A 2.6bn-year-old, 2.5 tonne rock has travelled nearly 14,000 kilometres to be displayed at London's Natural History Museum.
The colourfully layered piece of banded iron formation (BIF) was unearthed in Australia's Pilbara region in Rio Tinto's Mount Tom Price mine. It will be shown off as part of a new exhibit at the museum to celebrate the wonder and beauty of the natural world.
The rock's bands of red and grey were formed when bacteria in the planet's young oceans began to produce oxygen through photosynthesis. This oxygen combined with dissolved iron in the sea to form insoluble iron oxide, which separated out of the water and sank to the sea floor.
"The BIF provides an important geological marker for when the first oxygen-generating life formed in the oceans, and helps us to understand how the world we know today evolved," said Stephen McIntosh, Rio Tinto's executive of growth and innovation.
"Iron ore has been at the centre of the Earth’s development for billions of years and human development for thousands of years. From the iron age to today’s steel age it has been essential to human progress," he added.
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