Minerals from Leonora

  Edith Chief Commissioner

Location: Line 1 from Porte de Vincennes bound for Bastille station
While working in Leonora for the last week, I had the opportunity to observe some rail freight movements and to talk to a couple of train drivers and a maintenance worker from BHP who was doing repairs on the mineral loader.  For your interest, this is what I found.

A train seems to arrive each day from the South between about 06:00 and 08:00 hrs.  It is usually behind two locos (I noticed Q4017 and ALZ3208 on one day and two days later it was Q4009 and ALZ3208. It pulls about 13 container flats with about 26 containers on them (for Lead) and about 16 tanker wagons for powdered Nickel concentrate.  The container flats are designated AQWY, the Nickel tanks are WNB.

With the current price of Nickel this quantity alone will be worth about $25M per train when refined. So about $8B of Nickel a year from Leinster (BHP Nickel West) comes through here.  I could not find where the containers of lead are sourced, but they now go to Freemantle.  The Nickel has its processing done near Kalgoorlie and then to Esperance (I think).

The Nickel is pumped up to towers at Leonora and drops down into the tanks on the train. The powder is corrosive and can wear through the ceramic lined piping of the loader.  When they get these blowouts, they bandage the pipe and call for a maintenance team to replace the parts.

Some 30km South of Leonora, at Malcolm, Nickel concentrate from the Murrin Murrin mine is loaded in containers. This is concentrated through a different process and the concentrate for Leonora will go this way in the future.  Some acid and ammonia tanks are also brought up from the South to be delivered to the various mines as appropriate. One of the trains to visit Leonora also brought fuel for the Shell depot at Leonora and delivered this to the fuel siding near to the loader.  This was in seven tanker wagons (ATPF) and was about 600,000 litres worth. There are barracks for the train crews at both Malcolm and Leonora and some complex arrangements for crew changeovers.

The trains arriving in Leonora have to re-marshal their different rakes of wagons and to do this have to shunt across the Rajah Street level crossing.  There are two main tracks in the yard, with one under the loader and a short spur for the fuel depot.  The drivers say they could bring even more freight here if they had enough spare wagons to carry it.

When all the loading is done at Leonora, the train departs for the South about 12:00-13:00 hours.  It seems possible that there could be other trains calling here, but I did not see them as I was away some of the time.

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  classof84 Beginner

Pretty close evaluation old mate,I may have been one of the blokes you talked to.Just a couple of indifferences there is no barracks at Malcolm,crews come in by car to Leonora and after the nickel concentrate has been refined it is trucked from Hampton Nickel Smelter to West kalgoorlie rail yard to be transported to Kwinana by rail.
  brett80 Station Staff

Many thanks for this post Edith. I used to work at the Cosmos Nickel mine north of Leinster, about 150k total north of Leonora. Nickel from that mine went out by truck.
I've planned for a while a trip back to the northern goldfields, and now you've provided this info about train movements that's one big incentive to get out there again.
  wagrttn Locomotive Driver

Many thanks for taking the time to post that information.

Does anyone know if Nickel Matte is still transported in bags in open wagons. If not (which I suspect to be the case), when did this practice cease?

  Tiny Train Controller

Location: Kalgoorlie
Nickel Matte was being carted in open wagons up until about 1 year ago out of West Kalgoorlie. To cut down on the amount of double handling, it is now loaded into containers at Kalgoorlie Nickel Smelter and railed out in containers.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Thanks very much for your update guys.  It is great to read about the western network from an east coast perspective.

Where is Hampton Nickel Smelter located?

  PILBARAMAN Train Controller

Location: PILBARA
It's near Kalgoorlie.

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