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Landowners Shout `Bingo' as West Australia's Mining Towns Boom

Jason Scott Bloomberg
Real estate agent Phil Hodnett poses for a photograph in front of a house for sale in the town of Karratha in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Photographer: Ron D'Raine/Bloomberg

Real estate agent Phil Hodnett poses for a photograph in front of a house for sale in the town of Karratha in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Photographer: Ron D'Raine/Bloomberg


Paul Eaton moved to Karratha 10 years ago with a fledgling building business. Now he and his 40 employees can’t build homes quickly enough in the remote Western Australian mining town where demand for land is so hot that the government organizes lotteries to select buyers.



“During ballots people would literally yell out ‘bingo’ if they got a block of land because instantly they knew they’d made A$100,000 ($90,100),” Eaton, 43, said in between monitoring workers at a building site in the town of 20,000 people. “They’d build a house on it and their profit would go up to A$250,000.”

The housing shortage in a region that’s one of the world’s biggest suppliers of iron ore and natural gas is driving up costs for companies such as Chevron Corp. and BHP Billiton Ltd. as they mine raw materials to feed China’s industrialization. Chevron, the second-largest U.S. oil company, was forced to lease seven-year-old cruise liner MS Finnmarken to house 350 workers at its A$43 billion Gorgon gas project.


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