Information about work, life and play in Regional Australia

Monday, March 17, 2008

West Australia's Pilbara region - introduction

The map shows WA's Pilbara region as defined by the state government.

According to Wikipedia, the Pilbara region covers an area of 507,896 km² (including offshore islands). It has a population of just under 40,000 people, most of whom live in the western third of the region.

Most Pilbara residents live in the region's towns, which include Port Hedland, Karratha, Wickham, Newman and Marble Bar. A substantial number of people also work in the region on a fly-in/fly-out basis.

The region has inland ranges - the dominant being the Hamersley Range which has a considerable number of mining towns, and natural attractions in the form of gorges. The region contains some of the world's oldest surface rocks, including the ancient fossilised remains known as stromatolites and rocks such as granites that are more than three billion years old. A detailed geological history and description is given in the Pilbara Craton article.

The climate of the Pilbara is semi-arid and arid, with high temperatures and low rainfall. During the summer months, maximum temperatures exceed 32°C (90°F) almost every day, and temperatures in excess of 45°C (113°F) are not uncommon. The Pilbara town of Marble Bar is claimed by some to be the world's hottest place, having once recorded 161 consecutive days in which the maximum temperature reached or exceeded 37.8°C (100°F).

Flooding is a major hazard in the Pilbara with periods of torrential rainfall between November and May. Like most of the north coast of Australia the coastal areas of the Pilbara experience frequent tropical cyclones. Due to the relatively low population density in the Pilbara region cyclones rarely cause large scale destruction or loss of life.

The Pilbara's economy is dominated by mining and petroleum industries. Most of Australia's iron ore is mined in the Pilbara, with mines mostly centred around Tom Price and Newman. The iron ore industry employs 9000 people from the Pilbara area. The Pilbara also has one of the world's major manganese mines, Woodie Woodie, situated 400 kilometres southeast of Port Hedland.

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