Mining the future: a meta-ethnographical synthesis of the Broken Hill mining community

Cotter, Graeme, Chaiechi, Taha, and Gopalkrishnan, Narayan (2022) Mining the future: a meta-ethnographical synthesis of the Broken Hill mining community. In: Community Empowerment, Sustainable Cities, and Transformative Economies. pp. 495-513. From: BEMAS: 1st International Conference in Business, Economics, Management, and Sustainability, 2-3 July 2021, Cairns, QLD, Australia.

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The mining industry is today the largest contributor to Australia’s commodity-based export economy. With an international market orientation from colonial times to the present, and by virtue of its corporate structure, the metalliferous mining industry may be considered a suitably representative proxy to reflect on the broader sphere of Australian economic and industrial activity. Equally, as the nature of work changes with advances in technology, the future sustainability of work communities has become of increasing concern.

A feature of mining communities in Australia, in both historical and contemporary times has been the recurring conflict between capital and labour. This has at times severely impacted mine profitability, which in some cases has led to premature closure of mining operations. It has also caused widespread immiseration of working class families during the extended strikes and lockouts which have ensued.

In The Great Transformation, Karl Polanyi (1944) outlined his thesis of a double-movement which occurs as a protective counter-movement whenever human society has been threatened by market liberalism. The trade-union movement has been arguably the most effective of such double-movements, from its inception during the Industrial Revolution, until a resounding defeat at the hands of market liberalism in the mining industry at Broken Hill in 1986. The union movement has yet to show any convincing signs of recovery from this defeat.

This paper employs a meta-ethnographical synthesis of the literature relating to the historic mining community of Broken Hill in New South Wales to explore the capital-labour conflict in industry. The meta-ethnography was conducted following the approach outlined by Noblit and Hare (1985). Key themes from a selection of five books and fourteen journal articles on the industrial history of Broken Hill were encoded in NVivo to facilitate the synthesis. Tracing the cyclical fortunes of the capital-labour conflict through the lens of the mining industry in this district, the study, aided by a proposed culture interpretive theory (CIT), outlines implications for industry development, employment, and community sustainability in a future Australia, finding evidence that capitalism may be finally ridding itself of the need for the working-class.

Item ID: 71293
Item Type: Conference Item (Research - E1)
ISBN: 978-981-16-5259-2
Keywords: Community, Mining, Capital, Working-class, Unions, Market, liberalism, Polanyi, Conflict, Sustainability
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Copyright Information: © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2022
Date Deposited: 23 Jan 2022 23:12
FoR Codes: 38 ECONOMICS > 3801 Applied economics > 380109 Industry economics and industrial organisation @ 30%
38 ECONOMICS > 3801 Applied economics > 380111 Labour economics @ 20%
38 ECONOMICS > 3899 Other economics > 389999 Other economics not elsewhere classified @ 50%
SEO Codes: 15 ECONOMIC FRAMEWORK > 1599 Other economic framework > 159999 Other economic framework not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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