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A BHP partnership has helped to unearth a rare, 100-million-year-old dinosaur fossil in Western Queensland.

Project DIG is a partnership between BHP, BHP Mitsubishi Alliance and Queensland Museum Network. This week, DIG palaeontologists unearthed the head and associated body of a Elasmosaurus, a long-necked plesiosaur that co-existed with dinosaurs in the early Cretaceous Period.

The find marks the first time a preserved head and body of an Elasmosaurus have ever been found together in Australia. Due to the length of the skeleton, the fossils are usually separated after death.

The Elasmosaurus lived in the Eromanga Sea, which covered large parts of inland Australia between 140 and 100 million years ago.

“We were extremely excited when we saw this fossil – it is like the Rosetta Stone of marine palaeontology as it may hold the key to unravelling the diversity and evolution of long-necked plesiosaurs in Cretaceous Australia,” Knutsen told 7 news.

“We have never found a body and a head together, and this could hold the key to future research in this field.”

Several other specimens, including fragments from an Ichthyosaur were collected from the site in Western Queensland and will be transported to the Museum of Tropical Queensland in Townsville for research.

The find is reminiscent of a 1974 find which took place in Victoria.

Palaeontologist Thomas Rich led a ten-year research project in Dinosaur Cove near the Otway Ranges.

Interestingly, Atlas Copco numbered among those involved in excavation. The mining company provided compressors, rock drills, pneumatic tools and expert assistance over a number of years.

So when Rich discovered a new species of dinosaur – which measured an estimated two to four meters and weighed in at 125 kilos – he named it Atlascopcosaurus loadsi.

Loadsi refers to Bill Loads, Atlas Copco’s Victoria manager who made the initial decision to support the project.