Recent Australian research has shown that while mineral production continues to grow strongly for almost all commodities (graph A), key ‘mega-trends’ underpinning this include declining ore grades (graph B), exponentially increasing waste rock (graph C), and variable success in expanding economic mineral resources (graph D).
Collectively, the mega-trends in the Australian mining industry point to significant environmental challenges for the future of mining and mineral processing, such as potentially increased unit energy, pollutant, waste and water costs, and subsequently higher production costs. This will impact not only the demand for minerals and metals, but also drive the search for alternative technologies across exploration, mining, milling, smelting and refining. In the long term, it will increase the need for greater material efficiency and recycling. Read more in Geoscience Currents #29.
In the Late Quaternary, Australia was home to an array of megafauna. The half-ton Palorchestes azael, the rhinoceros-sized Diprotodon, and even the giant koala, Phascolarctos stirtoni, roamed Australia's interior. However, between 50,000 and 45,000 years ago, they all vanished. Although recent studies indicate human colonization as a potential cause of their extinction, the exact mechanism has never been resolved. Now, geologist Gifford Miller from the University of Colorado at Boulder and his colleagues believe they have uncovered the answer.
In Western Australia, visitors can tour two unusually accessible coral reefs. The reefs look similar enough to be fraternal twins, but they are separated in time by 400 million years. Ningaloo is a modern reef where visitors can snorkel amid spectacular reef-building organisms just a few meters from shore. It boasts one of the planet's healthiest reef environments, where 500 species of fish, 600 species of shellfish and more than 250 species of coral thrive. Ningaloo's twin," the now-dry Devonian-aged "Great Barrier Reef," is widely recognized as the world's best example of an ancient barrier reef, with creamy limestone layers providing an unparalleled window into the past."