The magical Kimberley Region extends from Broome to Wyndham and is famous for such landmarks as the Purnululu National Park (Bungle Bungles), Cable Beach, Buccaneer Archipelago, Mitchell Falls and the Ord River Dam. Major towns include Broome, Derby Fitzroy Crossing, Halls Creek, Kununurra and Wyndham.
Aboriginal presence in the Kimberley stretches back many thousands of years, but in 1688 William Dampier became one of the first Europeans to set sight on the Kimberley. The pastoral industry first opened up the region, followed by a gold rush at Halls Creek in the late 19th century.
In contemporary times, the region continues to make a vital economic contribution to the State with mining and mineral production valued at $838 million in 2009-10.
The development of the Browse Basin offshore oil and gas reserves and onshore processing precinct to the north of Broome will result in further economic activity in the region.
The Argyle Diamond Mine remains a prominent world producer, accounting for 99.6 per cent of Australia’s diamond output and about 25 per cent of the world’s diamonds by volume. The Kimberley accounts for all of Western Australia’s diamond production and produces around 90 per cent of the world’s pink diamonds. The main plant was commissioned in 1985 at a cost of $430 million and is located near Lake Argyle. In late 2001 the State Government approved a second diamond mine for the state, the Ellendale project, located 140km South East of Derby. Production is expected to total 200,000 carats of gem quality diamonds per year.
The major agricultural products in the Kimberley are horticultural and broad-acre crops and beef cattle, valued at $186.7 million in 2008/09. The Ord River Irrigation Area covers about 14,000 ha of developed land, which has access to vast amounts of water from Lake Argyle on the Ord River. Main crops include melons, bananas, pumpkins, mangoes, grapes, guava, jackfruit, rambutans, papaya and citrus.
The pastoral industry remains one of the region’s most important industries, and the Kimberley supports the largest number of cattle of any region in WA. Most are exported live to Indonesia, Malaysia and the Middle East. The value of cattle disposals from the region was $139 million in 2008-09, which made up 74 per cent of the total value of agriculture.
Tourism is fast becoming the biggest industry in the Kimberly with the region attracting over 348,000 visitors per year from around the world. Central Europeans in particular seem to be drawn by the colourful landscapes, ancient indigenous culture and art of the Kimberly. The beaches of Broome and the rugged splendour of the Gibb River road are major drawcards.