Mining is an increasingly valuable industry sector for the Gascoyne, contributing $142.3 million to the gross regional product in 2009-10. The industry primarily concentrates on salt production at Useless Loop in the Shire of Shark Bay and at Lake MacLeod near Cape Cuvier, north of Carnarvon. When operating at their current full capacity of 5.2 million tonnes per annum, these two operations account for nearly half of the state’s total salt production. Due to an increase in the global price of salt and exchange rate differences in the global financial market, the mining sector in the Gascoyne has recently seen a significant increase in production and value, increasing from $57.5 million in 2007-08. Both major salt operations maintain private port facilities for direct transport of product, which is largely exported to Asian countries for food and chemical production. The operations at Dampier Salt’s Lake MacLeod will be an expanded by during 2014/2015, from the current 764 hectares to 1000 hectares.
Substantial oil and gas production occurs in the Exmouth sub-basin, offshore from North West Cape, however as this is carried out in Commonwealth waters the production value is not considered to be a part of the Gascoyne economy. Work is under way to identify the hydrocarbon potential of the Merlinleigh and Byro Sub-basins in the Carnarvon Basin. Oil exploration in the Merlinleigh and Byro Sub-Basins commenced in the 1930s and despite additional works programs in the following years the full potential remains to be realised.
Despite this, it still provides industry opportunities to investors interested in servicing the on and offshore petroleum industry. The mining of a number of semi-precious stones, including tourmaline, amethyst and variscite, currently occurs around the Upper Gascoyne. The proposed development of a mineral sands project south of Shark Bay will assist in diversifying the region’s mining sector and is expected to create significant employment. Deposits of uranium, gold, diamonds and other minerals in the inland Gascoyne may also provide opportunity for the expansion and diversification of mining in the region. The Department of Mines and Petroleum maintains data on mining activity in the Gascoyne and the State as well as providing information such as Geophysical surveys.