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From hedonistic extraction to human flourishing: Applying disruptive and participatory concepts for a pluralist mining ethic

Roche, Charles (2020) From hedonistic extraction to human flourishing: Applying disruptive and participatory concepts for a pluralist mining ethic. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Extractive industries dig or drill holes, pursue profits and promise development. The profits are privatised, the holes are permanent and the minerals, metals and energy benefit society at large; but what are the local development outcomes? Are they long-lasting and substantive, helping humans to flourish? Or are the benefits just a glimmer of momentary joy, quickly spent, then lost in time, obscured by the many disruptions and disappointments wrought by immanent development? Like other complex issues or wicked problems, there are clearly no easy solutions to the problems associated with industrial resource extraction - otherwise we would have implemented them already. As the title alludes, perhaps it is about making an informed choice, to achieve a better balance between hedonistic extraction and human flourishing. Or less cryptically, do we continue to make profit the priority and merely hope for development or is it time to unsettle extraction? To make well-being our primary objective and achieve long lasting and substantive benefits, particularly for host communities?

This thesis by publication explores how we understand mining through the impacts on local communities. It contains five separate articles seeking new insights from different perspectives. Article One provides a foundation by exploring the impacts of mining using a sustainability lens, demonstrating the link between environmental and social impacts that are, in turn, driven by the realities of declining ore grades and increasing mine waste. Article Two turned to the concept of human flourishing (well-being, gutpla sindaun4) to explore the lived impacts from mining that are, at once, both universal and locally specific. Article Three more fully examined the effect of mining on local people, drawing on the knowledge and experience of others to identify eleven factors (impacts) of extractive dispossession to inform communities about potential mining impacts. Article Four applied a tok stori/tok ples methodology alongside participant and co-author art to tell stories of unseen existence, describing relations between people and the environment, which Eurocentric impact assessment (IA) processes can fail to see. Then, Article Five combines industry knowledge with Community stori to analyse the Wafi-Golpu environmental impact statement (hereafter WGEIS5) in relation to the Papua New Guinea mining experience, and to learn from and contribute to IA theory and practice.

Together the work responds to a system of structural processes that reinforce and recreate the asymmetries of power, influence and resources that drive the disproportionate and unequal distribution of impacts and benefits from mining. Aware of this, the project adopted participatory action research methodologies to share and exchange knowledge with Communities, and to ensure that the research would be positive and useful rather than just another extractive pressure. Separate research outputs were also used to inform subsequent research, with summarised and translated articles explained and made available to the Communities as well as shared with government, industry and wider society.

The end result is unknown with the Wafi-Golpu mine undergoing assessment, negotiation and approval processes at the time of submission, with more time and future research required to assess eventual outcomes. Short-term outcomes are positive, however, with PAR used to undertake collaborative research and inform Communities. The research finds that: (1) the heuristics of human flourishing and extractive dispossession are both useful tools to explore how potential impacts on people might affect their life; (2) deliberately decolonial PAR methodologies can help challenge and overcome dominant discourses that recreate coloniality and culturally hegemonic dominance; (3) Communities value balanced and accessible information so they can choose and control development and their own futures; (4) Community-based research and impact assessment (CBIA), is an example of respectful and emancipatory method for understanding impacts, informing Communities and guiding development; and (5) reforms to Eurocentric principles, ethics and methods of IA processes would enable IA to see, respect and protect non-Western values.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Global Studies
Centre for Responsible Citizenship and Sustainability
United Nations SDGs: Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities
Supervisor(s): Brueckner, Martin and Spencer, Rochelle
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