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The Lang Hancock chapter in North of the 26th: A collection of writings, paintings, drawings and photographs from the Kimberley, Pilbara and Gascoyne regions, edited by Helen Weller with assistance from Roy Hamilton and John Harper-Nelson (Northbridge, Western Australia: Access Press, 1994), vol. 2, pp. 213-16.

14 June 1991

Mr Roy A. Hamilton
Consulting Engineer
PO Box 724
South Perth WA 6151

Dear Roy

With reference to your letter of 6 June 1991 I have written an article for your book, and you will find enclosed a Precis of the Ludwig Plan for the North West Development.

This is a plan mainly devised by Hancock and Wright for Dr Ludwig some 30 years ago before any mines, ports or railroads were built in the North West. It was rejected by the Liberal Party Government of the day. This rejection constitutes one of the greatest tragedies ever to befall Western Australia.

Now, after 30 years of wasted time, I am in the midst of negotiations with the Italian Government and the Government of the USSR to carry out some modification of the Ludwig Plan based on a major trunk down hill railway leading to a port site near Depuch known as Ronsard, capable of servicing 250,000 tonne ships on a year round basis. At this port site will be placed a sponge iron plant, a ferro manganese plant and ultimately a steel mill.

Yours sincerely

[signed]

L.G. HANCOCK

A plan for co-ordinated mineral development of the Pilbara as submitted to W.A. Government in 1964.

Hancock and Wright persisted for three years in their attempt to attract Australian resources and capital for the mineral development of the Pilbara. Australian companies and institutions were lobbied with energy and ethusiasm but their efforts failed to attract a single participant. They then decided to seek support overseas and were successful in initiating an agreement with Rio Tinto which ultimately led to the establishment of Hamersley Iron’s Tom Price.

Some years later the partners undertook a visit to the U.K. The trail quickly led to the U.S.A. where we attracted the interest of Daniel K. Ludwig who was the principal and sole owner of National Bulk Carriers and its associates. National Bulk Carriers comprise the largest construction and operating shipping complex in the world specialising in the transportation of bulk commodities. Their activities include transportation, exploration and development of minerals such as iron and other metal ores, coal, potash, phosphates and salt, ship building and operation, operation and maintenance of port facilities, river and harbour dredging, oil refining, production of petrochemicals, operation of a cattle ranch, an orange grove and land development. It is claimed that Ludwig taught the Japanese how to make ships with the result that they dominated the world’s trade to the point where they built more ships than the rest of the world put together.

Basically Hancock and Wright proposed that a main track rail line should be established, with feeder services from the proposed iron ore producers of the Pilbara, terminating in a unified port instead of multiple ports planned by each producer. The reduction of overheads this could have achieved, coupled with the use of National Bulk Carriers giant carriers, would have enabled Western Australia to operate competitively in not only the Japanese market but also in Europe and the U.S.A. Ludwig was to buy an equity in iron ore discoveries to which the partners had secured title.

Ludwig’s immediate response to our visit was to send his chief investigating engineer to Western Australia where he was flown from mineral deposit to mineral deposit by Hancock supplemented by ground reconnaissances. He was followed by M.W. Reed who had designed the $135 million unorthodox Quebec-Cartier iron mining, rail and port complex. His mission was to consider the feasibility of Hancock and Wright’s proposals. He was accompanied by the firm’s legal adviser, David Batchelder and by Peter Stork.

Reports were evidently favourable for Ludwig himself kept his promise and decided to visit Western Australia and arrived in 1964. He also had in mind to transfer his shipyards from Japan to Western Australia, probably Cockburn Sound, if this was economically feasible.

At about this time Japanese mills began to complete long term contracts with Pilbara producers for massive shipments of iron ore.

Hancock flew Ludwig in his single engine Cessna on an air reconnaissance of the major fields to indicate the magnitude of the Pilbara ore and to emphasise the opportunities for a co-ordinated plan of development of the mineral fields. After this reconnaissance he flew to Perth for an interview with the Premier, Mr. Brand.

On the 4th June, 1964 National Bulk Carriers submitted a preliminary report to the Premier on their activities in Western Australia to date and requested Exploration Permits for areas containing medium to low grade iron ore. On the 10th July, 1964 they submitted for approval details of their planned activities in Western Australia. Their proposals included a co-ordinated transport system with one large unified port which would be available to all interested parties.

