A study of the potential for regional communities in QLD to embark on an economic transition away from a dependency on coal mining was undertaken this year by Just Transition Brisbane (JTB).

A picture of a solar array in a field in Portugal.

Serpa solar plant in Portugal. Image courtesy of

The specific research aim was to identify any potential barriers and/or opportunities in relation to this kind of economic transition taking place. The region of Oakey was identified as being an important case study for this research, due to the fact that the nearby Acland Coal Mine is currently applying to expand their mining operations.

Representatives of the five categories (government, agriculture, business/tourism, local community, social/environmental community organisations) were approached with a set of key questions and the answers to these questions have been presented in the Just Transitions: transitioning toward a mining free future report.

The following list of opportunities and recommendations summarise the findings of this important research project.

Opportunities for alternative economic development for the Oakey region include: 

  • Return to agriculture and related industries, eg. cropping, piggeries, and feedlots
  • Possibility of expansion of meat works and army base
  • Development of poultry industry
  • Lightweight perishable crops distributed via Wellcamp airport
  • Small business opportunities connected to agriculture, eg. rural supply
  • New retail and residential opportunities to support the increase in business opportunities
  • Alternative use of existing infrastructure to power new manufacturing industries
  • Tourism that supports sustainability of the region’s natural resources and promotes cultural assets: eco-tourism, on-farm visits, B&Bs, food & beverage, and regional cuisine-based enterprises and festivals
  • Establishment of alternative, renewable energy generation: wind and solar farms.

Recommendations to support possible alternative economic development:

  • Facilitation of ongoing community engagement with state and local government representatives
  • Widespread promotion of viable economic development opportunities for the region — especially in regards to job creation and re-skilling/up-skilling of locals
  • Support from community and relevant stakeholders for development of locally-based economic action plan for transition
  • Community support for the development of communications strategies to target identified stakeholders
  • Facilitation of engagement activities with youth sectors of the Oakey region in relation to training and up-skilling for new/alternative industries
  • Need for community engagement campaigns in relation to the reality of the long-term physical and environmental effects of mining

This important research responds to an urgent need to address the perception that regional communities must remain dependent on mining jobs in particular. And the findings contained in the report indicate that while this issue is both complicated and contested, there is growing support for both transition and diversification for regional economies throughout QLD.

(The information contained in the Just Transitions: Transitioning towards a mining free future report was identified as part of a Participatory Needs and Opportunities Assessment (PNOA) completed for the Master of Communication for Social Change at The University of Queensland.

The PNOA was undertaken on behalf of the Just Transitions Brisbane (JTB) group. JTB aim to work with communities traditionally economically dependent on mining in order to support a just transition — to a locally supported economy that is diverse and largely self-sufficient, and thus more sustainable and equitable in the long term).

A link to more information can be found here: Just Transitions Presentation 2015

Oakey Coal Action Alliance would like to thank the members of Just Transitions Brisbane for their interest and efforts in undertaking this pivotal study.