This Christmas

Remember this Christmas that there are people who can’t have children, there are people who are away from their children, there are people who have lost children, there are people who miss their parents, there are people who have lost their parents. There are people who want to be alone, there are those who have no choice but to be alone. There is a lot of sadness around Christmas, so before you get your jollies on this year, think about what it’s like for others and what a struggle it can be to get through the season. And please, don’t get angry over queues or car spaces, it’s not worth it. Most people have forgotten what Christmas even means, just the commercial junket that it is, rather than an opportunity to be a better person, and to be thankful for what they have.

Gold fever


Mining has taken over Tomingley but will it be boom or bust for the sleepy village? After visiting the site that has everyone talking, NATALIE HOLMES pondered the price of happiness.


As the eucalypt bush gives way to the open plains of Central West NSW, a single grazing Merino is startled by the disturbance of a busload of visitors.

Trees disappear from view and a barren yet busy landscape becomes apparent in the vast bare space ahead.

In the haze of yet another blistering summer’s day, giant 90 tonne dump trucks buzz around and workers prepare for operation at the newly-commissioned mill. In this farming heartland, it’s a foreign sight.

But, almost precisely halfway between Melbourne and Brisbane and intersected by the bustling national Newell Highway sits the nest egg of mining company Alkane Resources Ltd – the Tomingley Gold Mine. Welcome to the future.

In its search for minerals in this area, the multi-million dollar company struck gold – literally – when it discovered a lode extending all the way to its Peak Hill Mine site, 15km to the south. Situated on the south-western fringe of the village, the Tomingley Gold Project is based on four deposits with a total of nearly one million ounces of the precious metal.

Exploration began in 2001, the feasibility study was completed in 2010 and project approval granted by the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure in 2012. Three parcels of land totalling 1500ha were purchased and construction of the one million tonnes per annum plant and associated infrastructure commenced soon after the mining lease was granted in February 2013. The mine was finally commissioned in January, just a few weeks ago.

The timing of the visit by investors, journalists and associates of the company comes just one day after the open cut mine has become fully operational and mine manager Kym Mosey is pleased with its progress.

He explains that there are three pits named after the properties on which they are based, Wyoming One and Wyoming Three, Caloma and Caloma Two.

Wyoming One is the largest, with a 500m diameter and a depth of 150m. At 80m deep and 400m across, Wyoming Three is the smallest and shallowest of the pits. Caloma has the greatest tonnage while Caloma Two is the least developed of the group.

With trucks, excavators and graders already on the move removing the topsoil and waste above the ore deposit, work is well and truly under way and Mosey says preparation actually began in October last year.



The first night shift was done just the evening before, signalling that mining has begun in earnest. Alkane Resources has employed 120 people on site and everyone lives in the area. There are no fly-in fly-out personnel and staff are rostered on a four days on and four days off rotation.

“Apart from some specialists, it’s a local skill base,” Mosey confirms.

“Employment is made up of operators, ancillary support and mechanical support and many workers have been drawn from Dubbo, Parkes and Peak Hill. They work on a hybrid short shift roster and because most people live within a half hour or 40 minute drive away, we also have a fatigue management plan in place.”

Earthmoving group MAAS from Dubbo has been contracted to develop ore roads and assist with development of the $5m underpass which is needed because the highway intersects the mine.


Mine manager Kym Mosey

Mosey says there has been plenty of community awareness and transparency from the company, and that local people were on the whole accepting of the mining industry’s shift into the area.

The Tomingley Gold Project is not the first mine here though and this area is no stranger to mining – it’s just never been done on this scale before.



Just to the south of Tomingley is the site of the old McPhail Mine where workings were taking place in the early 1900s.

The mine closed in 1910 and is now classified as crown land. According to local stories, before it was sealed, it was used as a dumping ground for artillery and ammunition after World War II.

What lies beneath the surface is what’s most fascinating to Alkane’s managing director Ian Chalmers who says that beneath his own corporate exterior beats the heart of a geologist.

He’s been with the company for some 20 years and is most fascinated by the region’s history.



“There was an old gold mine here from 1896 to 1910, and prospectors first found a gold nugget in an ant’s nest,” he says.

The ants were the original gold miners here, alerting humans to the rich underground deposits of the volcanic belt.

