HANSARD – Legislative Assembly of Western
[Thursday, 5 December 2002]
HANCOCK, DEVELOPMENT OF IRON ORE INDUSTRY
Leader of the Opposition
MR C.J. BARNETT
(Cottesloe - Leader of the Opposition)
thank the Leader of the House for his concurrence in allowing these brief
statements to be made. On behalf of the Parliamentary Liberal Party I
recognise and pay respect to the role played by the late Lang Hancock in the
discovery of iron ore and the development of the iron ore industry in the
Pilbara region of this State.
Although iron ore had been identified in the Pilbara as long ago as the
1890s, it was in 1952 that Lang Hancock discovered the extent of the iron
ore deposits. I will quote from the words of Lang Hancock - a quotation that
has been used quite often recently when he described the discovery made
during what is often described as the discovery flight. He said –
In November of 1952, I was flying down south with my wife Hope, and we left
a bit later than usual and by the time we got over the Hamersley Ranges, the
clouds had formed and the ceiling got lower and lower. I got into the Turner
River, knowing full well if I followed it through, I would come out into the
On going through a gorge in the Turner River, I noticed that the walls
looked to me to be solid iron and was particularly alerted by the rusty
looking colour of it, it showed to me to be oxidised iron.
Mr L. Graham interjected.
Mr C.J. BARNETT: Members opposite may make light of it, but we in this State
have a responsibility every now and again to recognise the role that some
great people in this State have played. Although there may always be dispute
about who discovered what and who played the dominant role, there is no
doubt that Lang Hancock, through the observation that he made 50 years ago,
brought about the development of the iron ore industry in this State. It did
not happen quickly. It took from 1952 until 1966 before the iron ore
industry started its great expansion.
From 1953 to 1960 Lang Hancock led the charge to lobby the federal
Government to lift the embargo on iron ore exports that had been imposed
because it was thought that Australia was short of iron ore. In 1960 he
succeeded and that embargo was lifted. The following year an embargo under
state law was lifted that had prevented the pegging of iron ore deposits in
He formed a business partnership with E.A. Wright, and Hancock and Wright
became almost a household name in Western Australia. From the pastoralist
who noticed and discovered the iron ore to someone who lobbied politicians
to remove that embargo, Lang Hancock also took the further step when he
became a business person of international standing. Indeed, he attracted the
chairman of Rio Tinto, Val Duncan, to visit and to see the site first hand.
He also went to the United States and attracted the major steel producer,
Kaiser Steel, to become interested and involved in the project. In 1962 he
found the market. He recognised that the market was the rapidly growing
Japanese steel industry. Through the initial involvement of Marubeni, he
found through that trading company the first entry into the Japanese steel
industry. Other players, such as Mitsui, have subsequently come through.
From discovery to political lobbying to international business, that vision
and determination was rewarded in 1966 with the commissioning of the Tom
Price iron ore mine, using Brockman ores, and the commissioning of the
Dampier port under the banner of Hamersley Iron, an area in your electorate,
Lang Hancock was at times a controversial person. He had ideas with which
many people did not agree. He clashed with political leaders and other
proponents in the iron ore industry, but he never lost sight of the vision.
He was one of those people in our history who could see beyond the immediate
future. He could see in the long term what it would mean.
What has it meant? Today Western Australia produces in excess of 160 million
tonnes of iron ore a year, 15 per cent of the world’s production of iron
ore, and over a third of all international sea-going trade for iron ore. In
recent years Western Australia has exceeded Brazil as the major iron ore
exporter. This State produces more than half the iron ore imports of Japan,
China, Korea and Taiwan, the major iron and steel producing nations of the
The discoveries of Lang Hancock continue to be commissioned. In 1990 the
Channar mine involving a Chinese joint venture came into being. In 1994 the
Marandoo deposit was developed. This year I was pleased to be present at the
commissioning of the West Angeles mine, a project in which I as a former
minister played some role.
On behalf of the Liberal Party on this fiftieth anniversary of that
discovery, I wish to acknowledge and pay respect to the achievements of Lang
Hancock as a great Australian, a great Western Australian and a pioneer and
founder of the Western Australian iron ore industry.