Weipa is an isolated bauxite mining town on the westy coast of Cape York.
Location: 838 km north of Cairns.
With a population of around 3,500, Weipa is the largest community on Cape York Peninsula. It exists because of the enormous bauxite deposits along the coast. The Port of Weipa is mainly involved in the export of bauxite and cattle. The present town was constructed mainly by Comalco (now called Rio Tinto Alcan), a large aluminium company, which began making trial shipments of bauxite to Japan in 1962.
The mouth of the Pennefather River is an attractive area for camping and there are many white sand beaches on the coast south of the river. There are no public amenities at these locations, so the camper should be well-prepared.
The coasts in the Weipa area was the first stretch of Australian coastline ever discovered explored by Europeans. The Dutch explorer Willem Jansz, sailing the Duyfken in 1606, first sighted land near where Weipa stands today. The crew of the Duyfken made the first recorded contact between Aboriginal and European people at the Pennefather River about 50 km north of Weipa. The northern point of Albatross Bay is named Duyfken Point in honour of the expedition. The mouth of the Pennefather River is an attractive area for camping and there are many white sand beaches on the coast south of the river. There are no public amenities at these locations.
Bauxite mine tours: Tours provide a comprehensive insight into the whole process of mining at Weipa. The tour includes the bauxite operations, and provides visitors with a chance to safely see the enormous mining equipment, trucks, locomotives and other plant employed at Weipa. Times, sosts, bookings, advice on suitable clothing and so on, are available at Town Office.
Weipa Aboriginal shell mounds: The Weipa shell mounds are made up of around 200 000 tonnes of shells which seem to have been placed in the area about 800 years ago. How and why they got there is a mystery.
Uningan Nature Reserve: Bird Watching and Nature Walks have been developed in this reserve, which covers an area of over 2,800 hectares and includes habitats such as open woodland, palm forests and mangroves. 9km of walking tracks have been marked and several footbridges constructed over creeks in the area. Features such as the large shell mounds (middens) and canoe trees are signposted.
Brief history: Missionaries arrived in the area in 1891 and a decade later the geologist CFV Jackson noted the presence of bauxite. There was little interest in the mineral at the time - the gold discoveries at the Wenlock River were attracting much more attention. It wasn't until 1955 that the pure bauxite deposits of the area began to be exploited. Weipa is now the largest bauxite mine in the world. The known deposits are likely to last for another 250 years at the present rate of extraction. The town was built by Comalco and the Queensland government in the early 1960s and the port of Weipa was officially opened in 1962.
Origin of name: of Aboriginal origin, it is the name of the locality given by the Yupangati people.