Australia's New Mining Boom

Australia's New Mining Boom
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A truck works at the BHP Billiton iron-ore mine at Mount Whaleback in Newman, part of the mineral-rich area of Western Australia known as the Pilbara.

A new rush to harvest iron, aluminum, and other resources from the area to feed growing Asian demand is exacerbating relations with natives and complicating conservation efforts.

With more than a million known ancient rock carvings, the Pilbara is home to what is believed to be the world's greatest concentrations of Ice Age art in the world—but some of the ancient carvings have been destroyed over the years by the mining efforts.

"[The region] has significant scientific and geological importance," said Robin Chapple, director of the Mineral Policy Institute. "Because it portrays the megafauna that went extinct in the last ice age, we can see what was on the floor of the region before and after the last ice age."

Preservation efforts have improved, Chapple added, but there is concern that some sites will be lost as the mining boom continues. One area of particular concern is the Burrup Peninsula, where there are plans to build an industrial complex.

—Hope Hamashige

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—Photograph by BHP Billiton/HO/AP
 
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