The Xstrata Mines complex is a land of trundling yellow mine-trucks, mountains of slag, intense activity and kilometres of noisy vibrating pipelines. Copper, silver, lead and zinc deposits are mined almost 2km down by a workforce of 1200; the rock is roughly crushed and hoisted to the surface before undergoing a second crushing, grinding and washing in flotation tanks, to separate ore from waste. Zinc is sold as it is, copper is smelted into ingots and transported to Townsville for refining, while four-tonne ingots of lead and silver mix are sent to England to be separated. Power for the mines comes from Xstrata’s own plant, with any surplus sold to the state grid.

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