When BHP Billiton announced last month that it would indefinitely shelve its proposed Olympic Dam expansion in South Australia, some said it signalled the symbolic end of the mining investment boom. South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill’s reaction was particularly revealing. With his government now staring into a $1 billion black hole, Weatherill declared that he and the community had lost trust in BHP, and that the decision was a ‘major disappointment’. Many of Weatherill’s critics have suggested that his response betrayed his party’s zeal for the mining project, to the detriment of other sectors, with the sole aim of bolstering the state’s beleaguered economy. Putting ‘trust’ and ‘mining companies’ in the same sentence may be nothing more than political aikido. After all, given the tumescent economic growth that has come from the commodities rush, Weatherill’s reaction is predictable. Yet one can’t help but feel that his trust is misplaced.
Unsettling truths about high-risk mining projects
Mine-field: The Dark Side of Australia’s Resources Rush
by Paul Cleary
Black Inc., $24.95 pb, 207 pp, 9781863955706
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Gillian Terzis a writer and editor based in Melbourne. She has written on the mining industry for the Guardian and Meanjin.
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