Wiluna in the Goldfields, where the Gunbarrel Highway and Canning Stock Route meet. It is an hour and 15-minute plane ride from Perth and I was on an 8 days on 6 days off roster.  I knew straight away from Day 1 that I would like it here. It is an old camp and site (they have been mining gold here for almost 100 years!!), but it has so much character. I much prefer opening the door of my donga to the outside world (on Barrow we opened our door to a florescent hallway which reminded me of a sterile hospital). It is a smallish site with just over 200 people in the camp and that’s what makes it so good. Almost everyone I met was genuinely friendly and helpful right from the start. A massive relief because it is always nerve wracking starting a new job.

Haha! Yep it’s a bobtail wearing a hat. Brian Bush, our Snake Handler Trainer, brought him up

I will admit, I was totally overwhelmed with the job itself at first, it had been years since I have worked in mining (I was in the construction industry for about 3 years prior) and would be the only Enviro on site with no back to back. Because of the timing of when I started I had to start 2 pretty massive annual reports from scratch. I wanted to cry at first but after getting stuck into them and finally finishing them I was so happy and proud of myself, I am not exaggerating when I say one of the reports was over 200 pages with about 80 graphs I had to make up!! This meant I spent a lot of time in the office, but I did get out and about quite a bit because of all the monitoring requirements we have. It was so cool to cruise around in the ute taking samples and measurements in the borefields and around the old tailings dams. There are abandoned homesteads scattered around and HEAPS of old cars and remnants from historic gold mining days.

I can’t take credit for this photo. One of the MACA boys took it during one of the many summer storms

It didn’t take me long to settle into the swing of things and I really was learning so much every day. It has definitely been the most rewarding yet challenging job I have had in my 8-year enviro career. I have seen some of the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises here and watching the summer storms roll in has been amazing. I think sometimes we forget how beautiful the Australian outback can be, just spending a moment to look around and taking in the beauty can make your day. The stars out here have also been spectacular, you can’t really get much further away from the city. Sometimes, on moonless nights, I would lie on my back on the red dirt out the front of my donga and stare at the stars, they are so incredible out here.

My donga was the one on the end. We called it the ‘Lake Views’ section because really far in the distance you can see Lake Violet. I even had a cable drum for a table 🙂

I have worked with so many awesome people, especially my boss Fin, who is always in a good mood and I am always hearing him laughing from down the hallway, what a difference it makes when you work with happy, positive, supportive people. Such a difference from my last job which really affected me mentally. I am so thankful to have had this experience and I will really miss the people here. I will also miss the beauty of the goldfields, the games of pool, the laughs, fish and chip Fridays, free food, the excitement of fly out day (like a natural drug!) and my tomato juice on the plane (why is it I love a tomato juice on planes but never really in real life?? haha). I won’t miss the 445am wake ups, 12-hour days, writing reports and Ubers to and from the airport (why do the drivers always insist on chatting when it is 530am??).

Had to take a selfie with the ute after some borefields water monitoring. It could get REALLY boggy out there after rain

I did get asked if I wanted to stay on as the permanent enviro but I had booked and planned a 5-week trip to America about a year ago and there is just no way I could have left for that long. It is bittersweet to leave but I am actually really excited about the future and doing something different from FIFO. I have a new chapter of my life starting with a baby due in November (ahhhh still can’t believe it!), it is not something that was planned but Jeff and I are really happy and excited, and I can’t wait to be a mum. I was so happy after I had my 12-week scan and everything looked normal because I could FINALLY tell people at work I was pregnant. That is why I have been a bad friend bailing on beers at the wetmess, with the excuse I was ‘trying to be healthy and quit alcohol for a month or so’ (sorry for lying guys!). It is also the most annoying thing when you feel like you have an all-day hangover and you can’t even drink! I swear they should call it ‘all day sickness’ not morning sickness! Luckily I don’t feel sick and tired all the time now.

This is one of our old pits, over time it has filled with water. Strangely beautiful

Kellie, who is my replacement is an absolute legend and I know she will do an awesome job here, she certainly has more experience than me! Thank you to everyone I have worked with that has been so great. I have a good feeling that Blackham will do really well here, and I wish them all the best for the future.

Lauren ?

Here are a whole lot of photos I have taken over the last 4 months, I hope you enjoy then. Feel free to ask me any questions or leave a comment below. For my work colleagues, scroll to the bottom for my shout outs 😀

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The girls on a ‘Wine and Cheese’ night in Wiluna. I was actually pregnant in this photo and had no idea. Oops!

Water sampling in one of our old pits. Being an enviro is an awesome job

Our mine is on a station so there are cows everywhere just cruising around

There is so much cool historical stuff around this area of the Goldfields. These items might be over 100 years old

I got to check out our underground mine a few weeks before my last day, so creepy down there, and kinda cool. This is one of the escape ladders

This is one of the many underground refuge chambers. The miners are safe here if something goes wrong

Just one of the many absolutely stunning Goldfields sunrises. The skies up here amazed me almost daily

Some of the cool abandoned cars we came across when doing monitoring out in the Borefields

Enjoying a mid-strength beer at camp (before I was pregnant!!)

