Tensions between the agriculture and mining sectors in Australia have increased in recent years, with the coal and CSG industries coming to loggerheads with agricultural communities in many areas across the country. Various attempts have been made to address the conflict, often initiated through government regulation where a 'balance' is sought between the two sectors. However, significant tensions remain and are likely to increase alongside the planned expansion of coal and CSG extraction, presenting serious challenges for communities, governments and industry.
This paper outlines a research approach and some initial results from taking a broad and historical look at current concerns. Coal contestations in Australia are multifaceted and the longstanding justification that 'the national interest' and 'the greater good' outweighs local impacts points to a fundamental dilemma in extractive resource practices across time, place and commodities. It is argued that there is a need to properly comprehend the nature and substance of current controversies and to take into account historically persistent and universal dilemmas. By not doing so, we limit our understanding and therefore the range of responses to these current pressing problems.