Travelling Australia - Journal 2009
2-3 June 2009 - Roxby Downs
Roxby Downs was established in the 1980s as the residential township for the large gold-copper-silver-uranium mine at Olympic Dam. With a population of about 4,500, the claim that Roxby Downs has the highest birth rate in South Australia is easy to believe seeing the number of children and babies in streets and shops.

Roxby Downs has a single, central shopping centre on one side of a divided access road with the Library, information centre and picture theatre across the road. The public school and Hospital are nearby. A hardware shop and bottle shop are around the corner. The plantation in the middle of the divided road through this central area is one of the few pieces of green grass in Roxby Downs. Annual rainfall averages 137 millimetres (based on 12 years of readings at Olympic Dam aerodrome). The hottest month is January with average maximum temperature of 37 degrees. Definitely a hot, dry region. Daily maximum temperature was 18 degrees during our visit.
Shopping Centre Roxby Downs shopping centre.
Residential areas are laid out with generally curved roads serving houses with a lot of reserve space behind and between houses. Reserves are not grassed playing areas for children; they are red sand hills growing native shrubs and trees; ground cover is rare. Houses are made of horizontal vinyl cladding in light colours, with alvanised gable roofs, all single storey with carports. Windows have canvas blinds or metal slat shutters. Footpaths, kerbs and drives were all neatly made and a variety of street trees were in place. There were no lawns in front of houses; wood chips or similar covering had been laid to cover the red sand. A variety of two to three metre high shrubs were in most front gardens of established houses and one or two had cactus gardens.
Roxby Downs houses Typical houses in Roxby Downs. Trees and shrubs have not had time to grow around these new houses.

On 2 June we drove out to the mine to see if there was a lookout with a view over the mine working - there was not. BHP Billiton advertise a guided tour of the mine for the public but when I tried to book a seat I was told there were no tours until the middle of the month, no reason was given. North of the Olympic Dam mine is the Arid Recovery Reserve where an area of de-stocked pasture has been enclosed by a vermin-proof fence keeping out cats, foxes and rabbits. Endangered native animals are being encouraged to breed inside the enclosure.

The dirt road from the mine to the Arid Recovery Reserve runs mostly through the BHP Billiton lease; it had recently been graded and was pleasant to drive on. But the grading ends when the road leaves the BHP Billiton lease before reaching the reserve and the road reverts to a corrugated gravel road. This is the Borefield Road running for 113 kilometres from Olympic Dam Mine to join the Oodnadatta Track just south of Lake Eyre South. The Oodnadatta Track is one of the "I've Been There" destinations for many four-wheel drive people and is often the topic of conversation in caravan parks.
Borehead Road Borehead Road from Olympic Dam Mine to the Oodnadatta Track. The corrugated surface of the wide dirt road is easily seen.

After lunch we drove to the opal mining town of Andamooka 29 kilometres from Roxby Downs. The road is bitumen to the far edge of the township then continues as a dirt road. Andamooka is characterised by piles of sandy mullock; it is also characterised by being built almost entirely of unpainted galvanised iron although some newer houses are more colourful and use other building material. There is not the concentration on underground houses seen in Coober Pedy although some newer houses were partly underground and in the main street are some historic cottages of local material were partly buried to avoid the heat. Several businesses along the main street offered to sell opal or other souvenirs.
Andamooka Housing in Andamooka. Piles of mullock in the background mark opal workings.

The road between Roxby Downs and Andamooka is a good bitumen one running mostly across gibber plain with very sparse vegetation and numerous stones scattered over the surface. At the Roxby Downs end the road passes over or past several sand ridges with their typical vegetation.