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New oil quest at Aborigine shrine

Police are escorting a 50-truck convoy that left Perth, the capital of Western Australia, Aug. 7 to take drilling equipment to an oil site at Noonkanbeh, over 1,000 miles away in the far north of the state. In April, Aborigines drove workmen way from the site, where the US-based company Amax has drilling rights.

It is yet another in the recurring incidents in which growing Aborigine activism (supported by increased white Australian sensitivity to Aborigine rights) has collided with spreading exploitation of Australia's still largely untapped mineral wealth, correspondent Geoffrey Godsell says.

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Noonkanbeh -- a particularly sacred spot in the religion of Aborigines -- is west of the Kimberley Plateau, where Aborigine concern has already been roused by a flood of diamond prospectors staking claims. Proposed bauxite mining in the state has also run into Aborigine objections.

After last April's trouble the Western Australia state government took control of the Noonkanbeh site in an effort to blunt the edge of Aborigine opposition to the oil operation there.