Mining towns or towns with mining?: considering community, place and collective identities in pre-mining transitions

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Osborne, N, Howlett, C & Seini, M 2015, 'Mining towns or towns with mining?: considering community,place and collective identities in pre-mining transitions', paper presented to Institute of Australian Geographers Conference, Canberra, Australia, 1-3 July.


Many cities, towns and communities in Australia are heavily dependent on the mining industry. Indeed, in some places mining forms part of a place’s and a community’s identity – they call themselves ‘a mining town’. In many places, mining offers decently paid ‘family wage’ work for men, and connects to traditional narratives of white Australian heteronormative masculinity and community. But extractive jobs do not last forever, and when mines close mining towns rarely remain viable. As such, mine closures threaten the livelihoods of families, the ‘provider’ identities of many men, and the sustainability of many towns, regions, and communities. This paper draws on storytelling-based research conducted with members of the North Stradbroke Island/Minjerribah community, where the future of the island’s sand mining industry remains in question, and explores the emotional geographies of mining, community and transition. It considers how relationships to place and community, and people’s perspective on the community’s history, affect their views of the mining sector. It also explores trends in the mining industry in Australia (including mine ownership, de-unionisation, long distance commute models and the effects of neoliberalism) and how these may affect planning for post-mining transitions. This research found intimate relationships between place (specifically islandness), civil society, collective identities and perceptions of community. In turn, these shaped responses to the possibility of closure, community attitudes toward alternative economic activities, as well as how the community engaged in planning for a post-mining future.