Mining and the Community » Mining and the Community
The focus of this ACARP-funded project has been to identify a number of housing and labour force issues associated with coal mining in the Bowen Basin in Queensland, use a case study approach in the Moranbah community to assess the issues in some detail, and develop a decision framework to better help government and industry address these issues in a constructive framework.
In recent years the rapid growth in mining activities, changing demographic, social and workforce arrangements, and increasing community concerns about any potential negative impacts have led to an increased focus on the pressures of new mining developments. Key aspects of the focus have been attention on housing and labour force issues, as these represent major areas where social and economic pressures are shifted to other sectors of the economy. Higher demand for housing can lead to inflated rental and housing costs, impacting on sections of the community who do not necessarily benefit from resource development. In the same way higher demands for labour can increase costs and reduce labour availability for other industries and businesses, impacting on the economic framework of a region.
There are a number of different impacts on communities that can be generated from new developments, including:
- Location of the new workforce;
- Impacts of increased demand on housing markets;
- Development of workcamp accommodation facilities;
- Impacts of increased demand on labour markets and local businesses;
- Impacts of higher prices for housing and other goods and services for disadvantaged and other groups; and
- Additional pressure on social infrastructure and services.
The rapid pace of development in the Bowen Basin in Queensland since 2002 has revealed a number of different pressures and responses, without necessarily a coherent strategy emerging to assess and address many of the different impacts on communities. In many towns response strategies appear to lag behind pressures, particularly with long delays occurring to address housing shortages and continued debate about responsibility to address shortages in labour markets and community services (Rolfe et al 2007). The analysis is further complicated by the increasing regionalization of mining impacts, where demographic impacts spread across regional areas, bringing both economic benefits of higher income and employment levels and the associated demands for additional services and infrastructure.
Although there are well established processes for approval of major projects and the conduct of an EIS in Queensland, the rapid pace of new developments, particularly in the mining industry, has meant that the scale of impacts has led to some development pressures on communities. The effects of these impacts are flowing through to policy and approval processes in a number of ways. There are increasing requirements in the Terms of References for conducting EISs for new projects to address housing and labour market impacts, and to account for potential cumulative impacts of multiple projects on communities. As well, there is increased attention from the Queensland Government and industry on potential impacts on communities, with improved engagement and funding for social infrastructure and services.
The interest in identifying and addressing impacts on communities means there are needs for better assessment and planning tools to address issues. The traditional focus of social and economic impact assessment in Queensland is identification of the relevant issues. This focus has intensified in the EIS process following the more detailed requirements in the typical EIS terms of reference, so that project proponents provide more evidence about the existing communities on a number of criteria, and identify more precisely the types of impacts that might occur. However, the process of dealing with key impacts is more difficult, for three key reasons. First, there is no widespread or consistent use of assessment and planning tools to help move from an identification focus to a management focus. Second, there is no clear mechanism to apportion responsibility for addressing social and economic impacts between responsible stakeholders across industry, government and community organizations. Third, there are very limited mechanisms to continue the assessment and planning process for community impacts once an EIS is completed and project approval is granted.
These issues have been addressed in this project through a series of reports that identify issues, provide the results of a case study analysis, and set out a decision framework to help future planning and evaluations. The reports are listed as follows:
- Report 1: Overview of the Housing and Labour issues in Moranbah
- Report 2: Housing and Labour Market Issues: A Literature Review
- Report 3: Development of Bowen Basin regional housing model and its application: A case study on Moranbah
- Report 4: Housing and labour market issues: Survey of Moranbah households
- Reports 5: Analysis of Housing Demand and Housing Choices for Miners in the Bowen Basin Region: A Case Study of Moranbah
- Report 6: A Decision Framework to identify and address housing and labour force issues in mining towns in the Bowen Basin
An e-newsletter has also been published for this project, highlighting its significance for the industry.