Google just added satellite view for most of the world. This link is something I found in the north east part of Austrailia. Its an insanely huge structure, and Google doesn't have any more zoomed in data.
-Giant solar panel field?
-Eschalon [sic] listening post?
These are Evaporative salt pans at Port Alma. (They are also sometimes called solar salt pans.) This aerial view (which is not of Port Alma, but of a different site) offers a different angle and more natural color than the Google overhead shots of the fields at Port Alma.
Two companies working in this area are Cheetham Salt Limited and Olsson's Pacific Salt. Cheetham seems to own the mines. Apparently Olsson's is more involved in the production end of things. This map shows where Cheetham's facilities are located.
Olsson’s Pacific Salt is a salt producer from seawater near Rockhampton (Port Alma) in Queensland. Cheetham Salt currently operates 10 solar salt fields throughout Australia (Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia) with total production over 600,000 tonnes annually. Five refineries produce a variety of salt grades ranging in grade from kitchen salt to industrial salt.
The Cheetham web site has an excellent description of "the pond system." Navigate their menu: "about salt" and then "salt from the sea."
Olsson's Pacific Salt is a salt producer from seawater near Rockhampton (Port Alma) in Queensland. Pacific Salt produces a range of processed salt which includes water softener salt, pool salt, table salt, cooking salt, flossy salt, dairy salt, iodised salt (fine, coarse and medium size), refined salt, rock salt, and sea salt.
Here's an interesting tidbit:
A salt company from central Queensland that employs former drug addicts, alcoholics, convicts and the long-termed unemployed has received a Salvation Army employer of the year award.
Robert Logan from Olsson's Pacific Salt at Port Alma, south of Rockhampton, accepted the award in Melbourne.
He says at least 75 percent of the company's current workforce has some sort of disadvantage.
Andrew Brown once worked there:
Andrew commenced with Cheetham Salt in January 1998 and is currently National Production and Salinity Manager. Prior to this Andrew was the Queensland Operations Manager located at the Bajool /Port Alma operations south of Rockhampton in Central Queensland.
The role of National Production and Salinity Manager has two primary responsibilities. The National Production role focuses on maintaining a technical and planning overview of the company ’s ten (10) solar salt fields producing around 600,000 t pa. It includes developmental work on new fields, expansions and new products. A current focus is the expansion of the Port Alma operation from 240,000 t to 600,000 t to supply the proposed LG Chem EDC plant in Gladstone.
The National Salinity role involves leading the company ’s salinity initiatives. This requires issue analysis and identifying opportunities that may arise. Examples include developmental work on the Barr Creek Salt Interception Scheme (SIS) near Kerang in Victoria, optimisation of the Wakool SIS and enhancement of the Sea Lake operation on Lake Tyrrell. The Sea Lake operation currently removes and sells over 100,000 t of salt from the Murray Darling Basin. Prior to Cheetham Salt Andrew worked in various engineering and production management roles in the meat processing, sugar milling, sugar refining, timber processing and coal industries.
Salt produced by Cheetham and Pacific Salt is exported through the port. Exports increased (RPA Annual Report, 2001/02) in 2001/02 to more than 89,000 tonnes.
You can read about the expansion: The proposed action to expand the existing Bajool-Port Alma salt mine, located within the Port Curtis region of Central Queensland, approximately 50km south-east of Rockhampton, QLD.
More generally speaking, you are looking at the Fitzroy River region in Queensland. Keppel Bay supports a major scallop, prawn and fish industry. The Fitzroy catchment is nearly 150,000km2, and is dominated by agriculture (grazing, dryland cropping, irrigated cotton and horticulture) and by mining (coal production of 100 million tonnes/year, magnesite, nickel and historically gold and silver).
The city just up the Fitzroy River is Rockhampton.
There are two major deepwater ports located at Port Alma and Gladstone. The Port of Gladstone is one of the largest ports on the eastern seaboard and handles more than 38 million tonnes of cargo each year. Port Alma, 62 kilometres south of Rockhampton can accommodate vessels of up to 180 metres in length and 30,000 tonnes in cargo capacity. Small craft berthing, mooring and servicing facilities exist at Port Alma, the Rockhampton reach of the Fitzroy River and at Rosslyn Bay at Yeppoon.
Water resources: Rockhampton’s Fitzroy River has the second largest catchment area in Australia, at 145,000 square kilometres (almost the size of England). The Fitzroy River Barrage at Rockhampton separates tidal salt water from upstream fresh water, and has a three year storage capacity for domestic and industrial needs.
Here is a panorama of the Pacific Salt Works. Salt production takes place on the broad flat flood plains.
This map will orient you to Rockhampton, Port Alma, and the greater Keppel Bay region. This Port Alma Handbook tells you more about what goes on at the nearby Port. Page 7 has an aerial view of the Port with all of the facilities labeled.
You can see what evaporation ponds / settling ponds look like; this is in New Zealand. It is explained:
Seawater contains just over 2.5 per cent sodium chloride, together with significant amounts of other salts. Some 60,000 to 70,000 tonnes of salt are harvested from Lake Grassmere each year. Sea water is pumped into the 688 hectare main lake continuously throughout summer.
As Nature does its work and evaporation increases the sea water's strength, it is pumped into a series of concentrating ponds, where further evaporation takes place.
When the brine reaches saturation point it is transferred into crystallisation ponds during the summer months.
New Zealand's Marlborough province is renowned for receiving more than its share of sunshine. It was this meteorological feature, coupled with strong, drying Nor' Westerly winds and large areas of suitable flat land, that persuaded the late George W. Skellerup to establish his solar saltworks in 1943.
The salt crust is lifted from the bottom of the crystallisation ponds and transported to one of the two washing plants where it is washed in brine before being stacked in 20-metre high piles. The snowy stacks of salt are something of a landmark, readily visible by day and night from the Blenheim - Christchurch highway. Salt production is highly dependent on low rainfall and evaporation, so it is necessary to hold large stockpiles of salt to counter the fluctuations in annual production.
During the refining process, the salt is rewashed, crushed, dried and screened before being packed in 25 kilo bags, or bulk bags containing 1-1.2 tonnes. Salt destined for the domestic table salt market accounts for a very small fraction of the harvest. Some of this product is iodised and processed at the Cerebos Skellerup packing plant adjacent to Lake Grassmere.
Bajool-Port Alma Salt Mines