The Journey – previously known as the Mass Extinction Memorial Observatory (MEMO) – will be built within Bowers Quarry and Mine, located at the world heritage-listed Jurassic Coast in Portland, England.
Operated by Albion Stone, the site has been the site of extractive activities since the late 1700s. It is also described as Portland’s ‘first ever’ underground mining operation, with ‘high wall mining’ taking place since 2002.
First established in 2006, the original £30 million ($AUD50.8 million) project was originally designed as a spiral stone tower that “paid homage to the world's extinct species, with images of 860 species assessed as extinct since the disappearance of the dodo inscribed on its sides”.
However, funding pressures led to a revised scheme. The now £16 million ($AUD27m) project will focus on the broader subject of biodiversity and is set to be built within the tunnels of Albion Stone's mines and accessed from Bower's Quarry.
The evolution of the project follows a partnership with the Eden Project – an educational charity that focuses on environmental conservation, education and sustainability projects. However, Weymouth and Portland Borough Council (WPBC), Dorset County Council and a number of private donors have also pledged an additional £50,000 ($AUD84,714) towards its development, local newspaper Dorset Echo reported.
“What Albion have created is an absolutely amazing space that’s 30 foot (9m) high, if you can imagine it. It looks like something from an Indiana Jones set,” project director Sebastian Brooke was quoted as saying.
“We have done a geotechnical report on the mine and drawn up blueprints for a permanent site which will be suitable for tourism use,” he added.
James Farquharson, WPBC’s spokesman for economic development, echoed similar sentiments, saying: “We are excited about the prospect of adding a new attraction to the area. As well as the clear economic benefit to residents, we expect this to become a major tourist attraction as a centre for learning.”
It is estimated the project will attract 325,000 visitors a year and create 79 full-time year-round jobs.
The project is expected to be open to the public in early 2020.
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