Mineral resources and regional economic development

: a historical and economic perspective

  • Kenneth Francis Hooper

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU

    Abstract

    This research project was conducted to test the contrary views regarding the assertion that the mineral resource sector is the driving force behind regional economic development in areas of the Northern Territory where such activity takes place. It also sought to ascertain if a nexus exists between mineral resource sector activity and the economic development (ie. the social wellbeing) of Northern Territory indigenous people living in areas affected by mining operations.

    The research revealed that the history of the Northern Territory's mineral resource sector predates permanent European settlement. However, interest in the Northern Territory as a possible prospective mineral province did not occur until 1870 when gold was discovered at Yam Creek by the construction crew of the Overland Telegraph Line.

    Since the Yam Creek discovery, the mineral resource sector has matured from an industry focused almost entirely on gold to an industry supplying the world with a broad range of metaffic, non-metaffic and energy commodities. In the maturing process it has become the most significant private sector industry in the Northern Territory, contributing to the economy through major export earnings, capital investment and employment.

    Historical data suggests that a link does exists between mineral resource sector activity and the development of many of the Northern Territory's towns and regional centres supporting, to some degree, industry's assertion that the mineral resource sector has been the catalyst for regional economic development.

    However notwithstanding this, a review of intra-regional general economic indicators and multiplier impacts resulting from mineral resource sector activity on the Gove Peninsula, revealed the existence of a broad range of intra-regional disparities, especially between the region's indigenous and non-indigenous peoples.

    Physical quality of life indices were developed for the indigenous and non-indigenous sectoral groups for the periods 1980-1982, 1985-1987, 1990-1992 and 1995-1997. The purpose for developing these indices was to ascertain if the two main sectoral groups had experienced an improvement in their physical quality of life (their social wellbeing).

    The physical quality of life indices demonstrate that both sectoral groups experienced an increase in their social wellbeing, albeit at different rates of change. That is, the physical quality of life index improvement for the non-indigenous sectoral group significantly outpaced that for the indigenous group. For example, in 1980-1982 the indices for the indigenous and non-indigenous sector groups were 44.3 and 81.9 index points respectively. In 1995-1997 both indices had increased, the indigenous index to 49.3 points and the non-indigenous to 90.4 points.

    The results of this study, when compared to similar studies for other countries, confirm what has long been suspected, Aboriginal peoples' life experience in the Northern Territory is akin to that of people living in the third world, despite the fact that they live in a highly industrialised developed country.

    A survey of Aboriginal people living in remote areas affected by mining activity was carried out and their opinions sought as to the impact of mineral resource sector activity on their physical quality of life. Their views on the assertion that the mineral resource sector is the driving force behind regional economic development were also sought.

    Analysis of survey results demonstrate that aboriginal people living in remote areas affected by mining activity are of the view that mining activity has contributed to an increase in their physical quality of life. They are also of the opinion that mining activity is the driving force behind Northern Territory regional economic development.
    Date of Award2000
    Original languageEnglish

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