A unique, rocky tract of scrubland in Western Australia, hosting the oldest known minerals on Earth, has been added to Australia’s National Heritage List.
Erawondoo Hill, some 800km north of Perth, is home to the world’s largest repository of four-billion-year-old zircon crystals, which hold the key to understanding how our planet was formed.
The oldest, dated at 4.4 billion years, are only 120 million years younger than the earth itself and the site in the Murchison district has now been recognised for its outstanding national heritage value.
Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley described Erawondoo Hill as one of the most important places in the world for research into our planet’s origins.
“There is simply nowhere else where zircon crystals this old occur in such abundance,” Minister Ley said.
“This site has enormous scientific, educational and cultural value which to deserves to be recognised and preserved.
“Since the discovery of these unique mineral deposits in the early 1980s, analysis of zircon crystals from Erawondoo Hill, and the surrounding sedimentary rocks, has revolutionised scientific thinking on the earliest phases of Earth’s history.”
Zircon is an extremely hard, heat-resistant mineral. Scientists study its chemical and physical structure to learn more about the conditions that existed as the Earth formed during the Hadean eon.
Member for Durack Melissa Price welcomed the announcement: “The Erawondoo Hill site offers Australian and international geologists a priceless view into the formation of the early Earth and contributes to cutting-edge scientific research into early Earth processes,” Ms Price said.
“This makes any scrap of material over four-billion-years-old of vital scientific and cultural interest to the world and the Erawondoo Hill zircons are providing this significant and poignant data.”
The National Heritage List is Australia’s list of natural, historic and Indigenous places of outstanding significance to the nation. See the full list: https://www.environment.gov.au/heritage/places/national-heritage-list