Western Australia Building a New Cosmopolitan Karratha City in Pilbara

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By Sunny Peter | December 3, 2013 4:17 PM EST

The Western Australia (WA) government's efforts to build a new cosmopolitan city of Karratha in the traditional mining town on Pilbara got a fillip this weekend with the opening of a new main street, the town's first ever with street lights. The town has been in the news recently for all the good reasons. Late November, mining major Rio Tinto approved the expansion of its iron-ore operations in the Pilbara to 360-million tonnes a year by 2017. Earlier in November, studies on rocks in the region found evidence of complex bacterial communities that existed as far back as 3.48 billion years ago with researchers suggesting that the findings of signs of early life could hold clues to discovering life on other planets.

Roads go off in various directions next to sand dunes covered in vegetation in the Pilbara region of Western Australia December 2, 2013. Western Australia's Pilbara region, which is the size of Spain, has the world's largest known deposits of iron ore and supplies nearly 45 percent of global trade in the mineral. Picture taken December 2. (REUTERS/David Gray)

About three-decades ago, Karratha was a small town offering no more than a supermarket. Today it is one of Australia's richest regional towns with an average income of $87,000, reports West Australian. The mining boom in the state has helped the government to transform the city into a thriving town.

SBS reports the state government is investing hundreds of millions of dollars on infrastructure development and street scaping in Karratha as part of the 'Pilbara Cities' project.

"It's happened in Darwin and now it's happening in the Pilbara," says Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett. He hopes the building of new leisure complexes and apartments will bring more people to settle in the new city.

"It's a bit of a crazy idea, but here it is. Five years later it's happened." he said.

In spite of contributing significantly to Australia's economy, the lack of housing and infrastructure has, for long, been the biggest barriers to growth in WA's northwest mining areas. Reports say most mine workers are flown in and out, or put up in temporary accommodation while large resource projects are completed.

Under the ambitious $1 billion project, the Western Australia (WA) government aims to build the population of Karratha and Port Headland into cities of 50,000 people, and Newman to 15,000 people by 2035.

The project is the brainchild of Regional Development Minister Brendon Grylls who believes the region is not entering a downturn even if the once-in-a-generation resources construction boom is over.

"The very same customers of our iron ore and natural gas are also going to be the customers for our food products and that provides a great opportunity for agriculture," Mr Grylls says.

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