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Mount Whaleback Mine, Newman, East Pilbara Shire, Western Australia, Australia

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Latitude & Longitude (WGS84): 23° 21' 41'' South , 119° 40' 22'' East
Latitude & Longitude (decimal): -23.36157,119.67299
GeoHash:G#: qev555phy
Owned/operated by:BHP (85%), Mitsui Iron (10%)
Locality type:Mine
Köppen climate type:BWh : Hot deserts climate

An iron mine discovered in 1957. Owned by Mount Newman Iron / BHP Billiton. Billed as the largest open cut, single deposit iron ore mine in the world (5 km long). Produced 26.3 million tons of ore (1984). Pit is 300 meters deep.

The orebody was discovered in 1957 by Stan Hilditch, but not publicised until 1960, when the Australian Government lifted its embargo on iron ore exports. It had been worried the mineral was in short supply, but considering iron ore of various grades covers much of the vast Pilbara region, they were a little off target with this thought. The mine was developed by Bechtel Pacific but soon taken over by BHP Billiton, which still owns and operates the mine. The town of Newman was constructed to service the mine, and the ore is railed to Port Hedland. Production started in 1968. At present (2013) it produces about 30 million tonnes of ore pa.

In recent years BHP Billiton has expanded its operations into a number of satellite mines in the surrounding region. These include Wheelarra, Hashimoto, South Jimblebar (known collectively as Jimblebar) 41 kilometres east of Newman; Area C 10 kilometres west of the Hope Downs Mine (owned by another company); nearby Yandi; orebodies 29, 30 and 35 adjacent to Whaleback, and orebodies 18, 23, 24 and 25.

The Whaleback pit is 1.5 kms wide, 5 kms long and will eventually reach a depth of 0.5 kms.

The orebody is hosted by the Brockman Iron Formation of hard microplaty hematite ore, and overlays the Mount McRae Shale Formation, the uppermost member of the Colonial Chert.

The Brockman Iron Formation's lowest unit is the Dales Gorge Member which at Mount Whaleback contains high grade hematite. The unit is an alternating assemblage of 17 banded iron formation and 16 shale macro bands, the shale 0.1-2 metres thick, and the BIF 1-7 metres thick. This member at Mount Whaleback is 65 metres thick, but up to 135 metres thick in unenriched areas.

The Dales Gorge Member is overlain by the Whaleback Shale Member which forms the hanging wall. Within this are three zones. A 6-8 metre thick basal shale of 5 alternating shale, cherty BIF macro bands; 2-7.5 metre thick strongly contorted central chert; and a 12-25 metre thick upper shale of numerous chert bands.

Overlying this is the Joffre Member, 240 metres thick, banded iron formations with minor thin shale interbeds, with goethite, and regular macro banding absent.

The deposit is structurally very complex. There are two major westerly plunging synclines, with major faulting terminating the orebody in the north-west, causing an associated major reversal of plunge.

Hematite ore at Mount Whaleback is hard, blue, fine grained and weakly banded, containing minor primary magnetite amd martite octehedra. It is 69% Fe. Massive, occassionally banded, goethitic hematite occurs near the surface to 30 metres deep, caused by the hydration of the hematite ore.

The public can join tours of the mine.

Mineral List

8 valid minerals.

Rock Types Recorded

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Regional Geology

This geological map and associated information on rock units at or nearby to the coordinates given for this locality is based on relatively small scale geological maps provided by various national Geological Surveys. This does not necessarily represent the complete geology at this locality but it gives a background for the region in which it is found.

Click on geological units on the map for more information. Click here to view full-screen map on Macrostrat.org

0 - 0.0117 Ma

ID: 748831
anthropogenic deposits 74790

Age: Anthropocene (0 - 0.0117 Ma)

Description: Made ground, mining areas, mullock heaps

Comments: anthropogenic; synthesis of multiple published descriptions

Lithology: Anthropogenic

Reference: Raymond, O.L., Liu, S., Gallagher, R., Zhang, W., Highet, L.M. Surface Geology of Australia 1:1 million scale dataset 2012 edition. Commonwealth of Australia (Geoscience Australia). [5]

Siderian - Neoarchean
2300 - 2800 Ma

ID: 3185955
Archean-Paleoproterozoic sedimentary and volcanic rocks

Age: Precambrian (2300 - 2800 Ma)

Stratigraphic Name: Hamersley Group

Comments: Hamersley Basin

Lithology: Strataform assemblage(s); felsic volcanic rocks; chert,carbonate,iron formation,shale

Reference: Chorlton, L.B. Generalized geology of the world: bedrock domains and major faults in GIS format: a small-scale world geology map with an extended geological attribute database. doi: 10.4095/223767. Geological Survey of Canada, Open File 5529. [154]

Data and map coding provided by Macrostrat.org, used under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License

This page contains all mineral locality references listed on mindat.org. This does not claim to be a complete list. If you know of more minerals from this site, please register so you can add to our database. This locality information is for reference purposes only. You should never attempt to visit any sites listed in mindat.org without first ensuring that you have the permission of the land and/or mineral rights holders for access and that you are aware of all safety precautions necessary.


Sort by Year (asc) | by Year (desc) | by Author (A-Z) | by Author (Z-A)
Morris, R. C. (1980): A textural and mineralogical study of the relationship of iron ore to banded iron-formation in the Hamersley iron province of Western Australia. Economic Geology, 75, 184-209.
Mining Annual Review (1985): 82 & 367.

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