Cockatoo Island

Vlaming sailed past it. Dampier never noticed it. Matthew Flinders didn't see it. 19th Century pearl fishermen knew about it. Ships stop there to load ore. Cockatoo Island, set among over 700 islands of the Buccaneer Archipelago, was for many years one of the most profitable iron ore mines operated by BHP.

Cockatoo Island is one of thousands of islands that makes up the rich coastline of the West Kimberley. Not to be confused with the similarly named island beyond the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the Parramatta River, Western Australia's Cockatoo Island is located 130 kms from Derby, 198 kms from Broome, the island may be accessed by air from Derby (40 minutes) or Broome (70 minutes).

Cockatoo Island, off the north-west coast of the Kimberley, has been mined for its high quality iron ore since 1948, when BHP first held the lease. In those days there were no environmental and rehabilitation requirements. The ore lies on the south face of the island, which has been mined into a sheer cliff.

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Where is it?

Cockatoo Island is an island in the Buccaneer Archipelago off the coast of Western Australia near the town of Derby.

Other parts of the island have been extensively quarried for rocks, and former rubbish dumps have become exposed. An old BHP tailings dam lies like a wide flat claypan, with no regrowth of vegetation. Earth-moving machinery lies rusting in the landscape, as do abandoned sheds and fuel tanks. The townsite formed by BHP, which contained a school, movie theatre and even a lockup prison, was resurrected during the 1980s by businessman Alan Bond who opened a tourist resort using the old mining village's infrastructure. This was later sold and closed and is now leased for mining staff accommodation and recreation.

Pluton Resources commenced mining activities on Cockatoo Island on 1 October 2012 at the Stage 4 area and shipped its first cargo of high grade iron ore into Asia in December 2012.

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