The result should be an acceleration of the mineral development of the Pilbara District and important benefits to the overall economy of Western Australia. They expected to draw the resources for the programme from their extensive world-wide background and skill. Specifically their programme included:

  1. Exploration and development of iron area around Mt. Lockyer (Koodaiderie) for which applications to explore had been made by Hancock and Wright.
  2. Establishment of a beneficiating plant to upgrade the iron ore for use competitively in any blast or open hearth furnace.
  3. Construction of a single unified large port at Depuch Island or nearby to handly 166,000 DWT vessels and to serve the Hamersley-Mt. Newman area projects.
  4. A co-ordinated complex of rail connections as shown in the map (attached) to bring together in one operation the iron ore production of Broken Hill Pty. Ltd., Cleveland Cliffs, Hamersley Iron and Amax in addition to any ore from the Mt. Lockyer area. This was estimated to reduce the total rail trackage from 625 miles to about 425 miles including double trackage to handle high concentration traffic. Three separate ports could be eliminated and the savings in construction and operating costs should materially enhance the competitive position of Australian iron ore.
  5. Intent to develop blue asbestos deposits west of Mt. Lockyer and enlargement of existing manganese operations (Nimingarra) to include deposits at Balfour Downs. Investigate the possibility of developing large scale tin deposits in the Shaw River area and subsequently a tin smelter in Western Australia.
  6. Participation in any economic activities for the beneficiation, processing or other treatment arising out of additional discoveries triggered by the foregoing developments.
  7. The use of National Bulk Carriers maximum size shipping for the carriage of Pilbara products to world ports when economically feasible.
  8. Expansion into salt production in Western Australia if viable.
  9. Investigation of the shipping potential of other bulk products in Western Australia such as petroleum products, grain or other materials.

National Bulk Carriers claimed the following advantages for their planned activities:

  1. Use of modern beneficiation processes to upgrade low grade ore and fines which would otherwise be difficult to market economically.
  2. The substitution of beneficiated ores from some of the scrap iron imported into Japan and Europe would not bring about competition with any direct shipping ore to be produced in Western Australia. It noted that Japanese imports of scrap and pig iron from would sources approximated in monetary value their total raw iron imports. The development of the Mt. Lockyer and similar deposits with beneficiating plant should inspire Western Australia entering into a lucrative new market.
  3. The substitution of a single unified port for the multiple ports and the co-ordinated rail system should save approximately $150 million capital costs and thus reduce operating costs. Nimingarra/Yarrie/Goldsworthy ore could be shipped in shallow draft self unloading vessels from Cape Keraudren and stockpiled at Depuch for trans-shipment later.
  4. Early development and publication of a plan permitting economical exports of huge deposits of ore in the Pilbara could have a deterrent effect on potential overseas competitors who may be considering the initiation of new enterprises.
  5. Planned activities as outlined could place Western Australia in the most advantageous competitive position internationally as a supplier of high grade and beneficiated iron ore. Other benefits would include greater commercial and industrial activity in Western Australia.

LANG HANCOCK — Lang Hancock died on 27th March 1992. As can be seen from these notes which he provided for North of the 26th, he was one of the most imaginative entrepreneurs in Western Australia and as such suffered the constant irritation of bureaucratic obstructionism.

He was frequently represented as being rude and bloody minded but when I conducted a long interview on video tape with him for the Christensen Fund archival collection, I found him to be inclined to be shy and most courteous.

He certainly was not a man who suffered fools gladly but much of his forthrightness was that of the traditional directness of the pioneer. He was a perfectionist and I noticed that he had on the wall behind his desk a photograph of wicket-keeper Rod Marsh taking an amazing flying catch. When I asked him about it, he admitted that he would have liked to be a first class cricketer but basically that the picture represented his own ideal of constantly striving for the best. It is appropriate that he should be represented in this anthology of the North because, even now, the contribution he has made to northern development has not been adequately acknowledged.

