Harnessing machinery of stupendous dimensions, strip mining removes entire stratas of topsoil to reach mineral seams.
Throughout the contemporary period, mine prospecting has been at the heart of economic development in Australia. Starting in 1850, gold rushes over the next decade brought thousands of immigrants to New South Wales, Victoria, and Western Australia, launching a population explosion and the creation of the first great mining companies. Australia is now one of the world’s biggest exporters of gold, iron ore, coal, bauxite, and alumina. The country possesses the largest underground reserves of nickel, zinc, lead, uranium, and sand on the planet, and also holds more than 30% of the world’s iron ore reserves. Minerals from Australia's 400 mines represent over 70% of the country's exports. Access to these resources, however, raises important debates related to Aboriginal rights to these riches, and the ecological impact of these industries.