Copper Prospecting

So my boss called me up a couple of days ago… “You have a drivers license right? What are you doing the next couple of weeks?”. To cut it short I’m being sent to Western Australia to go copper prospecting with the company geo. Mostly around the Pilbara and the Ashburton river. Apparently I have to ferry him around in the 4WD, bag samples, listen to his stories and call the RFDS if he tries to have a heart attack.

It’s all very short notice as I fly out in 36 hours, but have any doppers out there done anything like this? What should I expect?

My mother and the missus are having kittens as they’re convinced I’m going to die out there. I have ZERO experience in the bush/outback (I’m from Melbourne :eek:).

Anyway here’s hoping I don’t get Wolf Creeked or god forbid Leyland Brothered…


Why would your boss send an unexperienced person along on a trip to go “copper prospecting” in an area where a vehicle breakdown could become life or death situation? Wouldn’t it simply be easier to research past geological surveys and then bore an experienced guide to take you both to the most likely deposits?

Thanks for the reply, I understand the concern but it’s not as if we are going completely blind. We have a set of known targets on the company’s licenses and have been using my spare time at work to build local geo models from past exploration sampling and drilling on them. It’s all publicly available on this site.

Also the geo is a bit of a bushman apparently, so hopeful I’ll be in good hands. I’m just nervous as it’s actual on the ground work. In the middle of nowhere. I don’t think I’ve ever been more then 15 minutes from a McDonalds.

As for inexperience, we all have to start sometime don’t we?

There are a few obvious (to me) things you should do:

Always have plenty of water.

Take some extra fuel.

Whenever you go into the bush, let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to be back.

Take a GPS.

Wear protective clothing.

Make sure your spare tire is OK, and that you have a jack and lug wrench.

(two weeks later)

“I really wanted to get rid of Robrien but I couldn’t just fire the bastard. So I sent him out into the bush to do some ‘prospecting’”.

I’ll admit that my knowledge of mining is limited, but copper mining is very labor intensive and requires a great of infrastructure to become profitable. If the area is extremely remote and copper mining is not currently being done there, it seems that there would have to be one or more reasons for this. Sending people to “prospect” for copper in an area which is being presently mined for the element seems to be a questionable endeavor.

I would advise you to employ the services of a guide familiar with the area and follow his/her instructions very closely. The chances of becoming injured or lost are too great to risk traveling to what must be an exceptionally remote area (the lack of similar mining operations in the area indicates this) by yourself with simply a geologist. Also, informing the local authorities of your trip might be good idea. If your party goes missing, they won’t waste time and effort searching a wide area f where you MIGHT be in they have a reasonable idea of where you will or are supposed to be.

Of course, it’s a company 4WD which is fitted with extra tanks, water, sat phone and UHF equipment. We have a set itinerary (mostly up and down the Nanutarra-Wittenoom Rd) and are required to make a safety call every evening at a fixed time back to HQ.

That thought did occur to me! Probably cheaper then paying redundancy and cover by insurance too I guess.

The geo is from that neck of the woods and he is my guide. He is out there every month and I trust him (he hasn’t killed an offsider yet).

There are also dozens of mining operation in the Pilbara, including a number of former copper mines. Iron is the area’s bread and butter and gold second, but there are occurrences of everything out there. Emeralds (Beryl), Uranium, mineral sands and even asbestos!

You are defiantly right about the cost of operations out there. Deposits need to be highish grade and/or very very large to make it profitable but they do exist. In fact I’ve been reading the business studies on the copper mine in Yerrington NV they are building and the numbers make me cry with jealousy. Electricity is 5-6 times cheaper (as it’s on grid) and the employee costs are a third. And you just send them home, you don’t have to feed and house them! Crazy!

Thanks for the replies guys, I’ll make sure I let you know if I come back.

“When! I mean, when!”


Leyland Brothered…bwahahahahahaha.

Well I for one am envious. Whilst you’re galivanting 'round the Pilbara doing exciting stuff, I’ll be …“sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall, and the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all” (A B Patterson, Clancy of the Overflow).

Lucky bastard. :smiley:

Lol, I suppose your right. When I come back.

Although when I passed the missus in Candy Crush yesterday she did say “I hope you die out there you bastard!” She takes the game too seriously I think.

It’s like he’s describing my office and daily Metro commute. Freaky.

And yes I’m feeling incredibly lucky. Nervous, but how could I say no?

Lucky bastard, indeed.

You are being paid to go on a great exploratory adventure in a gorgeous land. I would trade places with you in a heartbeat. I spent three weeks in Australia and fell in love with the landscape and people.

Polarized sunglasses
Bottles of Scotch
Sense of wonder

Lucky bastard.

Start with the pick, then use the shovel.

I would actually be curious to go on such a trip. (Although I don’t really like roughing it.) What I’d be curious to see is what signs the geologist is looking for that tells him that an area is good for copper mining (or really any other sort of mining). I assume it’s not as obvious as spotting an exposed vein of copper.

It’s dead-set simple.

Even though **Robrein **is going to the true outback, there are subtle indicators scattered about.

One of them is There be COPPER this way ---------------> and then you tag along at the end of the conga line of Gina Reinhardt, Twiggy Forrest and Harry Butler lookalikes.


I worked in exploration but never in Australia. You do “blind” prospecting for a number of reasons. Usually, it’s because you’re a small company and you’re looking for signs of economic mineralization in fringe areas (outside of known mineral areas.) The other reason is you’re in a completely unexplored region (which is rare now —except perhaps West Australia.)

Having said that, you’re under company auspices and exploration in my experience is a camp-out deluxe. You have company logistics at your disposal and the only hard part is really legging to towards some outcrop in some crazy location. But I’m not familiar with WA and it’s possible you need to somehow manage beyond the reach of civilization and company logistics. You have to be an expert camper and survivalist. But why risk your life for a ******* job? Fortunately, I never found my self in that situation.

So intensely jealous right now. This is basically describing one of my dream vacations.

I’m off. Hold down the fort guys.

Don’t take any copper nickels.

I’ve seen this story before. It didn’t end well… :smiley: