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The Ethics of Resource Extraction and Processing: Two Western Australian Case Studies

Albrecht, G. and Ellis, N. (2014) The Ethics of Resource Extraction and Processing: Two Western Australian Case Studies. In: Brueckner, M., Durey, A., Mayes, R. and Pforr, C., (eds.) Resource curse or cure?: On the sustainability of development in Western Australia. Springer, Berlin, pp. 43-58.


Ethics is the study of what is considered to be 'good' and sustainability ethics consists of a set of principles that serve as a guide for action when deciding what to do in the face of complex normative decisions involving the quality and continuity of life. Justice, the distribution of benefits and burdens in society, can only be achieved when all claims of injustice are rebutted in a fair and reasonable decision-making process. In this chapter we apply a number of different ethical approaches and the core ethical principles contained within them to the complex issue of mineral exploitation in the Pilbara and Kimberley regions of Western Australia (WA). We use two case studies, one based on the current exploitation of liquefied natural gas (LNG) on the Burrup Peninsula in the Pilbara and the other based on a proposed LNG gas hub on the Kimberley coast at James Price Point, to test the applicability of the ethical principles used. We argue that the issues involved in the extraction of LNG are typical of other mining and processing issues in WA and that the sustainability 'ethics test' developed and applied in this chapter can be used to evaluate other forms of mineral exploitation. Since this chapter is an ethical evaluation of the sustainability issues raised by the two case studies, we make no claims about the economic analysis of benefits and burdens of mining and minerals development. We conclude that when a sustainability ethics test is applied to the way in which mineral development is taking place in WA, ongoing claims of injustice from both Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians speak loudly that both process and outcomes have yet to depart from the despotic traditions carried into this continent by colonists from Europe in the nineteenth century.

Publication Type: Book Chapter
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Management and Governance
Publisher: Springer
Copyright: The Authors
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