Call for transition strategy to assist Hunter coal mining communities in wake of job losses

B0GR0E Open cut coal mine in the Hunter Valley NSW Australia

Pressure is building on the state and federal governments to come up with a formal strategy to help Hunter mining communities deal with the industry downturn.

BHP Billiton announced on Tuesday it would cut 290 jobs from its Mount Arthur mine near Muswellbrook, bringing to 1000 the number of anticipated job losses in regional mines this year. Others are set to go at Drayton (500), Donaldson (90-plus), Bulga (60) and West Wallsend (100).

Federal Member for Hunter Joel Fitzgibbon is advocating the development of a regional strategy to promote economic diversity in mining areas and Muswellbrook mayor Martin Rush has called on the NSW Government to commit $30 million to an Upper Hunter Economic Development Corporation to help affected communities transition to new industries and create job opportunities.

Cr Rush said with markets retreating and coal prices dropping, it was “becoming increasingly clear this is no longer a cyclical downturn, but a structural decline for the future of thermal coal”.

“The State Government needs to ensure that areas that have contributed so much for so long to the state’s economy are protected during this period of very strong economic headwinds,” Cr Rush said.

Mr Fitzgibbon said job losses and the halving of coal prices over three years had prompted him to lobby for a transition strategy. He has proposed the Hunter branch of Regional Development Australia oversee the building of a business case for government support .

“It is not in anyone’s interests to accelerate the demise of coal but market forces indicate that in the long run, it will play a smaller role in our local economy,” he said.

“I am proposing a consultative three-stage process that will establish a case that government intervention is justified, determine where the money should be spent, then develop a robust funding submission.” To read more click here.

Mining towns: what happens after the boom

What happens to towns and communities when mines close down. Australia has lots of old abandoned “ghost towns” that were once thriving mining towns.  

The decline of mining towns has been addressed in a paper ” The shrinking mining city: urban dynamics and contested territory. ” Martinez-Fernandez C, Wu CT, Schatz LK, Taira N, Vargas-Hernández JG. Source University of Western Sydney, Australia.

gwalia-gold-mining-ghost-town-western-australiaShrinking mining towns once prosperous settlements servicing a mining site or a system of mining sites are characterized by long-term population and/or economic decline.

This dependence on one main industry produces a parallel development in the fluctuations of both workforce and population. Thus, the strategies of the main company in these towns can, to a great extent, determine future developments and have a great impact on urban management plans.

Climate conditions, knowledge, education and health services, as well as transportation links, are important factors that have impacted on lifestyles in mining cities, but it is the parallel development with the private sector operators (often a single corporation) that constitutes the distinctive feature of these cities and that ultimately defines their shrinkage. Read More

Mining towns after the boom, the impact on planning and social infrastructure  – please tell us your story.

Call for papers – there will be sustainability and planning streams at the conference, would you like to speak?

Authors or organisations interested in submitting a paper or presenting a workshop are invited to submit an abstract of no more than 300 words outlining the aims, contents and conclusions of their paper or presentation; or about their intended role in a workshop.

Australian Regional Development Conference

RDA Conference15-16 October 2014, The Commercial Club Albury Secretariat: (T) 61 7 5502 2068 (F) 07 5527 3298 Email: secretariat@regionaldevelopment.org.au URL: www.regionaldevelopment.org.au