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Assessing the social impacts of the resources boom on rural communities

  • Year: 2011
  • Author: Carrington, Kerry; Pereira, Margaret
  • Journal Name: Rural Society
  • Journal Number: Vol. 21, No. 1
  • Country: Australia
  • State/Region: Queensland

Until the 1970s mining leases were issued by state governments subject to conditions that companies build or substantially finance local community infrastructure, including housing, streets, transport, schools, hospitals and recreation facilities [Houghton (1993). Long-distance commuting: A new approach to mining in Australia. The Geographical Journal, 159(3), 281-290]. Townships and communities went hand in hand with mining development. However, in the past 30 years mining companies have moved progressively to an expeditionary strategy for natural resources extraction - operating a continuous production cycle of 12 hour shifts - increasingly reliant on non-resident, fly-in, fly-out or drive-in, drive-out (FIFO/DIDO) workers who typically work block rosters, reside in work camps adjacent to existing communities and travel large distances from their homes. This paper presents the key findings of our survey into the social impacts of this kind of mining development in Qld. Based on the results we argue that the social license to develop new mining projects is strong for projects requiring a 25% or less non-resident workforce, diminishes significantly thereafter and is very weak for projects planning to recruit a non-resident workforce in excess of 75%. This finding is significant because there are at least 67 new mining projects worth around $50 billion undergoing social impact assessment in Queensland, and many it appears are planning to hire significant proportions of non-resident workers. The paper concludes that this is a growing social justice issue requiring Australian Government leadership in formulating a consistent national policy framework for guiding sustainable mining development into the next millennium.

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