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- The conversion of an old phosphate mine has been repurposed into the West Coast Fossil Park
- Deeply burried fossil deposits were uncovered during phosphate mining and from 1958 onwards major research was undertaken alongside the mining operations; it was later found to be one of the richest fossil sites in the world with over 300 fossil species being recorded so far
- When mining ceased in 1993, the mining operator together with the National Monuments Council managed to get 700ha declared a National Heritage Site and then formed a public-private partnership to create the West Coast Fossil Park
- The research institute now focuses on the earth and life sciences from the bedrock up to the present; A national and international team of researchers are currently unravelling the fascinating and unique history of fossils from the West Coast Fossil Park and attempting to recreate the environment and climate of the west coast some 5 million years ago
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“We are very grateful to the NLC for the funding of the Visitor Centre, but that was only phase two of our grand plan for WCFP. BHP have been great supporters in the past and we hope to continue this relationship in the future,” Dave Mitchell, the chairman of the WCFP Trust told The BRICS Post.Pippa Haarhoff, the manager of WCFP, said the site has vast potential, not only as a research centre, but also as the hub for ecotourism and community economic development, but this requires more funding from donors.
“This was a working mine, so we are lucky in that services such as electricity and water were already here. Together with SARHA the core fossil site has been protected with a buffer nature conservation zone surrounding the site. Over a 100 bird species have been recorded here. We are also protecting some of the last remaining naturally occurring fauna such as steenbok, duiker, porcupine, scrub hare and other small mammals. It is also a sanctuary for a large number of insects, reptiles and plants. A special project is looking at introducing more fauna such as quagga.In addition we want to create a research institute that will focus on the earth and life sciences from the bedrock up to the present. This is a mammoth task, but will surely be well worth the effort.” she told The BRICS Post. The bottom line is that by being creative, the mining industry in the form of BHP, in collaboration with Iziko Museum of South Africa have created an inspiring legacy that will benefit researchers for decades to come, as the remaining fossil deposits are likely to harbour more exciting discoveries as further excavations are undertaken.
How to drive progressive rehabilitation and closure
[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=340Weed-sww[/embedyt] Originally published by The Brics Post.
Why is it important to preserve and study fossils?
Fossils are the hardened remains of life forms from thousands or millions of years ago, and include impressions of skeletons or leaves, or even footprints. The oldest fossils found are approximately 3.8-billion years old. Animals with hard body parts are most likely to be preserved by fossilisation, although the right conditions will create fossils from plant material. Completely soft-bodied creatures like jellyfish are unlikely to leave fossils. They’re all the evidence we have of what was happening on Earth before humans evolved to tell stories and record information, and they’re particularly rare because only a few things are able to be leave a fossil when they die, as most decay naturally. Fossils are created when living organisms are changed by outside forces such as heat and pressure, which triggers an organic process that leaves a carbon impression – also known as a fossil. This is how we know about dinosaurs; their fossils were created through a process called permineralization or petrification.
What do we learn from fossils?
Everything we know about dinosaurs, we know from studying fossils. Fossils have shown where certain dinosaurs roamed, what they ate, and whether they traveled in packs or were solitary. They have also revealed how some species evolved, depending on their location, and they have even revealed which species fed on others, giving insights into whole ecosystems. Scientists that study fossils also know which fossils appear in rocks that are likely to yield oil or gas reserves, helping companies identify new locations for resource extraction. Fossils aren’t just found anywhere — they require very specific conditions to be created — the West Coast Fossil Park is one such location that had the ideal conditions for fossil formation.
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