John Harper-Nelson

(in order of appearance on Economics.org.au)
  1. Ron Manners’ Heroic Misadventures
  2. Hancock's Australia
  3. Hancock on Government Help
  4. Wake Up Australia: Excerpts Part 1
  5. Wake Up Australia: Excerpts Part 2
  6. Lang Hancock's Five Point Plan to Cripple Australia
  7. Governments Consume Wealth — They Don't Create It
  8. Up the Workers! Bob Howard's 1979 Workers Party Reflection in Playboy
  9. Jump on the Joh bandwagon
  10. John Singleton and Bob Howard 1975 Monday Conference TV Interview on the Workers Party
  11. Governments — like a red rag to a Rogue Bull
  12. Lang Hancock's Pilbara-Queensland Railway Proposal
  13. Singo, Howard and Hancock Want to Secede
  14. Lang Hancock's Foreword to Rip Van Australia
  15. New party will not tolerate bludgers: Radical party against welfare state
  16. Small and Big Business Should Oppose Government, says Lang Hancock
  17. A Condensed Case for Secession
  18. Hancock gets tough over uranium mining
  19. Hancock's threat to secede and faith in Whitlam
  20. PM's sky-high promise to Lang
  21. Lang Hancock: "a catherine-wheel of novel suggestions"
  22. Govt "villain" in eyes of new party
  23. The spread of Canberra-ism
  24. Govt should sell the ABC, says Lang Hancock
  25. 1971 Monday Conference transcript featuring Lang Hancock
  26. Aborigines, Bjelke and the freedom of the press
  27. The code of Lang Hancock
  28. Why not starve the taxation monster?
  29. Lang Hancock 1978 George Negus Interview
  30. Party Promises to Abolish Tax
  31. Right-wing plot
  32. "The best way to help the poor is not to become one of them." - Lang Hancock
  33. WA's NCP commits suicide
  34. "You can't live off a sacred site"
  35. Hancock: King of the Pilbara
  36. Bludgers need not apply
  37. New party formed "to slash controls"
  38. Workers Party Reunion Intro
  39. Workers Party is born as foe of government
  40. Government seen by new party as evil
  41. Ron Manners on Lang Hancock
  42. Does Canberra leave us any alternative to secession?
  43. Bury Hancock Week
  44. Ron Manners on the Workers Party
  45. Lang Hancock on Australia Today
  46. Hancock and Wright
  47. Lang Hancock on Environmentalists
  48. Friends of free enterprise treated to financial tete-a-tete: Lang does the talking but Gina pulls the strings
  49. Lang Hancock, Stump Jumper
  50. Lang Hancock: giant of the western iron age
  51. The Treasury needs a hatchet man
  52. We Mine to Live
  53. Get the "econuts" off our backs
  54. 1971 Lang Hancock-Jonathan Aitken interview for Land of Fortune (short)
  55. Gina Rinehart, Secessionist
  56. 1982 NYT Lang Hancock profile
  57. Enter Rio Tinto
  58. Hamersley and Tom Price
  59. News in the West
  60. Positive review of Hancock speech
  61. Lang Hancock International Press Institute General Assembly speech, Canberra, 1978
  62. Australia's slide to socialism
  63. The Great Claim Robbery
  64. Why WA must go it alone
  65. Lang Hancock in 1976 on Public Picnics and Human Blights
  66. MILLIONAIRE PUTS MONEY BEHIND SECESSIONISTS
  67. Resource Management in Australia: Is it possible?
  68. The gospel of WA secession according to Lang Hancock
  69. Crystal Balls Need Polishing
  70. Minerals - politicians' playthings?
  71. John Singleton-Ita Buttrose interview (1977)
  72. Boston Tea Party 1986 style, hosted by Lang Hancock and Bob Ansett
  73. Singo says Lang Hancock violated Australia's 11th commandment: Thou Shalt Not Succeed
  74. Singleton: the White Knight of Ockerdom
  75. Tactics change by Hancock
  76. Lang Hancock complains to Margaret Thatcher about Malcolm Fraser
  77. 'Phony crisis' seen as 'child of politics'
  78. Lang Hancock on nuclear energy
  79. Lang Hancock beats the left at their own game on civil liberties
  80. Lang Hancock's Favourite Books
  81. 1977 Lang Hancock Canberoo poem
  82. Hancock's playing very hard to get
  83. Hancock proposes a free-trade zone
  84. An Open Letter to Sir Charles Court
  85. John Singleton 1976 ocker Monday Conference Max Harris debate
  86. Lang Hancock in 1984 solves Australian politics
  87. Lang Hancock on the Workers Party, secession and States Rights
  88. Lang Hancock asks what happened to Australia's rugged individualism?
  89. Precis of Ludwig Plan for North-West
  90. Announcement that Lang Hancock will be guest of honour at the Workers Party launch
  91. Lang Hancock's March 1983 attempt to enlist "former presidents of nations and heads of giant companies" to save Australia
  92. Lang Hancock asks us to think how easily environmentalists are manipulated for political purposes
  93. Invest in free enterprise
  94. Democracy is dead in Australia and Lang Hancock's education
  95. Lang Hancock Incites Civil Disobedience
  96. Hancock sounds call to battle Canberra
  97. Mining policy a threat
  98. Over Whitlam's head
  99. Lang Hancock suggests that newspapers don't give space to politicians unconditionally
  100. Lang Hancock on saving Australia from socialism
  101. Secede or sink
  102. Australia can learn from Thatcher
  103. John Singleton. Horseracing. Why?
  104. How Lang Hancock would fix the economy
  105. Lang Hancock: victim of retrospective legislation
  106. Lang Hancock supports Joh for PM
  107. Hancock seeks miners' tax haven in the north
  108. The Ord River Dam
  109. Why Lang Hancock invested in Australia's film industry
  110. Lang Hancock's 1983 letters to The Australian: Lang's precedent for Steve Jobs, renaming the Lucky Country to the Constipated Country, and more
  111. Australia's biggest newspaper insider on manipulating the media
  112. 1980 Lang Hancock-Australian Penthouse Interview
  113. Canberra: bastion of bureaucracy
  114. Pilbara can be the Ruhr for South-East Asia
  115. 1982 Lang Hancock-John Harper Nelson Interview
  116. Australian elections are one of the greatest con games in history
  117. Our leaders are powerless
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