In 2009 I spent a few months commissioning the Prominent Hill mining site outside of Cooper Pedy in the middle of whoop whoop. The camp was only a few kilometres from the plant where we worked so a group of us would walk back on the tracks provided once in a while. Or at least we thought we would because in the great, fly oppressive landscape that is the desert around Prominent Hill, it was very red, very dry, very dusty and fucking hot.
After a particular hot dusty day, a group of us decided that we would finally walk back to camp. It felt like a good idea. We started off towards the tracks but to get there we had walk next to one of the access roads that lead to some of the site offices. At the end of the road we came to a T intersection that connects with the main road back to camp and the walking track was in sight just beyond. A bus came up from behind and stopped at the intersection before us. There was no traffic. We stopped and waited on the side of the road for the bus to pass, but it just sat there at the intersection.
It did nothing.
We waited some more.
It did nothing still.
Finally we said “fuck it, let’s cross”.
We crossed the road and on the other side there were 10 or so meters of desert to get through to the walking track. As we stepped off the road the bus, still at the intersection, opened the door and with it came a loud screech.
“Excuse me! Where do you think you’re going!?” we turned around and out from the bus popped a highly wound lady with her hair pulled back way too tight.
“We’re just going to the walking track,” said one of our bravest.
“You can’t walk through there, use the access path.”
“Access path? What fucking access path?”
“Over there,” and where the lady was pointing, we could only see dust and dirt. The lightly painted yellow bars were lost against a sun set lit red desert background. She had to show us.
“Why can’t we just walk across there?” oh how brave the stupid were.
“Because you will ruin the environment” she said silhouetted against a whopping big hole. From behind her the faint smell of chemicals wafting in the breeze without a sense of irony. We pointed said irony out to her, it did not help. “Who do you work for?” she asked. We covered up the logo on our breast pocket and said BHP. Looking less than impressed, she jumped into her bus, and it took off.