After walking around the wetland we carried on through Macraes heading north, not too sure if we'd go much further as it was getting late. We'd given up on looking for lizards, we'd not found any suitable habitats since leaving the rocky tors back at the beginning of the road. We thought we'd take a drive down Golden Point Road, just out of town, to the old historic stamper battery reserve towards the end of the road.
But we got sidetracked. It was a huge surprise to come up over the hill just out of Macraes to find ourselves in the middle of a huge mine, with a massive dirty grey haul road passing under our road bridge...
...and a sign pointing the way to an observation and lookout point. Of course we had to take a look.
We parked beside one humongous spare tyre- our fifth-wheel?
Unfortunately the wind was whipping through the site and the dust and grit being blown about was diabolical. David was not very happy that he and the rig were being sand-blasted every few seconds.
Luckily the track lead to an Observation Hut with large glass windows overlooking the huge open cast mine pit (click to enlarge). Check out the size of the 'little' ute behind the truck on the right.
Oceana Gold's Macraes Mine is New Zealand's largest gold producing mine, producing over 4 million ounces of gold to date. The area leased by the mine covers around 27,500 hectares. There are two mines, Macraes Open Pit which has been operating since 1990 and Frasers Underground which began in 2008. Frasers is 740 metres below surface and 200 metres below sea level, with over 48 kilometres of tunnel drives.
The majority of of haul trucks used at the mine are CAT 789Cs, there are 18 in use and we watch as a steady stream of them climb up the road full, disappearing around the back of the administration buildings and returning sometime later empty. You can see a mine portal in the background of this shot.
Here are some facts for you- the tray can carry 191 tonnes of rock, that's about 91,680 shovel loads or 7,640 wheelbarrow loads of rock.
It takes about two and half minutes or 4-5 scoops to fully load the tray. It would take a man 382 hours or nearly 10 working weeks to fully load a 789C tray with a shovel.
Overall Height- 6.2mtrs, Length- 12.2mtrs, Width- 7.7mtrs
Operating Weight- 317,520 kgs
Empty Weight- 126.48 tonnes
Gross Power- 1750rpm:18sec
Fuel Tank Capacity- 3,218 litres
Engine Horsepower- 1900hp
Maximum Speed on 12% gradient- 10kph
Each Tyre costs $35,000
Here's a closer view of the size comparison between a standard vehicle and a haul truck. Note the bendy fibreglass pole with orange flag attached to the smaller truck (a bit like the ones we had on our bikes when we were kids). We passed a few utes with them attached back near a mine at Piano Flat, they looked quite strange waving about high in the air, driving along on a normal road at 100kph. Of course they need them on the mine roads so the big boys don't run over the top of them!
In amongst the haul trucks was an equally huge water tanker driving continuously up and down the haul road damping down the dust (we needed him up the top) and making a very slick surface for the trucks to pass over.
The water tanker has a massive 52,000 litre capacity, it stopped beside a small pond on the haul road and took about a minute to fill, and then it was off again.
We never saw another vehicle while on the Macraes Flat Road so I'm sure we must have been the mine workers only entertainment for the day, especially driving around with our home on the back (or perhaps it was because I was hanging out the window taking photos as we crossed back over the bridge).
We got a few toots (or should I say honks) from the drivers as they passed underneath on their way to the processing plant which is quite a distance from the mine.
We headed off down Golden Point Road- farmland on one side and reclaimed mining land on the other, most of it a huge terraced hill. At one point a bulldozer was smoothing out the side of a new tailings hill, and on a very steep angle too.
Towards the end of the sealed road we came across the processing plant, this is what we could see from way across the valley on the way in.
And there, approaching the plant from behind were the haul truck, water tanker and 'little' truck that had passed under the bridge while I was taking photos. Their road was more direct.
I took a screenshot of the Google aerial map over the top of the mine, it's pretty impressive and frightening ugly at the same time. Although as David, who hates all the old historic mine tailings and what they've done to the landscape says, at least this will be left clean, tidy and environmentally friendly when they finish.....even if a couple of hills have been moved in the process and a giant bird has been left behind to pacify the locals! (Click the map at the bottom of the blog if you'd like to see more detail)
Well, it just happens that while I was taking photos of that old iron bridge on the way in, I spied...
...a couple of potential freedom camping sites off a gravel track alongside the river...
...which was how we found ourselves sandwiched between tinder dry overgrown grass with several beehives as neighbours for the night. I didn't have the heart to tell David we were parked on the track from the ford over the river. I figured they'd be no large farm machinery crossing over at this time of the day. Although the farm traffic that 'flew' along the track in front of us did a double take.