Western Australia’s Pilbara region has long drawn tourists from around the world, but the now-abandoned town of Wittenoom has continued to be a drawcard for visitors, despite warnings from local government.
Wittenoom is a former town in the Hamersley Range region of the area which has been abandoned for several decades since the blue asbestos mine that supported the area was closed.
While the mine was closed in 1967 and the town officially degazetted in 2007, tourists continue to visit the area, largely due to its notoriety and now-abandoned main street.
Since the closure of the mine, more than 2000 deaths have been linked to it, and the town, due to strong winds across the open plains that surround it, is considered the most contaminated site in the Southern Hemisphere.
Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Lands Ben Wyatt described fallout from the contamination as “one of the saddest chapters in WA history,” and “one the town would never recover from.”
“It is important to understand that when the Wittenoom mine closed there were 3 million tonnes of asbestos tailings left behind in the gorge and surrounding area,” he told 9Honey.
“Exposure to a single fibre of these tailings could prove fatal. Therefore, as disappointing as it is, it is virtually impossible to clean the area to a level where it would then considered safe for human habitation.”