Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Wilgie Mia on National Heritage List

Media release
23 February 2011

Wilgie Mia, an ochre mine near Cue in the Murchison district of Western Australia and used for centuries by Indigenous people, will be added to Australia's National Heritage List, the Federal Heritage Minister, Tony Burke, announced today.

This important place helps to broaden our understanding of the history of mining in Australia so it is right that it is recognised as among the best of the best of our heritage places," Mr Burke said. "

Most Australians are unaware of traditional aboriginal involvement in mining dating back many centuries.

"Wilgie Mia is the largest and deepest underground Aboriginal ochre mine in Australia.

"The creation story of Wilgie Mia tells how the ochre at the site was created by the blood of a wounded marlu-a red kangaroo.

"For generations Wilgie Mia's red, yellow and green ochre has been traded extensively throughout much of western and central Australia. The mine's sparkling red ochre continues to be used today for Aboriginal art, law and healing activities.

"The size and complexity of Wilgie Mia is extraordinary and shows incredible ingenuity over many generations. Around 19,600 cubic metres of ochre and rock weighing around 40,000 tonnes is estimated to have been removed using traditional Aboriginal techniques, including pole scaffolding with wooden platforms so the ochre could be extracted from different heights in the rock face at the same time. "

It is important to note that national heritage listing will not prevent future investment in the region but any action likely to have a significant impact on its National Heritage values would need to be referred to the Environment Minister."

More information about the National Heritage List and the Australian Heritage Council is available at