Karratha: The Rich Mining Town

(9 votes)

On paper it’s euphoria, a place that you need to see to believe. In WA, the town of Karratha provides no shortage of ‘pinch me’ moments with a 37-degree summer day default and a winter low of just 14. Blankets of golden sands and enchanting blue waters envelop the coastline and divide into some of the most secluded beaches in Australia. But Karratha is not just a holiday town; money – and lots of it – is to be made here.

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Located in the Pilbara region, the mining area with a population of around 20,000, not unlike its neighbours Newman and Port Hedland, is continuing to attract ambitious men and women seeking the lavish lifestyle the resources sector ‘promises’. Developed in the 1960s, it’s a mining town unlike the rest, thanks to its two ports, which export much of the regions primary resources, included iron ore, sea salt, natural gas and ammonia, from close to where they are mined.


Today Karratha exports more than 250 million tonnes of iron ore per annum, five years ago it counted 100 million tonnes less; it’s an exponential increase that directly correlates to the rise in residents. Since 2006 newcomers with dollars signs in their eyes increased a township of a meagre 13,257 to 20,061 by 2011. According to Census figures, that’s an average annual increase of 8.6 per cent – while the national average stood at 1.6 per cent.

Incited by the region’s employment generating minerals projects, the mining town population is growing faster than any other but so too is the price of living. Pilbara Community Legal Service's chief executive, Nanette Williams says despite a slowdown in the mining boom, the cost of living in the Pilbara is still sky high. At the peak of the boom in 2007, tenants were paying approximately $2,200 a week. And although the standard rental fee has fallen for two straight years, $1207 a week is a hefty price to pay if you’re the unlucky ‘few’ not benefiting from the boom.

As Australia's richest regional town, Karratha's medium income is $87,000 a year, and yet there are people sleeping in cars and on lying on benches in Cattrall Park - only to be forced out by ranges. Financial counsellor and social worker Bob Williams says “all the development in town is encouraging so long as low income earners are not left out of the picture.” He believes that since Karratha evolved off the back of the mining industry, locals have been forced to leave town or worse yet, live on the streets.

As low income earners and middle income earners are struggling to make ends meet, the State Government has shown its support by investing more than $1 billion in Royalties for Regions funding into the Pilbara region - much of that into Karratha. With an aim of attracting and maintaining a total of 50,000 residents, Shire of Roebourne president Fiona White-Hartig is working hard to close the inequality gap between the prosperous and the poor. Her work towards a community with a “greater say in how much mining giants contribute to the regions they’ve occupied” may not have yet come into fruition but companies are doing their bit.

"Rio Tinto has been good enough to donate quite a lot of non perishables to us, which we distribute to the needy," says financial counsellor Williams while other companies have given donations in the form of furniture, bedding and white goods."

As the government moves forward with intentions of fostering a development in infrastructure and economic growth – via funding programs – so as to ‘attract and retain’ people, many fear the local and now lower socio-economic residents are being left behind. Before Roebourne president White-Hartig aspires for a 34,000 increase in populace, it is first necessary she ensure the current and longstanding Karratha community members are no longer left in the shadow of mining boom success.

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Minetalk Poll

Is the mining boom in Australia over?

Is the mining boom in Australia over?

No, it's just media hype.
Yes as a result of lower demand.
Still plenty of resources.
There will be a second boom.
1 Votes left

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