Here's a history of mining in Australia.

Australia’s proud mining history – how far have we come?

Right from Australia's early days, way back when it was first populated around 60,000 years ago, mining and minerals were integral to the continent's culture. At Locker Group, we're committed to providing Australian mines with the right tools and structures to enable them to carry on this amazing tradition. Here's a look back at how far mining has come since it first started all that time ago. 

Aboriginal art

Between 40,000 – 60,000 years ago, when the Aboriginal people came to Australia, they began the country's very first mining phase. They dug for ochre, which they used to make pigments for paint. This gave rise to the traditional browny-red colour that's often seen in Aboriginal cave paintings and rock art. The Aboriginal people also dug for suitable stones for weapons and tools. 

The early colonial period 

It was the early days of European settlement that first saw minerals being produced on a large scale in Australia. Coal was discovered near Newcastle (NSW) in 1791, just three years after the First Fleet arrived. The coal was essential for heating, cooking and later steam power. This was the beginning of the coal industry, and the first export occurred in 1799, when a shipment of coal set out for India. 

In Glen Osmond on the outskirts of Adelaide, lead became the first metal to be mined in Australia in 1841. Copper mining then began at Burra and Kapunda (both also in South Australia) not long afterwards. 

Gold rush

In the 1850s a gold rush began that was to put Australia's mining industry on the map. First found in NSW in 1823, there were sporadic discoveries of gold traces for a number of years before gold mining really took off. It was the finding of payable alluvial gold in 1851 near Bathurst in NSW as well as the rich reserves of it in Victoria that really saw gold mining begin properly. As word got out that Australia might be the next big gold rush centre, people began to emigrate there. This growing population enabled increased industrial development and more money to be invested into gold mining. 

This all meant that, by the 1850s, Australia was producing almost 40 per cent of the world's gold, according to the Australian Mining Association. Victoria in particular was to become a centre for gold mining for many years afterwards.

The familiar browny-red of aboriginal art comes from the minerals they first used to create pigments.The familiar browny-red of Aboriginal art comes from the minerals they first used to create pigments.

The late 19th-century

Tin was discovered in 1871 at Mt. Bischoff in Tasmania, and then Inverell in NSW. Soon, Australia's great mines were established – silver, lead and zinc were mined at Broken Hill in NSW, while gold was a major export from Coolgardie and Kalgoordie in WA. Iron ore was produced in South Australia and copper and gold at Mt. Morgan near Rockhampton, Queensland. 

The 20th-century

There were few new mineral finds during the first half of the 20th century, and mining in Australia experienced something of a decline. However the Pilbara iron ore region was developed in WA, and new metals were discovered in the second part of the 20th century. These included bauxite (the source of aluminium), nickel, tungsten, rutile (the source of titanium), uranium, oil and natural gas.

The goldrush of the 1850s laid the foundations for Australia to become the second largest exporter of gold.The gold rush of the 1850s laid the foundations for Australia to become the second largest exporter of gold.

Mining in the 21st-century

Australia is now one of the world's major exporters of minerals. For example, Australia is the world's largest coal exporter, worth $34 billion in export value in 2015, as reported by the Department for Industry, Innovation and Science. The same source tells us that Australia is also the world's largest exporter of alumina and iron ore, as well as the second largest exporter of gold and the fourth biggest exporter of nickel.

At Locker Group, we want Australia to continue this impressive tradition and remain one of the world's top producers of minerals. This is why we're committed to providing your mine with the walkways, screening equipment and other tools to help you stay competitive and safe. Our mining product developers are industry experts, and here to help at every step of the way.

For more information, please contact us

Australia is starting to compete with China over tech metal mining.

Is Australia on the verge of a new tech metals mining boom?

Australia may be on the verge of a new mining boom based on new "tech metals." If we are to really succeed, however, a value-added component must be introduced before shipping the products overseas. 

What exactly are tech metals?

These are metals used in the high tech components of modern technology. One of the most obvious examples is lithium, which is used in smartphones, laptops, digital cameras and tablets. Tech metals are often used to make the batteries that store the power that comes from renewable sources. This makes them particularly important as more impetus gets placed on finding cleaner fuels to power the world. 

Australia is already a key provider of tech metals. Western Australia, for instance, is now making strong claims to be the world's lithium capital. Although there is only one lithium mine at present, a recent investment of an estimated $500 million may mean that there could be as many as seven by 2018, according to ABC. 

Rare earth metals are also becoming an important part of Australia's mining output. These are found in the earth's crust, and there are 17 on the periodic table. While they aren't actually that sparse, the difficulty is an economic one in that they are rarely found in enough quantity to be economically viable for mining. Up until recently, they were exclusively exported by China, many deposits have now been found in Australia. Examples include neodymium and praseodymium, which is used to make magnets. 

Lithium is a key component in mobile phone batteries.Lithium is a key component in mobile phone batteries.

How can Australia compete with China?

George Bauk, Managing Director of Northern Minerals, told ABC that "we can compete with the Chinese if we look at the quality of the product that is here."

"Their grades are a 10th of what we have. Our grades are about 6,600 parts per million. Their grades are about six parts per million."

The key is to add value. Much of Australia's current mining output, particularly iron ore and coal, is simply shipped to China as is, and is then often imported back into Australia once China has added value by manufacturing it into several different products.  

Vincent Algar, Managing Director of Australian Vanadium Ltd, said to ABC that we need to learn from this lesson:

"I don't think that anyone in the lithium space, or the vanadium space, or the cobalt space for that matter, should not do that given our experience in the last boom, where we shipped a lot of tonnes away overseas."

