Mitchell Plateau 1970

by Geoff Duthie
(Auckland New Zealand)

Near the King Edward River

Near the King Edward River

I worked on the Mitchell Plateau in 1970 for AMAX Bauxite Corp for 6 months. Worked 6 days a week and on the 7th went to all the sights!

King Edward River crossing and nearby a large rock shaped like a mushroom with several rock paintings on it and onto what we thought was the road to Derby.

Mushroom shaped rock near King Edward River crossing

Mushroom shaped rock near King Edward River crossing



Other time down to Port Warrender for a boat ride to Malcolm Island then on further (about 15 minutes) to an area where there was large cave paintings some 6 metres long also some with the spaceman type headgear. Quite amazing.

Cave paintings mostly from across the water at Port Warrender

Cave paintings mostly from across the water at Port Warrender



I have been looking at all the photos I can find online for the Mitchell Falls and they look different to when I went to them... like no water.

Mitchell Falls... no water running at all

Mitchell Falls... no water running at all



One of my mates named Chris did high dive from a ledge into a pool... about 16.5 meters... spectacular.

The airstrip was developed that year to enable two Fokker Friendship planes to land as junket for WA politicians.

Our camp was at Camp Creek and 25 people lived in tents with a terrific kitchen.

Camp Mascott Percy

Percy, the camp mascott
(not too mobile because of a damaged foot)



Great party the night of the first rains of the new season.

These were simlpler days and some of our "activities" would definitely be frowned on today.
Cheers Kayone

Comments for Mitchell Plateau 1970

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Jul 28, 2016
Simpler Days
by: Birgit

Thanks for sharing your memories and photos, Geoff!
I always love hearing about the simpler days way back when... :-)
Cheers,
Birgit

Aug 18, 2016
to author
by: Dave Heath

I worked at the Station site Amec Corp, we were the poor relations to you mining blokes at the camp. Was good friends with Joe Smith at the camp '71/72. Cheers

Aug 18, 2016
Mitchell Station
by: Noel Brettoner

Hi Geoff & Birgit,

Great to see your old pics and read of your time there. I passed through the Kimberley Region mid-1981, following along with a couple of young guys who were big on serious fosicking/mineral/mining specimens. Turned off Gibb River Rd headed up towards the 'plateau' strip you mentioned. But turned west to navigate our way through 4 foot high grass on an almost-lost track; to the disused airstrip next to the Mitchell River (due south of 'your' strip). Stayed in abandoned demountable & next day headed north to rejoin the Mitchell Plateau strip road just south of the strip. Went to Surveyor's Pool where we headed away from where the elders were leading a research team, & discovered some very interesting ancient galleries.
Admiralty Gulf then a loop through outback cattle station/s & off to Kununurra & the NT :)

Dec 06, 2016
Kimberley Adventures
by: Stella Simpson

I had the privilege of living in this fabulous country on Mitchell River Station in 1972/1973. My husband Des and three young children Stuart, Andrew and Helen spent many wonderful hours exploring and discovering new areas on and around the station and on Mitchell Plateau often in the company of Joe Smith who worked for Amax Bauxite on the Plateau.
My two sons are taking me back in May next year for my 75th birthday. I can imagine that it might be a bit different!!!
If anyone has any knowledge of Joe Smith, Dave and Jan Tassell or Ron Johnson I would appreciate a contact number.

Dec 06, 2016
attention Stella Simpson. Re Mitchell Station.
by: Noel Brettoner

Hello Stella Simpson,

Could you please email me so that I can send you the only photo I have of my 1981 overnight stay beside the runway. I would also like to send you a Google Earth image looking straight down, to confirm the location & where the homestaed was?
Really looking forward to possibly chatting with you if that's ok. I've always remained fascinated in the place and would love to know something of its background/history, your recollections etc.

I don't often do this but here are my contact details:-
Noel Brettoner
0422187713
Coffs Harbour NSW
nbrettoner AT yahoo DOT com
"nbrettoner" on facebook. :)

Jul 15, 2018
Mitchel plateau
by: Shirley Ayers

My Husband Jim Ayers and friend Jim Squares worked there in 1970. Would like more info.

