A 2.6 billion-year-old rock, a piece of banded iron formation weighing 2.5 tonne, has made a journey of almost 14,000 kilometres to London from the Pilbara in Western Australia.
It is going on display at a new exhibition celebrating the wonder and beauty of the natural world at the Natural History Museum.
The banded iron formation was formed more than three billion years ago when bacteria in 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 seafloor.
As it settled, bands of red and grey iron-oxide developed between layers of silica-rich sediment.
The rock sent to London came from Rio Tinto’s Mount Tom Price mine and was selected with the assistance of traditional owners, the Eastern Guruma people.
The rock was diamond-cut to shape before being shipped.
“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,” says Stephen McIntosh, Rio Tinto’s group executive growth and innovation.
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