Ravensthorpe is 40 kilometres inland from the south coast with a population of slightly more than 400.

In 1848, the area was surveyed by Surveyor General John Septimus Roe who named many of the geographical features in the vicinity, including the nearby Ravensthorpe Range after which the town was later named.

Alluvial gold was discovered at the Phillips River in 1892 and a de facto town emerged, known as Phillips River.

By 1901, the population had climbed to more than 1000 and the government gazetted the town, renaming it Ravensthorpe. The government built a copper and gold smelter two kilometres south-east of the town in 1906. The area continued to prosper and the population grew accordingly. By 1909 it was more than 3000. In 1909 a branch line of the Western Australian Government Railways opened between Hopetoun and Ravensthorpe.

However, the prosperity was short lived. World War I took its toll on the town and by 1918 the local copper smelter had closed and many of the copper and gold mines had closed.

After WWI Ravensthorpe survived by servicing farming in the district. Agriculture in the area began to grow following the Great Depression and pastoral land releases were developed in the 1960s and 1970s, producing wheat and other cereal crops. A bulk wheat bin was constructed by Cooperative Bulk Handling in 1947 capable of holding over 850 tonnes.

Mining at Ravensthorpe

BHP Billiton opened a nickel and cobalt mine and processing plant in 2007 but suspended production due to the reduction in world nickel prices caused by the global economic crisis. The decision cut 1,800 jobs and had a major impact on the local economy.

In 2009 BHP sold its mine, on which it had spent A$2.4 billion to build, to Toronto-based First Quantum for US$340 million. First Quantum was one of three bidders for the mine and actually produced the lowest offer. The Canadian company had the mine back in production in mid-2011. In 2017 it was put into care and maintenance due to persistently low nickel prices.

The Mt Cattlin spodumene-tantalite mine two kilometres north of the town went into production in 2016 after being placed on care-and-maintenance in 2013. In January 2017 the first shipment of 10,000 tonnes of lithium concentrate was consigned  to China.

The Ravensthorpe Copper Mine operated in the area in the 1960s. In 1967 the mine produced 3000+ tonnes of copper concentrate averaging about 23% Copper. The concentrate was trucked to the port of Esperance for shipment to Japan.


© Kim Epton 2021-2022
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