An Illustrated History of the Western Mining Corporation

Gilbert Ralph & Michael Softley

Keywords: Engineering, Heritage, Mining

Download Full Paper (pdf)

WS Robinson formed Gold Mines of Australia (GMA) in 1930, Western Mining Corporation (WMC) in 1933 and Gold Exploration and Finance Company of Australia in 1934.  WMC began operations in Western Australia in 1933 when it carried out an aerial survey of the Eastern Goldfields supported by a team of geologists from Harvard University. 

After the Second World War operations were expanded. New Coolgardie Gold Mines was established in 1947. Great Western Consolidated was formed in 1948 to reopen the Bullfinch mine under the direction of Sir Laurence Brodie- Hall. Sir Arvi Parbo began his career here.  

On 28 January 1966, diamond drilling intersected nickel sulphides at Kambalda and this resulted in the rapid development of nickel mining at Kambalda, the establishment of a refinery at Kwinana and a smelter at Kalgoorlie. To further consolidate its position WMC acquired Poseidon’s Windarra Nickel Project in 1972.

Sir Arvi Parbo became Chairman and Managing Director in 1978.  He led the company through its greatest expansion phase. WMC began exploring for coal and petroleum. It resumed exploration for copper in South Australia and on 30 July, 1975 copper was intersected at Olympic Dam. Development commenced in 1982. The mine, a treatment plant and associated services began operating in 1988 and were expanded in the following years. 

Sir Arvi Parbo retired in 1999 and was succeeded by Ian Burgess.  Nickel operations continued to consolidate, the Kalgoorlie nickel smelter was largely rebuilt and the Kwinana nickel refinery was enlarged.  WMC acquired the Yakabindie nickel deposit.  Olympic Dam Operations continued its growth to over 200,000 tonnes of copper per annum while examining the feasibility of further expansions to 500,000 tonnes per annum.

In October 2001 Alcoa made an approach to take over WMC at $10.20 per share.  The WMC Board rejected the offer and subsequently demerged into WMC Limited and Alumina Ltd. In November 2004 Xstrata Capital Holdings made a take over bid for WMC of $6.35 which was later increased to $7.20 per share.  This was rejected.  In March 2005 BHP Billiton made an offer of $7.85 cash per share which was endorsed by the WMC Board and by June 2005 WMC was no more.

REFERENCE: Ralph, G & Softley, M. 2007 An Illustrated History of the Western Mining Corporation. Fourteenth National Engineering Heritage Conference 2007. Perth, Australia, 18 September – 21 September 2007. The Institution of Engineers Australia: Conference Papers.