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A Miner Blew Up Ancient Human History. An Industry May Pay

  • New laws could impact Australia’s $69 billion iron ore sector
  • Tighter scrutiny may make project approvals tougher: Aberdeen
A Rio Tinto sign marks an Aboriginal heritage site sign in Pilbara.
A Rio Tinto sign marks an Aboriginal heritage site sign in Pilbara.Photographer: Paul Mayall/DPA/AP Images
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Scraping away delicately at the reddish-brown earth of northwestern Australia’s vast Pilbara region, a team of archaeologists uncovered a record of life dating back more 40,000 years. Buried in natural shelters at the base of a cliff were thousands of stone and wooden tools, the sharpened fibula bone of a kangaroo and braided strands of hair.

They worked quickly inside the Juukan Gorge rock shelters to recover the artefacts -- and needed to. The team was a salvage squad, sent in with a tight deadline to excavate a site in the path of an encroaching iron ore mine and approved for destruction.