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The Burrup Peninsula (or Murujuga) is a unique ecological, spiritual and archaeological area since it possibly contains the world's oldest, largest and most important collections of petroglyphs – ancient rock carvings.

The peninsula is part of the Dampier Archipelago which is comprised of 42 islands in a 45km radius. The Burrup Peninsula, approximately 27km long and 5km wide, was originally an island that formed part of this grouping until joined to the mainland in the mid 1960s by a rail and road causeway.


The Burrup Peninsula is located on the north-western coast of Western Australia on the Dampier Archipelago.

It is located:
~ 250 Kms south west of Port Hedland
~ 12 Kms west of Karratha
~ 400Kms north of Ningaloo Reef (near Exmouth)
~ 1550Kms north of Perth (Western Australia capital city)




The original Inhabitants the Dampier Archipelago were the Yaburara people who were massacred over an eight day period in February 1868. This genocide occurred at various locations on the Burrup and in the waters of the Archipelago in what is referred to as the Flying Foam Massacre. The current claimants/custodians are the Ngarluma Yindjibarndi, Wong-goo-tt-oo and Yaburara Mardudhunera peoples.


Rock Art

Dampier Rock Art Precinct comprises possibly the largest concentration of petroglyphs (rock carvings) in the world and possibly the largest number of megaliths (stone arrangements) known in Australia. 

Estimates of the number of rock art motifs range from 300,000 to well over 1,000,000 images. There are many types and styles of carvings in the Archipelago, they are thought to represent a period from our recent history up to 30,000 years in age, straddling the last ice age some 17,000 years ago. The place constitutes the greatest continuous cultural site in Australia. 

The Archipelago is also a site of great aesthetic attributes, visual and non-visual, being the place where the magnificent hills of the Pilbara meet the Indian Ocean. It has considerable value as a geological showcase and it is home to three endangered animal species and 39 endangered or endemic plant species. It has impressive marine life (dugong, turtle beaches and whale nursery) and wetland areas. 

But its significance as Australia's largest monument to Indigenous culture completely overshadows all its other qualities. Its importance to Australia is apparent by the fact that it easily meets all of the nine criteria for World Heritage listing.

Petroglyphs are numerous in many other parts of Australia, but nowhere do they even remotely approach those of Dampier in terms of sheer number, history, variety or continuity.

The rock art of the Archipelago remains an important cultural focus for Aboriginal people in the region, comprising as it does thousands of sacred images and ceremonial sites (e.g. tharlu increase sites).

It thus remains an utterly sacred place not only to the local Indigenous communities, but also for all Australians and, indeed, all people. This quintessentially Australian and entirely unique cultural property needs to be included on the World and National Heritage List. It is a place of unparalleled artistic, cultural, religious and historical significance, as well as a place of magnificent natural beauty.




In 1962-4 the state government determined to use Dampier Island (Burrup) in the Dampier Archipelago as the location of an outlet port for the iron ore industry. It did so seemingly on the basis of an incorrect report from the WA Museums department that had indicated that there were only 200 carvings in the Dampier Archipelago. By 1973 Enzo Virili had recorded 6,000 carvings on the Burrup in a 5 square mile area and 4,000 of these were in Gum Tree Valley alone.

No further evaluation, that has been sighted, was ever carried into the suitability of this area for industrial development, either based on site costs, environmental or heritage values.

There have been a number of reports into planning for industrial development of the Dampier Archipelago, none of which, until the latest reports to the federal minister, have addressed the industrial conflicts in one of humankinds earliest and most significant heritage sites.

Even with today’s knowledge of the international importance of the area the state government continues to invest in industrial infrastructure on the Burrup, stating that they are on track to turn the Burrup into the main industrial hub for the Asia Pacific region.

Even Lieutenant General John Sanderson, the state governments newly appointed Indigenous Affairs Special Adviser stated in answer to questions about protecting the rock art.

“Absolutely. I mean this is an amazing collection of art, we are talking about tens of thousands of pieces of art, twenty thousand years old carved in granite. I mean most Australians would watch the television shows and think that it was a few primitive scratchings on rock. We are talking about an ice age culture, we are talking about aboriginal temples in the rock.”

The current industrial footprint is 16 sq km out of the 117 sq km of the Burrup, though current leases cover a much larger area. In the footprint area at least 10,000 petroglyphs have already been destroyed.