Jul 16, 2018
re Mitchell Plateau 1970
by: Noel Brettoner

Hi Shirley,

Yesterday you made an entry :-
Jul 15, 2018
Mitchel plateau NEW
by: Shirley Ayers

My Husband Jim Ayers and friend Jim Squares worked there in 1970. Would like more info.

= = = = = = = =

For far too long I've been remiss in not re-contacting Stella Simpson (see previous posts on this thread). I hope to email her in the next few days. I'm sure that if still available, she would be able to have a chat with you; having lived on Mitchell Station in that era.
Feel free to email/phone me as per my previous post, if I can help.
Kind regards,
Noel Brettoner

Jul 20, 2018
Mitchell Plateau 1970
by: Geoff Duthie

Hello Shirley,
I was interested to read your short note.
I do recall the Jims... one was quite tall with a blonde buzzcut and the other was dark haired with a beard, a bit shorter. Both English.
Several other English guys but can't remember their names. Also Irish... two Joes and a Ray.
So what have the Jims been up to their lives, now that 48 years have gone by! Have a few photos of some of the times there.
Do they recall Jack Zany at all, and Noel talks of Joe Smith or Botanical Joe as we nicked him.
Hope to hear from you at this address:
jethrod99 AT gmail DOT com
Cheers for now
Geoff Duthie (Kayone)

Jul 20, 2018
Attn Geoff Duthie
by: Noel Brettoner

Hi Geoff,

Will email you shortly. I'm particularly interested in any memories of Mitchell Station (Stella & Des Simpson) you may have. Any photos of the place etc. Still need to get back to Stella also. Her son/s were going to fly her back over the old place a couple of years ago.
Also interested in the place you worked & whereabouts was the main camp/mining site?
I recall mid 1981 on my way up to Darwin, we came off the Gibb River Rd. to the Mitchell Station airstrip (beside Mitchell River). Then headed further north. Somewhere before Surveyor's Pool we came through a mining camp & had to sign a book.
What was that place? And just exactly whereabouts please?

Kind regards,
Noel Brettoner
nbrettoner AT yahoo DOT com

Jul 28, 2018
Two Jim's.
by: Shirley Ayers

I sent you an email. Hope you received it. Shirley Ayer.

Aug 03, 2018
Att Geoff and Noel
by: Shirley Ayers

Hi to you both. Very interested in finding out more of the time spent in the Kimberlies by the people who were part of it. I did send an email to Noel. Regards Shirley.

Aug 03, 2018
Attention: Shirley Ayers.
by: Noel Brettoner

Hi Shirley,

I've searched high and low for your email but sadly can't find it. Did I reply?
Please could you resend it to:
nbrettoner@yahoo.com

Looking forward to learning more of the region and specifically Stella Simpson & family, and the Mitchell Station. :)

kind regards,
Noel
0422187713

Sep 21, 2020
I worked at the Plateau
by: Campbell Pearson

I was the manager of the mining camp at Mitchell Plateau from 1980 till 1982 when the feasibility study ended. I was amused to see a picture of Percy the camp emu, that brought back a lot of memories. It was a rough and ready place with no T.V. so we made our own entertainment. I loved working there, and have lots of pleasant memories of my time there.

Sep 22, 2020
Mitchell Plateau 1970
by: Geoff Duthie

Hello Campbell,
I guess after 10 years there would have few if any people still working for Amax on the Plateau.
Was surveying and exploration still ongoing in the 80's?
Jack Zany, Ken Malcolm, Phil Jones (he was camp manager) and Joe Schultz were some of the people associated with Anmax.
Hope to hear some more from you.
Cheers,
Geoff

Sep 22, 2020
Plateau activities
by: Campbell Pearson

There was an exploration camp at Mitchell Plateau, but it had been closed down for a few years. They were starting a feasibility study and I went there just before the wet in 1979. There was just me and a guy called George who was a mechanic, through the wet, after which they upgraded the camp and got things going. There were good deposits of bauxite but the world prices dropped and the camp closed toward the end of 1982.
The people who worked there were flown in from Perth and worked six weeks on and one week off (I think). I met a lot of interesting people, and enjoyed my time there.

