The relationship between mining and socio-economic well being in Australia's regions
This paper examines the relationship between quality of life indicators and the gross value of minerals production from Australian regions. We used quality of life indicators, aggregated for 71 local government areas containing mining activities, of household income, housing affordability, access to communication services, educational attainment, life expectancy, and unemployment. We find no evidence of systematic negative associations between quality of life and the gross value of minerals production. Instead, mining activity has a positive impact on incomes, housing affordability, communication access, education and employment across regional and remote Australia. Whilst we do not establish causality between mining activity and quality of life, our analysis prompts a rethink of the resource curse as it applies within a single country. We did not find evidence of a resource curse, at the local government level, in Australia's mining regions. Nevertheless, we note observations by many other researchers of negative social impacts on specific demographic sectors, localities, families of fly-in fly-out mining operations, and individuals. This contrast may be a scale issue, with the regional benefits of mineral wealth masking highly localised inequalities and disadvantage. We suggest that there is a need to better understand these impacts and, more importantly, the types of policy mechanisms government and industry can adopt to mitigate or avoid them.
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