Mining town survival guide: cheap housing and tourism

Published 11 December 2014

Remote and regional communities dominated by mining can offer cheap housing or act as a service hub after the mine closes according to researchers from the University of New England.

The UNE Business School PHD candidate, Stuart Robertson and Dr Boyd Blackwell are working on the “Enduring Community Value from Mining” project say communities need to plan ahead, diversify, and build resilience if they want to survive after the mine closes.

“They can promote inexpensive housing options to retirees, younger families and artists and look at other industries such as tourism, mine site rehabilitation, forestry, water, horticulture or agriculture to help revitalise and further diversify their economies”, said Mr Robertson.

Beyond securing jobs and delivering incomes, mine lifecycle planning can help build community resilience.

“Mining companies, along with the affected communities and governments, have an ongoing Corporate Social Responsibility obligation to ensure a community can flourish after a mine has closed,” says Mr Robertson.

“For example, Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory was established as a new town in 1939 in response to a burgeoning mining boom. It has now diversified into a regional service centre, a tourist destination and a meat processing centre.”

Dr Blackwell says Tennant Creek’s strategic location close to key highway crossroads and the Barkly Tablelands have helped employment diversify, as did a strategic decision to locate mine-related accommodation in town.

But planning and attempts at diversifying doesn’t always guarantee a town will survive.

“Research shows that in some remote towns, it doesn’t matter how much planning is done, the town may collapse without the mine. Leigh Creek in South Australia and Jabiru in the Northern Territory are examples of where the current existence of those towns hinges on the mine’s continued existence”, said Mr Robertson.

As part of planning, programs such as Western Australia’s Royalties for Regions, can provide targeted enduring community value, if invested and designed appropriately. The research was recently published in the International Journal Rural Law and Policy.