Eric Ripper

Eric Ripper

Deputy Premier; Treasurer; Minister for State Development

    Burrup rock art remains safe, say scientists

    29/08/2007 4:00 PM

    Independent scientific monitoring of the Burrup Peninsula in Western Australia’s Pilbara region has again found that industry emissions have had no observable effects on local rock art.

    The WA Government set up the Burrup Rock Art Monitoring Management Committee in 2002 to determine if industry emissions could damage the precious antiquity. The CSIRO was commissioned for most of the studies that began in 2004.

    State Development Minister Eric Ripper said he was delighted with the latest results which found no damage was occurring from industry emissions.

    “The Government is committed to preserving this ancient rock art and I am very pleased that this research has found it is not being damaged by emissions,” Mr Ripper said.

    The Minister said the CSIRO scientists had monitored concentrations of the chemicals most likely to damage the rock art - ammonia, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, nitric acid and dust.

    “They found that concentrations of these air pollutants, as measured at eight sites both close to and distant from Burrup industry, are generally very low,” he said

    Concentrations of ammonia ranged from 0.1 to 1.2 parts per billion, nitrogen dioxide ranged from 0.2 to 3.8 parts per billion and sulphur dioxide from 0.019 to 0.367 parts per billion. These figures are well below national air quality standards.

    Although dust was elevated at sites close to industry with the highest concentrations associated with wind direction from the loading operations at Parker Point, Mr Ripper said the dust levels recorded at the Burrup monitoring sites were typical of the entire Pilbara region and the potential for dust to harm rocks was minimal.

    In addition to air monitoring, the Burrup Rock Art Monitoring Management Committee also asked the CSIRO to conduct field and lab tests on rocks from the Burrup Peninsula.

    The tests used accelerated weathering processes and showed exposures even to extremely high levels of air pollution - 10 times more than the maximum predicted - did not cause changes in the colour or mineralogy of engraved or non-engraved rock surfaces.

    The lab tests are being confirmed by field work where no colour or mineralogical changes have been observed in the monitoring programs.

    Mr Ripper said the tests were very important as changes to surface colour or mineralogy were key indicators for assessing any effect of emissions on the Burrup rocks.

    “The studies will continue for at least another year and the ongoing monitoring program ensures that any changes will be detected by the CSIRO scientists,” he said.

    The report has been reviewed by experts from Europe and the United States, who have stated the work is of good quality and the conclusions are sound.

    Minister's office - 9222 8788