The Shire of Yilgarn


Koolyanobbing – Place of Large Rocks

KoolyanobbingAt the turn of the century, it was the thirst for gold that led prospectors to the Koolyanobbing Area. Today it’s Iron Ore Mining that continues. It was in 1887 that prospector Henry Dowd became the 1st white man to visit the area, he didn’t return until 1891 and thought “the rock was without value”.


Dowd placed a transcript of his findings in a bottle and buried it on a hill at the foot of a surveying peg. The bottle was not found until 1963 on what is now known as Dowd Hill. (The transcript can be seen at the Historical Museum). Geological surveys in 1952 showed considerable Iron Ore Deposits. In 1960 BHP obtained a lease for the area. Quarry operations began in 1967 on Dowd Hill. This main deposit contained approximately 60 million tons of Ironstone with a grading of 61% Fe. Treated ore was at this time railed to Kwinana, some 430km to the west.


A township was established at Koolyanobbing to cater for the mining workforce. Approximately  400/500 people had access to a  school, club, swimming pool, hall, general store, bowling green etc. Then in 1983 mining ceased due to economical reasons.


The Koolyanobbing Mining Operation recommenced in 1993/94 by Portman Mining Venture. Portman’s mining model was to run the mining operations as a FIFO workforce and as such during 1994/95 most of the buildings were sold, removed and replaced with single persons quarters. Cliffs Natural Resources (Cliffs) acquired the operation from Portman in December 2008.


Cliffs Koolyanobbing Operation is a collective term for the operating iron ore (hematite and goethite) deposits at Koolyanobbing, Mt Jackson and Windarling (the latter two located north of Koolyanobbing).


Ore is rehandled by road trains from the northern most deposits to the crushing facility at Koolyanobbing, a distance of between 89km (Mt Jackson) and 100km (Windarling).


Ore sourced from Windarling, Mt Jackson, and Koolyanobbing is blended and then crushed and screened into a direct lump and fines shipping product.


Cliffs Operations produce approximately 11 million tonnes per annum which is transported by rail, approximately 583km, to the Port of Esperance fro shipment to their customers in Asia.


Below are the current approximate totals for the Cliffs Koolyanobbing Operations:


Annual Economic Impact (AUD$):                      Mining Statistics:
Work Force: 177 Cliffs employees / 957 Mining Contractors                      Total Tonnes Mined: 60 million tonnes
Annual Cliffs Payroll (including benefits): $39 million                      Ore Tonnes Mined:   11 million tonnes
Annual Services & Supplies Purchased: $713 million                      Production:              11 million tonnes
Federal, State & Local Royalties and taxes: $214 million                      Shipping/sales:         11 million tonnes
                                 Lump:        5.4 million tonnes
                                 Fines:         5.6 million tonnes

For more information regarding the Cliffs Koolyanobbing Operations please contact:  

Mr Anthony Miller

phone: 0439 268 448




Salt is also mined on the eastern side of Lake Deborah by WA Salt. Some 97,468 tonne was mined 1994/95. Most for domestic salt.

The Sandalwooder’s harvest north of the Koolyanobbing Range 600,000 tonnes $4.2 million export dollars.

Follow the Vermin Proof Fence east to Lake Seabrook for the Gypsum Harvest.

The Vermin Fence was erected to prevent large numbers of emus entering the wheat farming area. Both gypsum and salt are railed out of Koolyanobbing and Sandalwood is carted to Perth.


Bungalbin Range

Further north of Koolyanobbing (accessible via dirt track) is Bungalbin Range. It has some spectacular rock formations and scenery, surpassed only by the Hammersley Range in Western Australia.


Koolyanobbing Brochure (PDF download 689 KB)


All below photos were provided with thanks, by Cliffs Natural Resources: