Many mines have been confronted with community service obligations to the regional communities around their mines.
A collaborative approach with the mining industry, the community and government is needed to stem the flow of profit leaking from communities, executive director for the Institute of Sustainable and Regional Development Professor Bob Miles told Australian Mining.
Miles suggests that mining companies have a part to play in the sustainable development of regional communities that must capitalise on the boom in the mining industry.
“The challenge for coal mining operations is about extracting a body of ore efficiently, transporting it and exporting it to various users,” he said.
“Mining companies are not specialists in community capacity building, regional economic development or the whole range of issues that go with a large scale workforce,” Miles said.
According to Miles, mining companies should work closer and in an equal partnership with the government, community and the regional industries that feed off mines.
“These stakeholders need to collaborate and look at the action required to grow the economic capability, capacity and liveability of these communities,” he said.
Environmental, social and economic impact studies are not being considered as a whole of mine life issue.
“Each phase in the mine life should be considered in order to optimise the return that the mine can bring to their regional communities,” Miles said.
Increased demand for housing is causing housing costs to rise above the level that most of the locals can afford to pay.
“High wages with the expertise is placing a capacity-to-pay problem at the lower socio-economic end of those communities,” Miles said.
“Community members are being displaced from these communities and are being forced elsewhere,” he said.
Small to medium enterprises servicing and supporting mines in the Bowen Basin lack the clustering, network and capacity to tender for mine purchases.
“Much of the economic wealth is leaking from those communities and it requires rethinking” he said.
“By building regional capacity, networks and alliances regional communities will drive the innovation and creativity needed to support mines in the region.”
There is also a leaching of skills from other industrial sectors that are less able to pay high wages.
“Skilled labour across a variety of sectors is being rapidly absorbed by the mines,” Miles said.
There are three things certain in life, according to Miles.
“Death, taxes, and mines will close,” he said.
“Looking beyond the immediacy of the mine to what is left as a consequence of those mines will optimise investment while it occurs.”
Professor Bob Miles
Institute of Sustainable and Regional Development
Central Queensland University
07 4930 9053