Impacts of Ports along the Pilbara Coast, Western Australia – A Coastline of Global Geoheritage Significance that Services a Mineral-Rich Hinterland

Margaret Brocx, Vic Semeniuk


The Pilbara region in remote north-western Australia is mineral-rich with ores being mined/quarried and exported since the 1960s for the wealth of the Australian Nation and exported from a range of ports developed specifically for such purposes.  However, the Pilbara Coast is one of few arid coasts around the World and the most arid coast in Australia - it stands unique as the most geomorphologically / geologically diverse arid coast globally and therefore has global coastal geoheritage significance.  Ports along the Coast have been and continue to be developed without, or with little regard to their natural values, with impacts in terms of geoheritage and biological values - the parameters for port selection are based on engineering and economic perspectives of coastal proximity and coastal bathymetry in spite of information available for proper management and wise use of this coastal zone. Consequently, some significant coasts have been destroyed or markedly modified. With the intended growth of the mineral industry, there can be expected further destruction unless government agencies address the geoconservation issues but, in this context, there seems to be both a widespread lack of understanding on the part of government agencies of the geoheritage values of this Coast and a lack of geoethics. This contribution describes the natural heritage significance of the Pilbara Coast, the ports therein, their impacts and, from a geoethics viewpoint, the notion of centralizing ports rather than to indiscriminately construct facilities dictated by economic and port ownership. The Pilbara Coast provides a case study of geoethics where natural history assets of global significance conflict with industrial use.


Pilbara Coast, geoheritage, global significance, industry, ports, impact of ports, geoethics

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Published by INGV, Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia - ISSN: 2037-416X