Some of the many beautiful wildflowers in the area

My desk. I spend hours and hours here writing reports and making graphs

I cannot even describe the feeling of finishing the annual reports, the BEST

The summer storms were so amazing to watch

One of the salt lakes on our mining tenements. It reminded me of Lake Eyre

Going away BBQ for Ken, it was nice to have actual grass and trees (very different from Barrow Island)

Lets just say I wasn’t the one driving. You know who you were if you are reading this 😉

Getting familiar with the snakes in our Snake Handling Course on site, that is a non-venomous Black Headed Python

The famous Brian Bush with his ‘pet’ King Brown who he ensured wouldn’t bite him

Black Headed Python, what a beautiful creature

The oversee-er of the wet mess

Kellie and I had a sneaky stop in at ‘Gunbarrel Grapes’ where we had delicious scones with jam and cream and a cup of tea

3 very important departments on site

This Minor bird was very friendly!

One of the beautiful Ghost Gums that grows in the creek systems

A few shout outs in no particular order:

Fin: The best boss ever. Seriously thank you for all the encouragement and believing in me even when I thought I was in way above my head

Sam: Always keeping me guessing what colour your hair will be the next time I see you, and being so encouraging even though I am sh*t at pool. Let’s go rollerblading together one day

Wombat: For greeting me with ‘Hello Miss Lauren’ every morning in the mess without fail and always being so cheery

Nicole: my plane buddy and the most normal metallurgist I have ever met 😛 You’re a really cool chick and I will miss you

Eddy: I mean it when I say you are such a friendly nice genuine person, thanks for the chats and always greeting me with ‘hey gorgeous girl’, it would make my day

Bernard: trying to sneak meat pies but totally giving it away with the rustle of the plastic packaging. I’m onto you! Also being so helpful and knowledgeable to someone (me) who knows close to zero about gold processing

Richard: What an awesome General Manager, I really respect how you are so passionate about the Wiluna community and trying to help them in any way you can

Kels: Keep an eye on the sewage flow meter for me haha ?

Guy: For such a busy man, you were always willing to answer all my silly questions, most of them involving you drawing me a diagram on the whiteboard, I have learnt so much from you, thank you

Sue: I will miss our car rides and you telling me about slow cooking and the dogs you foster

Colin: Brother! Keep up the good work and thanks for keeping my pregnancy a secret for so long (and letting me sneak off early sometimes when the ‘all day sickness’ was at its worst)

Susan: Mate, I will miss our chats! Can’t wait to have a beer with you after I have bubs

Christine: Your work eithic is inspiring! And I am in awe of your discipline when it comes to eating healthy

Woody: Couldn’t have asked for a better neighbor, don’t stop with the dad jokes

Richo: thanks for all the hiking advice and for being relatively normal even though you are from Tassie 😛

Zippy: Your happiness is contagious! You made me laugh in your pre-starts when you would answer your own questions and chat with yourself whilst everyone was listening

Kevin / Matt: Thanks for not judging me for my very frequent visits to buy chocolate and lollies from the shop, I was eating for 2!

Kellie: We only had a short time together, but I think you are great, you are such a character and I can’t wait to visit you in Kalgoorlie

Mal: The most passionate Safety Advisor I have ever met, I love how you get excited about safety stuff, I hope that never changes

Geoff: sorry for accusing you of stealing our toaster! I apologise again (just try to keep dead mice out of this one)

And to everyone else, it is a great site it really is, thanks for making my experience here one I won’t forget.

One of the many abandoned homesteads in the area

11 Comments

  1. Dave

    Do I answer my own questions? Yeh I do haha been great working with you lauren best of luck on your travels

    Reply
    • Lauren Wallman

      Haha Zippy ? have the best time in Europe !!

      Reply
  2. Woody

    Hi Lauren, it is such a pleasure to read all of this and even pretty cool that I got a guernesy in the “special mention” section 🙂

    Luv your effort in doing this, and even though we only crossed paths not often enough, I think you are a top Chick, and wish you and Jeff plus Bub, (go socks, hahaha)
    all the very best, and wish you everything you wish for yourselves. Take care out there. Woody

    Reply
    • Lauren Wallman

      Thanks woody! And thanks again for the little present, cutest little shoes I have ever seen 🙂 Look after Kellie 🙂

      Reply
  3. Wombat

    Goodbye for now Miss Lauren. Take care and hope you have a great time with all the new adventures to come for you. xo

    Reply
    • Lauren Wallman

      Thanks wombat 🙂 I hope we cross paths again ox

      Reply
  4. Emma Turner

    What a fantastic story Lauren!
    You are going to be missed around the place, as you brought so much positivity. Best of luck with all your future endevours and for the bundle on the way.

    Reply
    • Lauren Wallman

      Thanks so much Emma!! I will miss your epic r&r stories haha oxox

      Reply
  5. Mal Broxton

    So sad that I missed your last day Lauren,I will always remember the first toolbox you rocked up-to at Galaxy.
    Wish you all the best in the future and know know you will be an awesome and hip mum.
    Big thanks for all the help you have given me on site.

    Reply
    • Lauren Wallman

      Thanks Mal!! And thanks to you for all the help you have given me, appreciate it :))

      Reply

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