The Argyle in 1977
by Eric Hayman
A Photo Of The Argyle Today
Back in 1977, it was possible to get a job on the Argyle just by walking into a mining company office in Perth. I know – I did it!
Out of money, I went into the first mine office on St George's Terrace, Perth and asked if there was any work going "up north". It could have been any of the companies with operations in WA, but it happened to be CRAE's – Conzinc Rio Tinto of Australia Exploration – and CRAE was in the process of surveying what would become the biggest diamond mine in the world: the Argyle.
"What have you done?" I was asked. Fortunately, I'd worked on a UNDP diamond exploration project in Lesotho, southern Africa. And when it turned out that the CRAE chap had gone to university with the geologist in charge of the Lesotho project, the job dropped into my lap when I said two words: "Peter Nixon".
From June to October, I worked collecting sediment samples, operated a core drill, pegged out claims, and washed samples.
We camped in the bush, flew from site to site in a Bell Jetranger helicopter, drove around in Toyota Land Cruisers, slept in swags under canvas tents, and ate very well.
One of the most singular things some of us did was to work in the nude. What was the point of wearing anything in the high outback temperatures, especially when we were standing knee deep in a billabong sieving sediment samples?
In October the Wet was due, and the work was run down until the following year. I left the Derby base, bought a car on the back of my new wealth (outback work did pay well) and continued my travels around Australia.
So, Birgit– that's how it was then. (And I had a German great-grandfather!)
A bit of my verse came from that time in the Kimberley:
A JOB AT LAST.
Tonight, I'm at The Stables,
to listen to singers of folk,
to their Dillon, McColl and Seeger,
to each chorus and hand-clapped beat -
but the Kimberley's my goal tomorrow morning.
From two weeks on "The Terrace",
the tramp from firm to firm,
from Anglo to Amax, Newman to Cliff,
for a job on the mines up north.
Now the Kimberley's my goal tomorrow morning.
The last of my savings, they went on booze,
and a knocker from Perth's lower side.
The hostel I've paid for my final night's keep,
and next week I'll be hit for the Mickey Mouse flight
to the Kimberley, my goal tomorrow morning.
© Eric C. Hayman. 28th June 1977 and afterwards.
The Stables Folk Club, Perth, Western Australia.
Regards – Eric Hayman. ecdh @ fsmail.net
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