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The Wild West - Australia

© Claire Martin

A resources boom has turned Western Australia into an economic promised land. Over 100,000 people work in the states mining industry tapping everything from Gold to Salt to oil to the largest export, iron ore. Sales from Western Australia’s minerals and petroleum industries represent almost 50% of the of the export earnings for the entire country. With China driving the boom, WA is now home to the most self-made millionaires in the world per capita. The economic trickle down has created a class of unskilled highly paid labourers that are nicknamed “cashed up bogans” akin to the rich rednecks or Beverly Hillbillies. Purveyors of luxury cars, speed boats and high fashion now also see Perth, the capitol city, as a viable place for their businesses.

The mine sites are located in remote, often uninhabited parts of the state making this workforce the largest flying mining workforce on the planet with employers commuting from Perth directly to the mining site. The lifestyle associated with this work, and it’s inhospitable landscapes attracts a work force that is 82% male. Opportunistic women and business people see prostitution as more profitable in these parts, and pubs in the remote mining towns routinely have “skimpy” barmaids - women who sell beer in their underwear.

In 2012-13 WA produced 55 billion worth of Iron Ore, 6 billion worth of Crude oil, 12 billion in natural gas and 8.7 billion in Gold. It has been described as “A bit like the Alaskan Gold rush, the Texas oil boom and Michigan’s Iron age rolled into one and set in a Mad Max movie, where the bikie gangs are tattooed, motorcycle-riding millionaires."

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This was an assignment for TIME Magazine

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