Coal mining is growing rapidly to meet global demand within the Bowen and Surat Basins of Queensland. The mining sector, while recognised as a major contributor to both Queensland and Australia’s economy, exerts significant and diverse social impacts on the regions that host the mines. However, mines have a typically limited life and it is necessary to manage mining and the impact of mining on communities from a whole ‐ of ‐ mine ‐ life perspective.
This paper identifies the strategic issues facing the ongoing development and socio ‐ economic sustainability of the Bowen Basin region during the characteristic “boom and bust” cycles of mining. The paper firstly provides a brief socio ‐ economic characterisation of the region and its mining sector, and follows with a discussion on topics including social wellbeing, hard and soft infrastructure, housing, health, education, attraction/retention, families and women, Indigenous peoples and community development. Issues are then raised on the adequacy and currency of data for policy development and planning. Finally, recommendations are then presented for addressing each of the issues raised.
The work highlighted two difficulties when working with sustainable development data in the region. Firstly, the rapidly ‐ changing nature of the mining sector leads to rapid fluctuations in regional statistics, making it very difficult to obtain, collate and report these accurately before the status quo has changed. Secondly, gross inconsistencies between the approach, coverage and style of figures used by different reporting bodies makes comparative studies difficult. This work was conducted in the closing stages of 2008 – the juncture at which a relatively long ‐ lived mining ‘boom’ began to face a substantial decline in the global economy. Nevertheless, by highlighting the vulnerabilities featured in regions hosting mining activities (e.g., a lack of appropriate health and housing infrastructure and services), the data in this paper are critical to informing regional development and community wellbeing, regardless of the current ‘boom’ or ‘bust’ cycle being experienced. Partnerships and regional coordination between industry, government and the community are important, especially those that take a regional and multidisciplinary approach. Positive outcomes can be achieved from community ‐ driven initiatives in particular – and ultimately, the desired outcome of these is where townships can develop in a complementary and coordinated way that benefits industry together with the region and the individual communities that host industrial activity.