State land use planning has defined that an area of only 49.3 sq km (44%) is to be protected from industry. This protected area is to be opened up, have a road driven through it and turned into a tourism and recreation area. (not the best way to conserve a heritage area)


1. There are several multinational and national industrial facilities already established on The Burrup Peninsula (formerly Dampier Island):

Burrup Fertilisers Pty Ltd (Privately owned backed by Indian industrial group Oswal, majority share holder Pankaj Oswal.)Ammonia plant
Mermaid Marine Australia Ltd (MMA) - Main operational supply base which includes a private wharf facility and ship repair facility.Wharf/ship repair
North West Joint Liquid Natural Gas Venture (Operation owned by BHP Billiton Petroleum (North West Shelf) Pty Ltd, Woodside Energy Ltd, BP Developments Australia Pty Ltd, ChevronTexaco Australia Pty Ltd, Shell Development (Australia) Pty Ltd and Japan Australia LNG (MIMI) Pty Ltd)5 Trains of Liquid Natural Gas
Readymix Holding’s Nickol Bay - Located at the southern end of the Burrup Peninsula near the causewayHard rock quarry
Rio Tinto Iron Ore Group (wholly owned Hamersley Iron)Stockpiling, blending, shipping of iron ore
Rio Tinto Minerals Dampier Salt - Currently the World's largest salt exporterSalt



2. Industries currently developing on the Burrup:

BGC quarry in King Bay Hard rock quarryApproved by EPA in 2003
Readymix - Nickol Bay Quarry Hard rock quarry expansion into National Heritage AreaApproved by EPA in 2003
Woodside Pluto 2 Trains of Liquid Natural GasUnder construction

Site A - Being cleared (photo taken in April 2007)

Site A - To be cleared (photo taken in April 2007)

Site B - To be cleared (photo taken in April 2007)



3. Industry that have considered further development on the Burrup:

Dampier Nitrogen Pty Ltd (Formerly Plenty River Pty Ltd)Ammonia and ureaAbandoned
Japan DME Dimethyl ether projectAbandoned
Engineered Construction and Maintenance Pty Ltd, Lot 314 A series of workshops, caravan sites, housing, single persons accommodation, wash down facilities, fuel farm and lay down facilityApplication made in December 2007 More info requested in Feb 2009, awaiting.
Apache Energy Natural gas from the Reindeer fieldChose alternate location at Forty Mile / Devil Creek
BHP Billiton Natural gas from the Scarborough fieldChose alternate location at Onslow
Agrium Inc Ammonia and ureaConsideration
Deepak Fertilisers and Petrochemicals Corporation Ammonia and ureaConsideration
Chloralkali Dimethyl ether projectDeferred
Woodside Aromatics project AromaticsDeferred
Terry Leo Sand Quarry, Lampton Pty Ltd M47/112, M47/326, M47/169 and M47/29 Sand MiningNot formally assessed, allowed by EPA in Jan 2008
Methanex Australia Pty Ltd Methanol plantReported as relocating to Burrup in Pilbara News, 14/5/2008
Yara and Burrup Holdings Joint Venture 350,000 ton pa technical ammonium nitrate (TAN) explosives plantUnder assessment (under appeal)
North West Joint Liquid Natural Gas Venture New Trains 6, 7 and 8 of Liquid Natural Gas, reported in Pilbara News 18/2/2009Unknown
WA Government, Land Corp development of 5 Strategic Industry lots Strategic Industry, reported in West Australian 18/2/2009Unknown
LiquiGaz Pty Ltd (Formerly GTL Resources and Australian Methanol Company)MethanolUnsure
Incitec Pivot's Dyno Nobel Explosives PlantWas set at PER in 2005 but lapsed, has not yet been resubmitted
Australian Methanol Company Pty Ltd (A subsidiary of GTL Resources PLC)Methanol plantWithdrawn
GTL Resources PLC Methanol plantWithdrawn
Syntroleum Sweetwater Operations Ltd Synthetic hydrocarbonsWithdrawn
Sasol Chevron Synthetic hydrocarbonsWithdrawn
Shell Synthetic hydrocarbons GTL technologyWithdrawn
Plenty River Ammonia Ammonia and ureaWithdrawn

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