Digging in: Disappearing villages in coal-affected communities in the Hunter Valley
(University of Sydney)
Paper short abstract:
In the context of open-cut mining expansion in the Hunter Valley NSW and "disappearing villages", this paper explores the ways in which connections to the natural and built environment, as well as historical ties to localities, and moralities of development, are articulated and contested through residents’ and others’ discourses about changes to rural communities and landscape.
Paper long abstract:
The term "village" is in frequent use in the Upper Hunter Valley of NSW, particularly in relation to threats to settlements from the large-scale expansion of open cut and underground coal mining operations. In the Singleton and Muswellbrook areas, an area of about 50 kms (more than 17% of the Valley floor), has already been mined since 1987. Bucolic landscapes of "brooks", "streams", "arable land", "whippies" and "commons" are disappearing into the "moonscape" of mine voids and "zones of affectation". Further expansion is being fuelled by unprecedented prices being achieved for coal exported from the Port of Newcastle. Exploration plans have been unveiled that will impinge on residential communities situated in prime agricultural areas previously not considered suitable for mining; and a large new mine has recently been approved in a bushland area known to be the home of number of endangered species of flora and fauna. In addition, residents living in areas already affected by mining are facing further expansion.This paper explores the ways in which connections to the natural and built environment, as well as historical ties to localities, and moralities of development, are articulated and contested through residents' and others' discourses about changes to rural communities and landscape.