The Hamersley Range is a mountainous region of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. The range was named on 12 June 1861 by explorer Francis Thomas Gregory after Edward Hamersley, a prominent promoter of his exploration expedition to the northwest. Juukan Gorge lies within the ranges, as does Karijini National Park (formerly known as Hamersley Range National Park).
|Elevation||1,249 m (4,098 ft)|
In 1999 a small range within the Hamersley was named the Hancock Range after the Hancock family, who were pioneers in the area. The Hancock range is east of Karijini National Park in a region of broad valleys and peaks that rise to almost 1,200 metres (3,937 ft). The Hancock Range is close to Mulga Downs Station, a property owned by the Hancock family and where Lang Hancock is buried.
The range runs from the Fortescue River in the northeast, 460 kilometres (290 mi) to the south. The range contains Western Australia's highest point, Mount Meharry, which reaches approximately 1,249 metres (4,098 ft) AHD. There are many extensively eroded gorges, such as Wittenoom Gorge. The twenty highest peaks in Western Australia are in the Hamersley Range. Peaks in the range include Mount Bruce (1,234 metres (4,049 ft)), Mount Nameless/Jarndunmunha (1,115 metres (3,658 ft)), Mount Reeder Nichols (1,109 metres (3,638 ft)), Mount Samson (1,107 metres (3,632 ft)), Mount Truchanas (1,148 metres (3,766 ft)) and Mount Tom Price (775 metres (2,543 ft)).
A cave in Juukan Gorge, about 60 kilometres (37 mi) from Mt Tom Price, was one of the oldest in the western Pilbara region, and the only inland site in Australia to show signs of continuous human occupation through the Ice Age.
Mining company Rio Tinto received ministerial consent to damage the site in 2013 in the pursuit of expanding their iron ore mining operations, but a year later, an archaeological dig discovered the site was more than twice as old as previously thought and rich in cultural artefacts, including sacred objects. One particularly significant finding was a length of plaited human hair, woven together from strands from the heads of several different people, about 4,000 years old. DNA testing revealed that the hair had belonged to the direct ancestors of Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) people alive today. PKKP heritage manager Heather Builth told Rio Tinto that the site was one of the "top five" most significant in the whole of the Pilbara region, and archaeologist Michael Slack told them that one of the rock shelters, Juukan 2, was of "the highest archaeological significance in Australia", saying that its significance "could not be overstated", being "[the only] site of this age with faunal remains in unequivocal association with stone tools".
The cave was ultimately blasted along with another Aboriginal sacred site on 23 May 2020 as part of their expansion of the Brockman 4 mine, despite the PKKP having said many times that they wanted to preserve the site, and issuing an urgent request to halt the blasts five days beforehand. The Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 (WA) does not allow for mining consent to be renegotiated on the basis of new information, and the blasting was legal under a Section 18 exemption in the Act. WA Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt was as of August 2020 reviewing the Act.
The range contains large deposits of iron ore, producing a large proportion of Australia's iron ore exports. It is predominately associated with banded iron formation. Western Australia's major iron producers have mines, communities and railways that occur along the range. Rio Tinto operates several iron ore mines within the range, including Mount Tom Price, Marandoo, Brockman, Channar, West Angelas, Mesa A mine, and Paraburdoo. Over 100 million tonnes of iron ore is removed from the range every year.
Existence of crocidolite (blue asbestos) in the Hamersley Range has been known since 1915. In 1917 crocidolite was discovered at Wittenoom, it was mined from the 1930s and was discontinued in 1966 because of unprofitable production costs. Wittenoom, was Australia's only blue asbestos mining town.
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- Powell, C. M.; Horwitz, R. C. (1994). Late Archaean and Early Proterozoic tectonics and basin formation of the Hamersley Ranges (PDF). Geological Society of Australia (WA Division), Excursion guidebook 4. ISBN 0-909869-90-1.