Ranger Uranium Mine, in the heart of Kakadu National Park, has the weird attraction of a car accident. It’s all very horrific but you just can’t help looking!


The dirt from an enormous hole in the ground satisfies 10% of  the worlds hunger for uranium. They dig it up, crush it, mix it with various toxic chemicals (ammonia, sulphuric acid, kerosene), then , once separated and purified, pack it into 44 gallon drums and sell them for over half a million bucks a pop.

All this so the Chinese and Indians can have two door fridges, plasma TV’s and  air conditioned shopping centres,  just like we do.


As crazy as all this is, I just cant help admiring the technology and machinery that brings it all about. One small human can sit in a giant loader and, with the assistance of hundreds of litres of burning diesel, pick up 30tons of earth in one scoop and drop it in the back of a monstrous truck. These really are awesome machines and they make great painting subjects.

These sketches were done with Indian Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue and White Gouache. Burnt Sienna Ink and charcoal pencil provided most of the fine lines.


I liked the way this machine was resting, with it’s bucket on the ground like a big, tired elephant


These trucks carry 100ton of dirt, in and out of the pit all day long. Even so, they look over designed – as if nothing could ever stop them.


I used bleeding ink lines, rough charcoal marks and washes of dirty white gouache to try and get the smell of grease and diesel into this sketch.

It seems weird I guess, sitting in one of the most beautiful places on earth, painting trucks and graders!  It’s a lot of fun though.

6 thoughts on “MINING MACHINERY

    • Thanks Mark,
      Yeah, painting these things is fun but playing with them must be fantastic.
      If I had millions of dollars, Id buy a big block of land and a backhoe – like a big kids sandpit!

  1. These are great, John! The last one really has a feel of dirt flying around in the air. When you do these sketches are you doing them in a sketch book? About what size do you do sketches like these?

    • Hi Sandi,
      These sketches are done in an A4 sketch book. The paper is normal weight cartridge, so it’s not very forgiving – useless for large washes and it buckles and twists as it dries. It is fun to work on though and it forces you to be fast and economical.
      Regards, John

    • I guess you are right, If it was so much fun I don’t suppose the pay would be as high as it is. That cloud of radioactive dust in the second photo would also make me think twice about it!

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