Friday 28 September 2012

Oz Trip - Day 150

Day 150 – 28/9/2012 – Port Pirie Day

After pushing pretty hard for the last couple of days we had a bit of a sleep in, until 10am!!! After a late brunch and a few jobs we just made it to the smelter tour at 12:45. The smelter is the worlds largest lead smelter. It also produces silver, zinc, copper and gold.

The tour was very interesting. We were first shown a video in the visitors centre that gave us an overview and explained the history and processes in the smelter. After the video it was into a mini bus to get driven around the smelter site. Unfortunately it is a condition of the tour that no photographs are allowed to be taken.

The mini bus drove us all around the smelter site and showed us all the stages of the smelting process. From where they receive the raw product on trains from Broken Hill, the blast furnaces, to the lead bars that are the end result, (for obvious reasons they don't leave the gold bars lying around outside).

It was amazing to see the work place health and safety level at this place, which is understandable considering how toxic a workplace it is. The company provides the workers with all their work clothes. They get changed on their way in at the start of the shift and then shower and changed at the end of their shift. They also get provide with razors. They are not allowed to have any beards or mows because if they do a good seal can't be made with their respirators. Basically if you are outside of a sealed vehicle or building you have to be wearing either a respirator or at a minimum a paper mask to cover you nose and mount due to potential lead dust in the air.

All of the employees lead levels are tested every six weeks and if they are found to be too high they are moved to another job/section of the smelter until their levels return to the acceptable level. The company goes to great lengths to protect the employees, their families and the community. Hence the reason why none of the employees work cloths leave the site. At the end of the shift when they change clothes to go home, their work clothes are laundered on site and then sent back to the employee.

It is amazing to see the extent to which the company has gone for providing health services to the community. They have established a dedicated clinic for people to get tested, ie pregnant woman and children and also have program for trying to lower the amount of lead in young children. It is quite scary really when you start looking into it more.

At the end of the tour the mini bus that we were in had to go through a car wash before it could leave the site to make sure that there was no lead dust on it.

After the tour we did a quick walk down one of the streets to have a look at some of the old buildings.

Check out the heads of the animals at the top of the building

Looking down the main street
That night I spent a bit of time trying to get a good photo of the smelter from the caravan park. Hopefully it is the money shot as I caught a cold from standing out in the cold wind!!!

The smelter by day

The smelter by night

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