The socio-ecological impacts of mining on the well-being of Indigenous Australians: A systematic review

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Abstract

Mining on Indigenous lands affects people's well-being and the relationship between themselves and their lands. Indigenous peoples’ sociocultural and spiritual connections to their lands are symbolised in bush food, totems, ceremonial objects, sacred names, and kinship systems representing various provisioning and cultural Ecosystem Services (ES). In Australia, most mine sites are located on traditional lands, causing losses of vital ES due to alterations in the original land cover and the destruction of natural habitats such as woodlands, wetlands, and grasslands. In addition, mining causes conflicting relationships between locals and mining companies, reducing community cohesion and restricting land access. These socio-ecological impacts jeopardise the contributions of ecosystems to people's well-being and their ability to care for traditional lands. However, studies assessing the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of mining on Indigenous well-being during the mine lifecycle are scarce. Considering the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses, this study presents how mining operations on Indigenous lands have affected people's well-being and ecosystems in Australia. This review aims to address the gaps in current knowledge for understanding the impacts of mining, not just on the environment but also on people living in mining landscapes, to inform public policy and future programs appropriately. We analysed peer-reviewed articles and book chapters published between 2012 and 2022 by applying the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Conceptual Framework using quantitative and qualitative approaches. Various associations were identified between well-being constituents, mining impacts, and ES. From an environmental perspective, the negative impacts of mining were mainly associated with provisioning and cultural ES, while mining operations affected all five constituents of well-being. We suggest addressing these knowledge gaps by applying integrated approaches focused on consolidating the environmental, social, and economic impacts over the mine lifecycle that can contribute to mine management and rehabilitation plans for the environment and Indigenous well-being.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101429
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalExtractive Industries and Society
Volume17
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024

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