We were recently in Whyalla and decided to sign up for the Steelworks Site Tour. It was a one-of-a-kind experience heading on a small bus into the heart of the site witnessing the whole iron and steel making process.
The tour began with a short video at the visitor centre, and then we were off. Marg, our guide, was fantastic and extremely knowledgeable. First stop was Hummock Hill. From this lookout, we could see Middleback Ranges in the distance. Middleback Ranges is where the iron ore comes from. Two types of ore are mined, i.e. a high-grade hematite ore for export and a lower-grade magnetite ore for pelletising. Once crushed and screened, the ore is pumped 62kms to the steelworks site in Whyalla.
After Hummock Hill, we made our way to the steelworks site itself. As we drove past the various operations on site, Marg explained each step of the process clearly to us, from the pellet plant to the rolling mills. I definitely learned a lot that day.
One of the highlights was the pushing of the coke. Coke, an ingredient used to make iron, is baked at 1100 degrees Celsius in sealed ovens without oxygen. And, believe it or not, there are 108 coke ovens at this site! At the end of an 18-hour baking process, the still-glowing coke is pushed into a hot car to be transported to the quenching tower. We actually got the chance to see this unfold right in front of us.
The Whyalla Steelworks is the only producer of rails in Australia, and its rail finishing end process is just as interesting too. Did you know that rail straightens itself as it cools? Well, you'll have to come on tour to hear all about that.