Vanadium is another important tech metal. Though originally used for strengthening steel, its real value is as a component in redox batteries. "We've got this new developing industry with growing demand, and I think we should be able to make the redox flow batteries in Australia because we do have a lot of technology," Algar said.

We need to learn from the lesson of coal and iron ore and start adding value before exporting.We need to learn from the lesson of coal and iron ore and start adding value before exporting.

Australia the perfect place for adding value

Australia already has the regulations to add value, in terms of water usage restraints, environmental and pollution considerations, transport and disposal. 

"There's already a well-established regime and bureaucracy in place to regulate that, and we think it's better to do that at the mine site where it all happens, rather than trying to do it offshore and making it somebody else's problem," said Gavin Lockyer, Managing Director of Arafura Resources, to ABC.

At Locker Group, we know how complex mining is, especially with this move to extracting rare earth and tech metals. That's why our mining product developers are committed to staying on top of industry developments. Our experts understand that every mine is different, so talk to us today to find out more about our screening products, walkways and gratings. 

Alien would have had a very different ending if Locker Group products had been used to build their spacecraft.

How would Locker Group products have seen the Alien crew safely home?

The much-hyped new Alien film is about to grace our screens, and we're sure it's going to be an absolute thriller. However, we can't help but feel that if the Alien crew had been using Locker Group products to build their spacecraft, there wouldn't have been anywhere near as much of a kerfuffle in the first place. Here's why.

Highly corrosive acid just isn't a problem with Fibre Reinforced Plastic (FRP)

We all know that scene in the original film, when Kane (played by John Hurt) has a mysterious alien attached to his face that can't be removed. As the crew try to cut the creature from him, they discover that the blood that gushes from the wound is actually a highly corrosive acid. The crew, scared it's going to breach the hull, chase the acid as it rips a hole through several layers of spacecraft.

This makes for a great movie scene, but had their walkways been made using FRP, this would never have been an issue. Locker Group FRP is ideal for use in corrosive environments (for example, chemical plants, or perhaps spaceships with a high chance of alien encounters). It can be subjected to continuous spills, fumes or even submersion, and its non-sparking and non-conductive properties mean it's also perfect for hazardous electrical applications where atmospheric gases might otherwise explode. 

If your spaceship happens to go slightly too close to the sun, FRP's UV inhibitors also help protect against sun damage and degradation. 

The added safety of perforated metal and Pic-Perf means no more heading unawares into dark rooms

Remember that scene when Brett (played by Harry Dean Stenton) follows the ship's cat into an engine room, where an alien just happens to be lurking ready to kill him? Well that would never have been a problem if the spacecraft had perforated metal screens. The holes in the metal allow people to see out while stopping others seeing in, meaning Brett could have had a good old look before entering the engine room. Likewise, the alien might not have been able to plan its attack so well if it hadn't been able to see Brett coming.

Spaceships in general could do with a little more interior design, and we think Pic-Perf is the best material for it.

Perhaps Locker Group's Pic-Perf could have been a welcome addition to the spacecraft. It has all the extra safety features of normal perforated metal, but also has the capacity for images, which are made out of the hundreds or even thousands of holes placed into the metal. Spaceships in general could do with a little more interior design, and we think Pic-Perf is the best material for it.

We work closely with our clients so that we can tailor our products to their exact specifications. Perhaps if the Alien crew had contacted us, they would have made it home safely. 

The Lego Tower, or The Icon as it's formally known, is our of our favourite uses of expanded metal in architecture.

The Icon: Creating a sense of community and colour with expanded metal

The sun can present a huge problem for architects in Australia. Fortunately, Locker Group have the solution. We make expanded metal to a variety of specifications in order to protect your building from the sun's harsh glare. The Icon, an apartment building in St Kilda, Melbourne, represents one of the most innovative and creative ways our product has been used. Here's why.

The Lego Tower

The Lego Tower features expanded metal in a variety of different colours. The Lego Tower features expanded metal in a variety of different colours.

This amazing creation is the work of a collaboration between artist Matthew Johnson and architects Jackson Clements Burrows (JCB). It features six artfully balanced cubes, which are wrapped in several different colours of Locker Group expanded metal. As the sun moves over the sky, each piece of metal changes colour slightly, giving it a dynamic, playful quality. 

While many think of metal as purely existing in different tones of grey and silver, The Icon is changing that perception. In fact, the building is also known as "the Lego tower' due to its similarity to the coloured building blocks. Mr Johnson said the design was intended to brighten up an otherwise fairly "dead" area of St Kilda. 

"Having visited and inhabited St Kilda through parts of my life, one can't help but feel there needs to be something … totemic or sculptural that is like a signifier to this neighbourhood," he told domain.com.au.

"Because you are creating this vertical habitat in that location, it's actually invigorating a whole site in an intelligent way rather than just building another faceless building." 

A sense of community

The idea of the different boxes, according to Andrew Jackson, director of JCB, is to create a feeling of community, with each separate colour representing a different neighbourhood.

Expanded metal provides both an aesthetically pleasing and functional way to deal with the sun.

"It was a way of thinking about an apartment building not just as a singular entity but a collection of communities," he said to architectureanddesign.com. This must surely be something that architects of the future will take into account, as people try and move away from the traditional conception of tower blocks as lacking in community spirit. 

As The Icon proves, expanded metal provides both an aesthetically pleasing and functional way to deal with the sun, by cutting out glare while still making the most of available natural light. It can be used above windows, entrances, walkways, or along the whole length of a structure. If you would like to use expanded metal for your project, please contact us

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