Ravensthorpe And Hopetoun Show Resilience In Tough Times

THEY’VE been battered by floods, bypassed by tourists and “kicked in the guts” as the area’s biggest mine is mothballed, leaving hundreds of workers facing the employment axe.

But Ravensthorpe and neighbouring Hopetoun are no strangers to hard times, and on Saturday the resilience of country WA was on display in spades as hundreds of residents forgot their woes and celebrated the opening day of the Ravensthorpe Wildflower Show and Spring Festival.

“We’ve certainly been kicked in the guts our fair share of times. But we’re promoting the good, not the gloom,” Shire president Keith Dunlop said, summing up the sentiment of many.

Last month, Canadian mining giant First Quantum Minerals announced it would put its Ravensthorpe nickel operations in WA’s South East into care and maintenance mode because of low nickel prices.

The Toronto-based company employs about 250 staff and 200 contractors and the closure will hit the community hard, with small business owners bracing for a downturn and many redundant workers leaving or preparing to leave town.

It comes after devastating floods ripped through the region, flooding farms and paddocks, destroying roads and bridges, and cutting off access to the stunning Fitzgerald River National Park, meaning Ravensthorpe and Hopetoun also lost their revenue from tourism.

For many, the closure of the mine has echoes of the 2009 decision by BHP Billiton to close the same nickel mine.

At the time, BHP spent about $US3 billion building and commissioning the facility before the global financial crisis forced its closure only months later.

But for long-time locals like Sue Leighton — who is co-ordinator of the wildflower show but has also done three stints working at the First Quantum nickel mine as a security administrator, a receptionist and in the nursery growing plants for revegetation — there is a sense that the town has been here before and come through intact.