|Latitude & Longitude (WGS84):||26° 55' 58'' South , 117° 42' 8'' East|
|Latitude & Longitude (decimal):||-26.93305,117.70234|
|Köppen climate type:||BWh : Hot deserts climate|
This is one of the most important cultural sites in Australia. Some sources state ochre has been mined here for 30 000 or 40 000 years, making it the oldest continuously mined spot in the world. Such claims are difficult to verify, but the mine is no doubt old.
It is located 69 kilometres north of Cue in the Weld Range. Here the local Wajarri Yamatji tribe mined red, yellow and green ochre. The red ochre in particular was valued for its high durability, sheen and 'glow in the dark' properties, and was used for rock painting and other cultural activities. The ochre was traded widely across the western half of Australia.
The ochre was formed when a dreamtime Mondong spirit speared a giant kangaroo which leaped over the Weld Range and landed at Wilgie Mia. In its death throes a cave was formed, and into flowed its blood forming the red ochre, bile from its liver the yellow ochre, and from its gall green ochre. Alternatively it is residual clays from hematite and other iron rich compounds.
The site is protected by four powerful spirits called Mondong. Stone piles marked the boundary to the area through which only the initiated could enter. Rituals were performed to protect the miners. After extraction, the miners would walk out backwards, obliterating their footprints with a leafy bough, to prevent being followed by the Mondong, who would otherwise seek revenge.
Ochre was mined by the stop and pillar method, and wooden scaffolding with wooden platforms were constructed for the higher areas. The ochre was chipped away with stone mauls, then brought to the northern slope of the mine, where rounded stones would break up the ochre. It was then dampened with water and moulded into round balls. Archaeological excavations uncovered tools and equipment used as well as animal bones.
The site represents the largest ochre mine in Australia. It is the only one with a traditional story still accounting for all the ochre colours, and with an extensive cultural story in regards to rituals and ceremonies. The mining techniques are unique to indigenous ochre mining in Australia. Figures vary but the average of the sources is an estimated 40 000 tonnes of ochre has been extracted.
There has been some minor post contact mining at the location, before its significance was appreciated. In 1944 it was mined by J.C. Zadow and J.G. Cassidy. In 1959 Universal Milling Company began mining, before they were stopped by the government for breaking heritage orders. At some point recently a company was allowed to conduct exploratory hematite mining near the site before they were stopped. This vandalism can be seen on the track into the ochre deposit. Likewise no rocks and ochre should be removed from the area unless authorised by the traditional owners, and no attempts made to enter the pit.
Access to the site is actively discouraged. It is the writers opinion the site could cope with limited numbers, as long as safety, cultural and environmental concerns could be addressed. There is a growing awareness of our cultural heritage, and locking these sites away does little to educate the public. It was added to the Australian National Heritage Register only in 2011.
No minerals currently recorded for this locality.
This geological map and associated information on rock units at or nearby to the coordinates given for this locality is based on relatively small scale geological maps provided by various national Geological Surveys. This does not necessarily represent the complete geology at this locality but it gives a background for the region in which it is found.
Click on geological units on the map for more information. Click here to view full-screen map on Macrostrat.org
|Neoarchean - Mesoarchean|
2500 - 3200 Ma
|Archean volcanic rocks|
Age: Archean (2500 - 3200 Ma)
Comments: Yilgarn Craton
Reference: Chorlton, L.B. Generalized geology of the world: bedrock domains and major faults in GIS format: a small-scale world geology map with an extended geological attribute database. doi: 10.4095/223767. Geological Survey of Canada, Open File 5529. 
3200 - 3600 Ma
|mafic intrusive rocks 74270|
Age: Paleoarchean (3200 - 3600 Ma)
Description: Mafic intrusive rocks, medium to coarse-grained; layered mafic to ultramafic intrusions; metadolerite; medium to coarse-grained metagabbro, dolerite and granophyre, local ultramafic bases
Comments: igneous mafic intrusive; synthesis of multiple published descriptions
Lithology: Igneous mafic intrusive
Reference: Raymond, O.L., Liu, S., Gallagher, R., Zhang, W., Highet, L.M. Surface Geology of Australia 1:1 million scale dataset 2012 edition. Commonwealth of Australia (Geoscience Australia).