Sep 25, 2020
Another Kimberley enthusiast from the AMAX years.
by: TimGT

Hello Geoff
I joined AMAX at Mitchell Plateau in 1970, a few months after you.
The photo you had for Mitchell Falls is actually of Surveyors Pool, which, as you said, we often visited on a Sunday.
I have some more photos, and might add my own blog page with them. One photo is of you at the Pool! Also a photo of someone doing the high jump into the pool.

I think it was later that year that we borrowed the D9 one Sunday, and Deese cut a track down off the plateau and over the black soil plains to within a couple of k's of Mitchell Falls.

I worked with AMAX until the project folded in 1973 and was sold to CRA (I think). Jack Zani was a brilliant geologist, and revised the bulk sampling procedure for the 1971 season to remove some biases that he was worried about. This proved that the deposit was not actually amenable to upgrading by washing. He saved AMAX from spending a fortune on a white elephant of a project. As a result we now have a National Park instead of a scarred wasteland.


Sep 30, 2020
The mining history at the plateau
by: Campbell Pearson

Hi Tim , I was interested to read that Amax had more or less decided that the bauxite at the Plateau was of no commercial value. I now wonder why CRA went ahead with their feasibility study which went from 1980 to 1982. Incidentally I see the name of Ken Malcolm mentioned. My understanding was that he was the one who originally found the bauxite deposits, I could be wrong though. Incidentally Ken Malcolm died in 1981 and his remains were left on an island off the Kimberley coast. Regards Campbell.

Sep 30, 2020
More Plateau
by: Geoff Duthie

Read with interest the added comments.
Was Deese the guy who ran the Ben plant and were you the other geologist who reported to Jack?
Also there is an island off Port Warrender that is Malcolm Island! What a nice monument!
What is the name of your blog so I could perhaps follow it?
Email to jethrod99@gmail.com.
How many more seasons did you attend the Plateau after 1970?
Hope to hear back soon.
Cheers
Geoff

Oct 30, 2020
45 years later
by: Stella Simpson

Attention Shirley Ayers and Noel Brettoner.
My husband Des Simpson, three children and I lived on Mitchell River Station in early seventies and explored many of the beautiful sites in that area on our days off.
My two sons and family took me across the Top End for five weeks in 2017 for my 75th — a fabulous trip exploring both old memories and making new ones.
One special day I spent was at the campsite on the King Edward swimming, walking on the rocks and watching wildlife, while everyone else went to the falls. That was a favourite meeting place when we lived on Mitchell River. The previous day we had flown from Drysdale to the Falls and back over the ruins of Mitchell River. How lucky we were to see that country when we did !!
Regards Stella Simpson
Email stellarsimpson@gmail.com

Oct 30, 2020
re Mitchell Station and region
by: Noel Brerttoner

Hi Stella Simpson,
What a lovely surprise to see your post here this morning, with all your wonderful news!.
So really glad you posted this, and even 'addressed' to Shirley Ayers, and I :)
Extra special, as I had lost your email address details and have over the years wondered if you had been able to return. Then to read your sons indeed took you back; for five days!. Very special way to celebrate a 75th Birthday! Magnificent!!.
The following year (after planning and scraping together $$$ over previous two years; i.e. 2018) I did a 3 3/4 month Ghan Sojourn. 32 years absence from the Top End had been eating away, so the time came for me to believe for the impossible, and book myself and my Subaru Outback 1996 wagon for the last week of February, from Adelaide to Darwin. I'd driven across from Coffs Harbour, caught the Ghan, did a helicopter flight over Katherine Gorge (wonderful to see all the waterfalls). Spent a week just two blocks from the heart of the CBD, then another week within 200 kms of Darwin. When not staying in this bungalow-style motel on the old Darwin Hotel site, I was camping and sleeping daily in the Super Roo. (Except a few days with family & friends.)
From there I zig-zagged like Zorro down the map, two days out at Glen Helen (west of The Alice) then Kings Canyon valley walk, down to Ayers Rock highway where I turned left back to the main Hwy. Woomera, north again Roxby Downs to William Creek on the Oodnadatta Track, backtracked to Marree (amazing history there) then across to the east side of Wilpena Pound SA.
From Adelaide following the coast to Victor Harbour, Mt Gambier via Robe, to Hamilton VIC. Up through The Grampians, did the Silo Art Tour to Nhill, then across through Swan Hill Echuca to Deniliquin where I stayed a few days. Back up through Wagga, Bathurst to my brother's place at Blaxland. Then via Central Coast (eldest brother) and eventually home (Coffs Harbour NSW). 11,600 kms (over 600 on corrugated gravel and dirt) 3 3/4 months. So Blessed.
Stella I am so thankful that you posted here. I will try very hard not to lose your email address again. And am so pleased for you and your amazing sojourn, with your two sons too!
God Bless