Chalmers says Tomingley is a mining dream, with large accessible pockets of gold. With an expected lifespan of seven years, 400-450,000 ounces of gold will be reaped from this area at an average of 55,000oz a year. Further exploration could extend beyond that seven year mark, with Caloma Two tipped for underground exploration for up to another five years.

But compared with some of the other mines in the Central West, this is a baby, Chalmers points out.

“Cadia averages 500,000oz a year while Lake Cowal is 250,000oz,” he explains.

“The potential here is that the gold is easy to reach, and with nearby water and power sources, has the infrastructure already in place. And there’s no marketing required.

“The double benefit is that it’s easy to get at and the good thing about gold is that it sells itself.”

Annual revenue at the mine is expected to be $80-80million per annum and although it varies, the profit margin on operating costs of $1000/oz is $350/oz with cash earnings expected to be $1350/oz depending on the market.



The treasure hunter inside Chalmers is most excited about the project.

“The fun is in finding it,” he says with a grin.

One family whose lives have been dramatically changed by the rediscovery of gold in this area is the Pearse family.

James Pearse and his wife Diane are the former owners of Wyoming, which was a working sheep and wheat farm until gold mining came to town.

Pearse has mixed feelings about the development and was sad to say goodbye to the property he’d lived and worked for the past 20 years.

“My father Jim bought the farm from the McNivens.

“John and Max McNiven and their family had been there for a very long time. They actually moved the homestead there in the ‘30s or ‘40s.”

While there’s no sign of the homestead anymore, there is a giant bore mill which stands out against the summer sky but blends in with the surrounding earth.

As processing manager Simone Painter points out, it’s there ready to crush and grind the ore before it is processed on-site and poured into bullion ready for the Perth Mint. She is on hand to explain the technical workings of the plant, which runs at an impressive 3000kw.



“The jaw crusher can process 180 tonnes an hour,” she explains.

She wears gold jewellery, so evidently believes in the product she is processing.

Some of the money won’t be transported to Western Australia and is staying behind. Pearse says the mine has boosted the local economy.

He is now helping out his wife who has secured the lease at the local watering hole, the Cross Roads Hotel.

“It’s going to provide a lot of work for the village,” he points out, but asked about public attitude, the story varies a little.

“It’s a bit of a 50/50. People that have gained employment there are happy but a few people are leaving because of it.”

Pearse says there’s an underlying fear of seeing their sleepy village change.

“A lot of people didn’t want it, as you can imagine. Think of a village with no crime or stealing…they are worried about the loss of their quiet little village.”

As a farmer, Pearse had worked with his father Jim, who passed away a while ago. Operating their sheep and wheat property, he says that prospecting for gold never crossed his mind. And of course, he was not prepared for what the future would hold.

“There were a couple of little shafts but we never took much notice.

“Then a few years back, we were approached to go on an option agreement with Alkane exercising the option to buy. Of course when that time came, we didn’t have a lot of choice. When a mining company means business, there’s not much you can do to change that and there’s no point ruffling their feathers.”

Pearse admits it was upsetting to see his former home converted into a mining area.

“The first three months I was very depressed. It hurt a lot and I didn’t like to see what they were doing. But you’ve got to get over it and get on with your life. In hindsight, I wished we’d moved away from the area.”


At the Tomingley Gold Project site

Whether or not this development will have long-term positive or negative effects on the region is yet to be seen.

Alkane Resources has certainly dotted its Is and crossed all its Ts and the project meets all environmental guidelines.



Water is sourced from a bore in Narromine and shared equally between the mill and the mine, electricity comes from the grid at Peak Hill and dust, light and noise quotas are heavily monitored. A rehabilitation management plan including tree planting is also in place.

Alkane Resources general manager – NSW and Dubbo man Mike Sutherland, says although certain wildlife such as the grey-crowned babbler bird species and Aboriginal artefacts have been found in the area, both are being respectfully managed in line with their heritage and cultural value.

“We have consulted with various fauna experts and the dendroglyphs (scar trees marking Aboriginal burial sites) have been recognised and preserved,” he explains.

Combining the natural and man-made worlds, the Tomingley Gold Project is marrying the old and the new in a rural region more accustomed to shearing and harvest.

