Wilgie Mia is an ochre mine in the Weld Range of Western Australia. Excavations have occurred for at least 40,000 years and 14,000 cubic metres (490,000 cu ft) of material has been removed, leading to suggestions that this is the world's oldest continuing mining operation.
It is located in a hillside of the Weld Range, near the northwest town of Cue. Worked to a depth of 20 metres, scaffolds had lined the seam face beyond an opening 30 metres across. Archaeological excavations have recovered tools and equipment used in the exploitation of the resource, detailed analysis of the ochre reveals an extensive use throughout Western Australia. The mine continues to export ochre as a commercial pigment.
Ochre has been an important commodity in the history of Australia and the site produced large amounts of both red and yellow pigments. A range of colours and high durability are found in the constituent clays of the ochre mined at Wilgie Mia. These are residual to a geological process involving haematite (Fe2O3) and other iron rich compounds.
Wilgie Mia ochre has been used in the production of rock art and other painting practices throughout many regions of Australia. It had important cultural significance to many surrounding communities until the final dispersal of the local group by colonial miners in the 1930s.
Wilgie Mia was added to the Australian National Heritage List in 2011.
- Serventy, Vincent; Serventy, Carol (1981). "Western Australia". Australian landforms. Adelaide: Rigby. p. 75. ISBN 978-0-7270-1501-3.
The Aboriginal explanation of this rock structure was that 'in the Dreamtime, Mondong, a great spirit, fought and speared a giant kangaroo. His blood soaked into the ground and became red ochre'.
- Hirst, K. Kris. "Wilgie Mia (Australia)". Dictionary of Archaeology. About, Inc., A part of The New York Times Company. Retrieved 2007-03-17.
Wilgie Mia is an immense prehistoric ochre mine, located ... an important site for aboriginal peoples of Australia.
- Clarke, John (August 1976). "Two Aboriginal rock art pigments from Western Australia; their properties, use, and durability.". Studies in Conservation, Vol. 21, No. 3, 134-142. International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. p. 134. Retrieved 2007-03-17.
They are a red pigment (mainly hematite), from a red ochre mine worked until historic times by Aborigines, and a white pigment (huntite) which is still collected and used by Aborigines. Samples were also taken from rock paintings in which these pigments were used or were thought to have been used.