York geology is all about poor soils and a very old landscape.
Australia was geologically active when it still belonged to the
supercontinent Gondwana. But since it separated from Gondwanaland
started drifting northwards, it became a very inactive continent when
it comes to geology.
Far away from the continental plate margins,
it hasn't had any active volcanoes or massive earthquakes for
quite a while - since the building of the Great Dividing Range
mountain range that follows the whole east coast of Australia, and is
the only mountainous part of Australia - the rest of the continent is
pretty flat land.
The reason for
this flatness is its geological
it has given erosion a lot of time to flatten all the ancient mountain
ranges, and no new ones have been built.
This is also why you find so
many amazing, old
rock formations in Australia - they have all been
by long-time erosion, and no geological processes have been there to
hasn't got any really famous rock formations (Mount
Mulligan is one
of the most impressive),
but some interesting
geological features that you will come across are
boulders, white sand dunes, coloured sands, limestone
caves, and the world's largest bauxite
three distinctive geological regions on Cape York peninsula are the
Great Dividing Range;
on the eastern coast, and Gulf
Basin on the western coast.
Great Dividing Range is Australia's youngest and highest mountain
range, and as such it is not high at all by world's standards. It runs
all the way from Victoria
in the south to the tip of Cape
York. You will notice it mostly in the south-eastern parts of
the Great Dividing Range runs roughly along the eastern coast and
central east, it is interrupted by Laura Basin - a lowland area around
Princess Charlotte Bay. You will notice it in the area around Musgrave,
towards and in Lakefield
Plains - Carpentaria Basin
third major geological region on the Cape
is the Gulf
Basin. It covers almost the whole western half of the peninsula -
from the northernmost tip past Weipa,
Pormpuraaw and Kowanyama, and down south to Karumba and
Normanton in the Gulf
York is well known for its soils that are poor in nutrients - the main
reason why large scale development of the peninsula has been impossible
- thanks heaven! Much of its soils
are beautifully red - and those are
the poorest soils. Black soils are generally more fertile.
Dunes and Coloured Sands
the south-eastern parts of the peninsula, north of Cooktown, around
Cape Flattery and Hopevale,
are some extensive sand dunes. Those
got here when Australia went through a period of ice ages, and the
water levels around it were lower than today.
Although historically famous for its gold rushes, there is no gold
mining in Cape York today, and neither do we have any opal.
But in the
of the peninsula, particularly around Weipa, are
world's largest bauxite deposits, and there is some extensive bauxite mining.
are also some interesting granite
boulders in Cape York. Black
south of Cooktown,
and the headland of Cape
Melville north-east of
Lakefield National Park, consist of heaps of black granite boulders.
Granite is not a black rock - the colour comes from an algae.
are also some massive limestone bluffs just south of the
peninsula around Chillagoe.
Those are the remnants of the Great Barrier Reef about 500 million
years ago when the area was the bottom of an inland sea. Limestone
is a rock that
dissolves quite easily - that's how limestone caves are formed, and
are a good example.
is the world's number one bauxite mining country.
York has some of
the richest deposits
Weipa would probably not exist without bauxite mining, at least it
would not be the
place it is.
Some new mines have been proposed, the only bad thing is it threatens the habitat of some
species such as palm cockatoo.
Bauxite Mining in Australia
is the world's
bauxite producer with five mines, six alumina refineries, six
primary smelters, and 16 mills.
There are three mines in Western
Australia - Boddington, Huntly and Willowdale (there are also
in the Kimberley which are so far not mined).
But the highest grade
are mined at Gove in Northern Territory (UPDATE
closed as of January 2014), and Weipa
Most Australian deposits are high
silica, which makes refining more costly, but the
that they are shallow and therefore quite easy to mine.
All are hosted by aluminium
laterites, where the main ore bearing mineral is gibbsite.
Bauxite Mining in Weipa
deposits were first
reported as early as in the 1700s, but geologist
Harry Evans discovered in 1955 that they were worth mining.
about 2500 square kilometres there is about 1.2 billion tonnes of ore.
The ore mineral occurs in peaklike (pisolitic) form, and consists of 55% of
14% of boehmite.
mining began, and the production
multiplied from 453,365 tonnes in 1964 to 16.3 million (dry product)
The Weipa mine is owned by Rio Tinto Alcan.
It consists of a few open
where front end loaders extract the ore and load it onto huge trailers which haul
the ore to a dump station.
At the dump station the ore is loaded onto conveyors and trains, which take
it to a plant
at Lorim Point.
At the plant, the ore is screened
before being loaded
that take it to
Gladstone on central Queensland coast, where aluminium is extracted
from the ore, and some of it exported
After the mining is done the area is revegetated.
does destroy the habitat
endemic Cape York species, such as palm
The post-mining revegetation
sounds good but it does not
replace the old growth forests with hollow trees that are
necessary for our most iconic bird, found nowhere else in Australia.
Get this 50 pages guide totally for FREE. It
contains information that helps you getting started with planning of your trip.
You get to make early-stages desicions such as when to go, how long time you
should take, how to get
there and get
to stay (general info), what
will it cost..
and a short insight to what is there to see and do in Cape York.
This complete 300 pages
travel guide is all you need before and during your trip. Besides the
background chapters on the peninsula's history and wildlife; and the comprehensive detail about all the places (down to prices, opening hours and full contact detail), it has invaluable information on at least 10 four wheel drive tracks, at least 30 guaranteed FREE camping spots on the Cape (and at least 150 on your way to the Cape), at least 40 best swimming holes, all mapped; as well as practical things - from fuel, roads, wireless internet and mobile phone reception, how to deal with the national parks booking rules; and Aboriginal land entrance and camping permits and alcohol restrictions - to vehicle preparation and accessories and necessary recovery gear by my partner Mark who is the recovery guy on northern Cape York and the Old Telegraph Track). Not to mention locals' tips on how to spot that croc and palm cockatoo ;-)
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