Australia's New Mining Boom

Australia's New Mining Boom
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A rustic cafe in a Pilbara town called Wittenoom is typical in the dusty outback of Western Australia.

Here, in one of the driest spots on the driest continent on Earth, there is concern that the expansion of mining will take a toll on the region's waterways.

One reason is the increasing shift to mining below the water table, which involves pumping ground water out to get to the ore.

For example, environmentalists are closely watching an area called Fortescue marsh, near where a new mine is opening later this year.

Fortescue is one of the largest wetlands in the Pilbara and is home to critically endangered species of night parrots and endangered species of bilbies.

"The integrity of the marsh is what brings the animals there to begin with," said Tim Nicol of the Conservation Council of Western Australia, "so our hope is the mining doesn't affect the marsh."

—Hope Hamashige

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—Photograph by Oliver Strewe/Getty Images
 
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