Yet it is providing local employment and boosting the economy in an era that certainly needs that investment.

Gold fever is in the air and love it or hate it, the future is here.

“There’s been a bombing in Manchester”

These were the words that haunted Mancunian Tim Gratton, who was preparing for a 9am meeting at his home in Australia more than 16,000km away when he heard the chilling news.
“I found out this morning. I’m totally in shock.”
The suicide bombing, which took place at an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena, claimed 22 lives and injured dozens more on Monday night. The senseless attack has left Gratton saddened, stunned and hoping that his large network of friends and family back home are safe.
“It’s hard to know what’s happening, I am all the way over here in Australia. It’s difficult. Just last week, my relatives were attending a Bruno Mars concert at the same stadium. It’s the time of year when there are lots of concerts and festivals.”
“At a time like this, you think of all your mates, people having a night out, having a good time.”
The concert venue is located just outside the city centre and adjacent to Victoria Station, one of the city’s main rail hubs.
“It’s where I used to catch the train every day. It’s pretty frightening.” As a former member of the military, the carnage caused in his home city is all too familiar and brought back memories of a similar incident in the 1990s.
“I have seen the devastation that bombs do. I’ve been in that position where you are scraping bits off the floor. That’s the worst thing I’ve seen, body parts, kids all over the place.”
Many of those attending the concert were children and teenagers, who were leaving to meet up with family and friends when the explosion occurred in the foyer area – turning a night of entertainment into a night of terror.
“These were 13 and 14 year old kids, who were coming out of the concert to meet their parents.”
Tim has lived in the Dubbo area, in Central West NSW, for seven years.
He says it shares a lot of similarities with his home town.
“Dubbo has a lot of big families, my family in the UK is the same. And Manchester, although it’s a big city, it’s a small community. It’s a friendly city.”

if at first you don’t succeed

This morning, I didn’t win a contract. Never mind that I was recommended for the job. However, unfortunately, over the distance of 6004km and the vastness of cyberspace, it was decided that my type of writing did not suit their type of writing. And that is fair enough. It is absolutely what happens in business – when a hairdresser doesn’t suit you, when a supermarket is too far away. There are oodles of reasons why we don’t choose people for tasks. I don’t know why I somehow take it as a personal insult. Is it that I am worried about the money I didn’t make or did I feel like the kid who didn’t get picked for the sports team? I’m not sure, but what I have done is learned from the experience. I have made a note in my diary to be who the client wants me to be. After all, it is their needs that must be met, not mine.

When sorry seems to be the hardest word

Another rant on manners, this time from the scratchings of Lynne Truss.

“The world is changing. Those of us who autoimagesmatically deal out politeness words in suitable contexts are becoming uncomfortably aware that we earn less credit for it than we used to. It is becoming obvious that we are the exception rather than the rule, and that our beautiful manners fall on stony ground. People who serve the public are becoming impervious to rudeness, either because they are young and don’t care, or because they are older and have learned to toughen up or suffer a nervous breakdown. Either way, if you attempt to sympathise with a shop-worker who has just served a rude customer, the response is rarely the one you expect. Mainly you will get a blank shrug, which carries the worrying implication: this person doesn’t care whether customers are polite or not.” – Talk to the hand

Time is on my side

“I have to tell you that I don’t believe in death. I don’t experience time as limited. I know it is, but I don’t feel it. I could live three hours or I could live thirty years, I don’t know. Time doesn’t pray upon my mind. It should, but it doesn’t. I don’t know yet what this will all add up to, and it no longer matters, because there’s no stopping. And this stuff is not going to matter anyway, as we know. So there’s no sense even contemplating it, you know. Just get it right, and the rest is the human comedy: the evaluations, the lists, the crappy articles, the insults, the praise. I want only to respond to my work. I don’t want to respond to all that stuff. It’s not important. It was, and it is for others at a certain time, but it can’t be important anymore. If I’m healthy and strong and writing every day, who cares? Whatever problem is raised by me by what I’m writing, I think, don’t worry about it, all it takes is time. That’s all it takes. I don’t worry anymore that I don’t have what it takes to solve the problem. There are no interruptions, and I’ve got all the time in the world. Time is on my side.” – Philip Roth ‘Into the Clear’ in Reporting by David Remnick