It was recently announced that the Australian government has added an old ochre mine to the Australian National Heritage List. The National Heritage List sets out the places which are considered to be of outstanding heritage value to Australia and includes places such as Uluru and Kakadu National Park. These places are protected under the Australian Government's national environment law — the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
The mine in question, the Wilgie Mia ochre mine in Western Australia is the largest and deepest underground Aboriginal ochre mine in Australia. Ochre of different colours has long been used by Aboriginal people throughout Australia in Aboriginal art, as well as in Aboriginal law, traditional ceremony and healing rituals. The mine has provided red, yellow and green ochre to Aborigines for thousands of years and is regarded by some as the best ochre in Australia. It has all the features found in traditional Aboriginal mines: large open-cut pits, excavated caverns and underground galleries that follow ochre seams, and there is reportedly a considerable amount of rock art in the vicinity.
The listing will help protect the historic site from encroaching iron ore developments. By law, no one will be able to take an action that is likely to have a significant impact on the national heritage values of the mine without approval. There are penalties for those who do. An action includes a project, development, undertaking, an activity or series of activities. Accordingly, any proposed activities will have to be referred to the Australian environment minister.
Source: The Australian, 8 March 2011