Noel Brettoner
nbrettoner@yahoo.com

Nov 15, 2020
Mitchell Plateau 1980/81 Unforgettable
by: Marita Keane

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have worked and lived at Mitchell Plateau 1980/1981. Opportunities like that only come around once in a lifetime. Lucky me!

Nov 15, 2020
re Mitchell Plateau 1980/1981
by: Noel Brettoner

Hi Marita Keane,
Really excited to read your short post here.
Back then, we drove to and through a mining camp, where we had to sign a book absolving them in anything that happened to us whilst passing through that region. I don't think we actually went to the Mitchell Plateau airstrip, but rather headed to Port Warrander. Then did an eastern loop before returning to the GRR.
Marita, when we were at the camp office, we were sternly warned to keep out of the area where a joint university-museum team were working with local Aboriginal elders; cataloguing gallery sites. Which they then marked with a star picket with an aluminium tag. Does this 'ring a bell' for you??.
If you read through my previous posts here you may come across further discussion regarding the above. :)

Nov 15, 2020
Plateau visitors
by: Campbell Pearson

Hi Noel, I was interested to read your post as I was the camp manager at the time you you mentioned, so it would have been me who spoke to you at that time.
We did get a few tourists on the Plateau, and as it was so isolated we tried to keep track of them to make sure they returned safely. I used to advise people not to go into the sea as it was pretty dangerous, not everyone took that advice but fortunately there were no casualties. The Plateau is now a national park, so it's nice to think it will remain unspoiled. Regards Campbell.

Nov 15, 2020
nice surprise.
by: Campbell Pearson

Hi Marita, it was a nice surprise to see your name. I would love to catch up and find what you are up to these days. If you would like you could email me at
peter.pearson7@bigpond.com
Hope you are well. Regards Campbell.

Nov 15, 2020
re your post 15 Nov 2020 "Plateau visitors NEW by: Campbell Pearson "
by: Noel Brettoner

Hi Campbell,
I was on a "clockwise" from/to Sydney. In Perth my passenger arrived and we travelled north. Somewhere after Tunnel Creek we came across a couple of young guys in e Toyota shorty 4x4. (We were in a Toyota fj55 'Bill Peach' landcruiser).
It would have been late May/early June '81 that we passed through the camp. We'd made a detour west (I think before your camp?) out to the abandoned Mitchell Homestead and aistrip, then continued north to meet up with the Mitchell Plateau airfield road again. I think we signed the book on a Friday or possibly Saturday? Anyway after the abandoned homestead and your campsite book-signing, we ventured out to Surveyor Pool, where we saw some star pickets with aluminium labels, leading down into the valley. But we noticed some ancient landscape away up to our right (north-east??). Which we investigated. No star pickets. Came across an ancient gallery (no star picket!), so thought perhaps the elders were leading the research team away from what they didn't want them to learn of. We had been sternly warned (possibly by your good self :) ) to stay right away from any star-picketed areas. But it was Sunday; and we knew they'd all be back at camp.
One of the two young guys was a professional mineral/gemstone expert and collector. I think his grandfather and father before him had started the collection that he now was responsible for. That collection housed some very rare and important specimens, that the museum and others sought. However I believe he refused. He had with him some kind of certification/letters of introduction allowing them to enter mines to look for the above.
Campbell, I've been so enjoying this blog thread. Actually being able to communicate with the lady who together with her husband and young children were on the Mitchell Homestead property for some time (back in I think the late 1960s through into early 1970's) was a real bonus.
Take care, what a Special Place that region of Australia is. Loved it. Even when just there for a very few days.

Kind regards,
Noel Brettoner
nbrettoner@yahoo.com
0422187713

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