The Ghost Town of Wittenoom

Wittenoom is a ghost town, located 1425 km North of Perth in Western Australia via Newman. It is 460 m above sea level.

It has become famous for being a ghost town as it was removed from the Western Australia maps in 2007 and legislation was introduced to forcibly remove the last three residents in 2015.

However, theres more to the story of this ghost town as it is shrouded in a  dark history. Wittenoom is located at the mouth of the Wittenoom Gorge and was the home to Australia's greatest industrial disasters ever recorded. However, being in the Harmersley Range, it has claim to being situated; Geographically in one of the most beautiful area’s of the Pilbara.

WARNING SIGNS are first thing any visitor will see clearly stating: DANGER!— Asbestos Tailings Risk Area. Inhaling asbestos fibres may cause cancer.

The Town of Wittenoom and Wittenoom Gorge were named after the pastoralist and politician Sir Edward Horne Wittenoom. (1854—1936).

THE HORRIFIC STORY BEHIND ONE OF AUSTRALIA’S WORST EVER RECORDED INDUSTRIAL DISASTERS

During the mining boom that lasted between 1950 through to the early 1960s  over 2,000 people have died from the asbestos-related diseases of asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. The sad truth is that the death toll is still rising as more people are being reported of suffering of being exposed to the lethal properties of asbestos.

The town was once occupied by 20,000 men, woman and children who lived and worked in Wittenoom. An estimation of over 25 percent of the men that worked in the mines will die of asbestos related diseases.

The once thriving and beautiful town of Wittenoom has become nothing but a desolate ghost town has left a tragic past behind. To further illustrate, the local shops are boarded up, the two school are closed, the local cinema is derelict. 

The original settlers used asbestos tailings top break the monotony of Pilbara’s harsh red soils. Hence asbestos was used in all throughout the town in school yards, gardens, on the road and at the race track. 

Asbestos tailings were even used to build the airport.

By the 1980’s once the people were aware of the health risks of being exposed to the lethal airborne asbestos particles, the race was on to fix the impact that the asbestos had caused on the town.In the wake of the devastating news the local shire council and its residents began to immediately rectify the situation. Car parks were scraped and respected, roads were resealed and yards were covered with clean fill.

Former state MP for Pilbara Larry Graham described the town as “ extraordinarily dangerous… the most contaminated place on the planet.”

The fate of Wittenoom was left in the hands of the Western Australian Government that decided it was cheaper and safer to abandon the town. Although, there is an astronomical amount of asbestos to clean and clear. It would be great to see the once vibrant town of Wittenoom booming with tourists and people once again.