Mining company chooses to protect rare deposit of zebra rock rather than mine it

Mining company chooses to protect rare deposit of zebra rock rather than mine it

Mining company chooses to protect rare deposit of zebra rock rather than mine it

Updated 19 June 2017, 9:30 AEST

A mining company makes an unusual decision to protect a rare deposit of zebra rock, opting to preserve the discovery for future generations.

The world's only operating zebra rock mine has decided to stop production at its biggest deposit, opting to protect the site for future generations.

For the past eight years, Kimberley Stone Company has been operating a boutique mine near the Western Australia–Northern Territory border, producing significant amounts of the rare striped and spotted rocks.

Zebra rocks have only been found in the Lake Argyle catchment of northern Australia and are believed to have formed 1.2 billion years ago.

The mine is owned by couple Ruth Duncan and Kim Walker, who have discovered a large, horizontal seam of zebra rock. But in an unusual move by a mining company, has decided to leave it alone.

"What I'd hate to see happen in the Kimberley, is that people come to visit and talk about zebra rock as this thing that used to be around, but there's none left because we dug it all up and sold it off," Ms Duncan said.

"So we've got a zebra rock mine, but we honestly would love to see the zebra rock left in the ground, polish it up, make it safe for everyone to be able to see it and enjoy.

"Don't get me wrong. We're out there every wet season looking for zebra rock, but just in case we don't find anymore, we've got a fantastic deposit here and we'd love to see that left in the ground."

Ms Duncan said the plan was to polish the zebra rock seam and create a viewing area for people to see the rock formations for themselves.

She said the mine was of major interest to geologists.

"The patterning is mathematically perfect and it drives the scientific community wild trying to work out how nature produced such a perfect pattern," she said.

"They come to visit from all over the world and when we show them the mine they can't believe how complex the patterning is, and it all comes down to very complicated maths and very complicated physics.

"So we all love zebra rock as individual pieces, but when you see it in the ground and how complex that patterning is at such a large scale, that's what is really spectacular about this deposit."

Ms Duncan said there were deposits of different rocks within the mining lease to now focus on commercially, including Kimberley fire stone and primordial stone, which are proving to be lucrative because of demand from those looking to make jewellery and table tops.