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Term 4 saw the Carnarvon Academy’s Year 10-12 students head 87kms out of Carnarvon to Rio Tinto’s Lake Macleod operation for a work site visit with Superintendent Scott (Max) Maxwell.

Max took the time to personally take the boys on a very interesting and informative experience.

Dressed to site regulations in their hi-vis long sleeves, pants, boots and personal protective equipment (PPE), the fellas were keen to get out and explore this unknown region right in their backyard.

It didn’t take long for the boys to see just how vast the Lake Macleod site was, with wide expanses of nothing and only the odd building jutting out – it really seemed like an endless operation.

Beautifully flat and crystal clear water covered the crystallisers on the lake’s surface, from clear to pale and deep blue, and even red.

The Clontarf bus rolled up just in time to watch a surface reclaimer hard at work as it broke up the hard salt crust that took six months to form and load the heavy haul units with tonne after tonne. This was then hauled off to the wash plant where the harvested salt would be rinsed and stockpiled to drain according to its grade.

“How much does a truck cost?” and “how long do they last?” were some of the questions the boys asked with much enthusiasm.

Max went on to explain that a $1,000,000 truck would be doing well to still be functioning after two years. And that’s before factoring in the trailers, tyres, fuel, break downs and repairs – and that’s just on one truck. for the boys, it was easy to see why Rio Tinto invests so much into their employees and the importance they place on training their people to carry out all the work created by their operation.

The Lake Mcleod site is also very lucky to have its own export port located just a short drive down one of the most maintained roads in the Gascoyne area. The Cape is home to Lake MacLeod’s export facilities, with dump bridges, refuelling areas, kilometres of conveyor belts and product stockpiles.

Max explained all the different equipment, machinery and roles that exist within Lake MacLeod’s operations. The options seemed just as vast as the site itself – fixed plant, light vehicle, heavy duty diesel mechanics, auto electricians, general electricians, laboratory technicians, stores, plant operations, ship loaders, lake workers, operators, general works and administration – just to name a few.

Throughout the tour, the boys engaged and interacted with Rio Tinto’s staff to a high degree. From the usual maintenance workshops, crib rooms and stores on site, to the vast salt crystallisers and wash plant, the mountains of pure salt and beautiful scenery of sites own export port – it was easy to see the genuine interest the boys showed for learning more about possible careers and experiences they could put their hands up for.

The Carnarvon Academy has been very fortunate in the past years with numerous boys completing School Based Traineeships and apprenticeships with Rio Tinto.

The Academy currently has two second year apprentices and two School Based Trainees at the Lake Mcleod site and another working FIFO out of Carnarvon to Marandoo. We hope to add another to the list as he is currently completing his application for an apprenticeship in 2018.

With Rio Tinto running such a productive and engaging operation and being located just out of Carnarvon, it is little wonder why employment there is so highly sought. This encourages the boys to grow over the next few months (much like the salt) in the hope that they too will be harvested for their skills and enthusiasm in the years to come.

Visit to Rio Tinto Salt Lake McLeod (2) [600px WA] Visit to Rio Tinto Salt Lake McLeod (1) [600px WA] Visit to Rio Tinto Salt Lake McLeod (4) [600px WA] Visit to Rio Tinto Salt Lake McLeod (3) [600px WA]