July 13, 2010 / 4:39 PM / 8 years ago

Gabon halts rock quarry to protect ancient fossils

LIBREVILLE (Reuters) - Gabon’s government shut down a rock quarry in the country’s remote eastern region to protect ancient fossils scientists say could prove complex life on earth is more than two billion years old.

Researchers found thumb-sized fossils in the central African state they say pre-dates other evidence of multi-cellular life on the planet by nearly a half a billion years, according to a report published in Nature magazine last month.

“This is a major discovery,” Gabon Mines Minister Julien Nkoghe Bekale said on a visit to the site this week.

“I’ve come to have a look for myself and to apply the instructions of the president, who asked that the quarry be secured and mining temporarily halted while the study is confirmed and appropriate decisions made,” he said.

Scientists believe complex life on earth became commonplace during the Cambrian period less than 600 million years ago, though evidence of multi-cellular life has been found in India dating back more than 1.5 billion years.

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