Australia’s biggest and most colourful mining conference, Diggers and Dealers, is showcased on the world stage, but there are some images the industry does not want to share.
Television cameras are banned from Kalgoorlie’s busiest bars, where the real colour of the event unfolds after the forum has wrapped up for the day.
It is quite a spectacle – hundreds of mining types packed into bars with names like the Wild West Saloon, where the gold capital’s famous skimpy barmaids hold court to a sea of suits.
The “skimpies” – scantily clad and sometimes topless barmaids – have been entertaining Diggers delegates since the early days of the forum 20 years ago.
Many fly in from the Gold Coast, Sydney and Melbourne, with the promise of big tips during the three-day event. Local hoteliers have special licences that allow the women to go “toppo” – topless. “It’s a very touchy subject,” Palace Hotel owner Ashok Parekh said.
His pub is where many of the Diggers delegates head after the conference sessions have wrapped up for the day.
Mr Parekh has appointed 16 extra skimpies to front his highly popular Gold Bar during Diggers, but says the delegates do not want cameras around.
So what are they scared of? Their wives, according to one patron.
“If you bring a camera in here, none of these guys will ever, ever, ever, be allowed to come here again,” he told the ABC.
Skimpies ‘part of mystique of conference’
The “Diggerettes”, as they are known, are part of Diggers’ history
The barmaids have been part of the Diggers experience since it all started at the Palace Hotel’s front bar with just 45 miners in the early 1990s.
Local Chamber of Commerce chief executive Hugh Gallagher said they were part of the “mystique” of Diggers which, even in the downturn, has lured over 1,700 mining executives and brokers to the isolated gold capital, 600 kilometres inland from Perth.
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