Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Australia's mining boom consumes a small town

Norimitsu Onishi writes in today's New York Times about the impact that Australia's mining boom is having on some inland farm towns. Here's an excerpt about the story, dateline Ackland, Queensland., of Glenn Beutel, a resident of the town who five years ago expressed his lack of interest in selling his land to a mining company official with the comment, “I told him it was part of my soul. He ran away.”
But over the next five years, officials of New Hope Coal would meet with Mr. Beutel’s neighbors, buying up their homes and land one by one. Some sold happily; others said they felt coerced. Either way, Mr. Beutel now finds himself the last homeowner here, this 120-year-old town vanishing rapidly around him, huge deposits of coal lying under him and lawyers for the coal company threatening to come down on him.
The story reflects several rural themes, including community and attachment to place. Here's a quote from Mr. Beutel, who says, "he had become Ackland’s last homeowner for the simple reason that he had always had trouble making decisions and was still very attached to this place, which his mother had helped endow with parks, a war memorial and other beautification projects."

This quote from Michael Roche, chief executive of the Queensland Resources Council, the industry group for mining interests in the state of Queensland, mocks what he sees as rural nostalgia:
Now, there’s one resident left there. You will always find a few individuals who grieve for the way things were. I think you’ll find most people have moved on, got on with life and have been well looked after by the company.
There you have it, rural residents. There's the message (from capitalism and the state?): Just move to the city and get on with life.

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