Mining Impact on the Policy and Infrastructure of the Modern City


This paper aims to discuss the influence of economic relations and industrial development on the infrastructure of modern city, its architecture and its policies. In particular, we are going to focus on the mining industry of Australia and the exportation of iron ore to China and their implications for the infrastructure, environment, and community. It should be noted that the People’s Republic of China has recently become by far the largest trading partners of Australia, since the manufacturers of these country are strongly dependent on the continuous supply of steel and iron1. One of the areas that have been particularly affected by these forces is Dampier Archipelago, which is known for its port that supports many export and mining companies. Although it is too early to jump to conclusions, we can say that the most conspicuous influence of mining industry is the incessant industrialization and urbanization of landscape. Those areas that have previously been designated for agricultural purposes, now serve the needs of industrial enterprises. More importantly, this urbanization and industrialization can imperil the Australian natural and cultural heritage, for example, one can mention Dampier Rock Art. Therefore, this industrialization of landscape often leads to a conflict of interest especially between the representatives of the tourism, the governmental organizations and the mining companies. Furthermore, we can argue that the government supports these changes because mining industry provides a powerful stimulus to the economic development of the region. Overall, our task is to show how modern architecture and infrastructure may be shaped by the interests of some distant actors, in this case, the Chinese investors. Moreover, in this we need to show that contemporary urban planning and design are inseparable from economic and financial considerations and how the interest of various stakeholders such as community and private businesses are taken into account by the government. The key argument that we can advance at this moment is that in many cases the government pays too much attention to the economic development while overlooking the interests of the community and many environmental risks. The following sections of this paper will dwell on the role of this mining in the process of urbanization and discuss its potential implications for the government, the community, and the environment.

The importance of mining industry for the economy of Australia

At first, it is necessary for us to discuss the importance of extraction industry for the Australian economy. At the moment, the country is considered to be the third-largest producer of iron ore in the world2. Moreover, one should bear in mind that the country produces approximately 20 per cent of alumnia, and the extraction industry is one of the largest employers in Western Australia3. To a large extent, the extraction industry gave impetus to the development of transport infrastructure in this area, for example, we can refer to the Dampier Port, which is extremely important for those enterprises, exporting iron ore or salt. It should be noted that the iron exports constitute 83, 07 percent of all cargo4. Therefore, it is quite possible to assume that iron ore exports are indispensible for the functioning or the very existence of this enterprise. In point of fact, without the exports of iron ore to foreign countries, this town might never have been built. Thus, one may argue that in general the impact of mining industry is more or less beneficial. The second issue that we need to discuss in this section is the importance of Chinese investment for the mining industry of the country. Approximately, thirty-six percent of all iron exports go to China5. On the whole, Asian markets are extremely important for the country, since such countries as Japan, China, and South Korea are the largest consumers of iron ore6. This information suggests that sometimes the urbanization and industrialization of territory may be affected by diplomatic relations. One should remember that several decades China was a very secluded country and its economic relations with foreign countries were countries. Nowadays, China is a very important trading partner for Australia, and its investments are crucial for the prosperity of mining companies.

However, one should bear it in mind that mining industry is often subjected to heavy criticism by scientists and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Extraction industry is often held responsible for deforestation, and erosion. To prove this point, we can refer to the case of Queenstown in Tasmania. The mountains, for which the town is famous for, were almost completely stripped of their forests. Due to this ecological disaster, the town, itself, became less attractive to tourists. Thus, we may argue that the development of mining industry is not always beneficial to the community. More importantly, continuous urbanization and industrialization of landscape may result in the conflict of interests. In this case, we can speak about several stakeholders: 1) mining companies; 2) tourism industries; 3) community. One should not suppose that their interests are always conflicting or that no compromise can be found. At this stage the role of the local government becomes pivotal since these authorities need to act as arbiters.

The public opinion about extraction industry is not homogeneous. Many people are quite content with the rapid expansion of mining companies and exports of iron ore to China, because these companies create employment opportunities and invest capital in the development of local infrastructure. For instance, it is known that Chinese companies invested at least $ 22 billion in Australian mining industry7. Therefore, the Australian government encourages this initiative. Nonetheless, there is some opposition toward this practice. First, many people argue that the growth of extraction industry inevitably creates many environmental risks such as air and water pollution, deforestation of mountains, erosion. Moreover, mining may endanger the existence of many biological species. We should not disregard some political opposition to the exportation of iron ore to China. Some critics believe that the Chinese influence over the economy of Australia has become too powerful8. Their major concern is that in the long term Chinese increased participation in the Australian economy will soon transform into the means of diplomatic influence. In other words, they fear that the Chinese government will be able to impact Australian foreign and domestic policies. One may agree or disagree with this criticism, however, it shows that the authorities, responsible for economic development and city planning, should not overlook political implications of urbanization. This case indicates that urbanization and industrialization are often driven by a large number of factors such social, economic, political, technological etc. Finally, it is possible for us to say that mining industry is a powerful agent of urbanization in Australia, and the Town of Dampier is an example that proves this point. To get a better idea of this issue we need to take this area as an example and show how mining industry has changed its infrastructure as well as the environment.

The impact of mining industry on the Dampier Archipelago

It stands to reason that the growth of mining industry will inevitable leave its trace on natural landscape, infrastructure, and sometimes even the very architecture of the city. As far as Dampier Archipelago is concerned, we may say that mining industry virtually revolutionizes the physical appearance of this area. First, Dampier is often called “a single-purpose” which essentially means that that it was designed and constructed for the needs of a certain industry or enterprise, namely the Hamersley Iron Company9. It was founded in 1965, and since that time, its population has grown at a rapid pace. The regular design of this city is the first detail that inevitably attracts attention. In part, this regular design can be explained by the fact that this town was supposed to be a processing center and a port10. Therefore, it would not be an exaggeration to say that iron mining can be a city-forming factor. Moreover, this case illustrates how relatively uninhabited area is transformed into an important industrial center. The Port of Dampier is not the only example of infrastructural development. We should not overlook the importance of numerous railroads that connect Dampier with several important mines, such as Brockman or Nammuldi mine. Yet, when we are speaking about the infrastructure, we should not focus only on the means of transportation since the term infrastructure is much wider. In Dampier, the growth of mining industry was accompanied by rapid development of water distribution system, the appearance of mobile and telephone networks. Furthermore, we need to mention the so-called “soft infrastructure” that includes healthcare organizations, police, and financial institutions that help people conduct money transactions. None of these institutions was existent before 1965. Certainly, we should not attribute these achievements only to private organizations because the functioning of public services such as law enforcement or medical institution is utterly impossible without active support of the government. Still, it is the private initiative that stimulated the demographic, economic, and industrial growth in Dampier and in the neighboring areas.

Overall, it is quite possible for us to track this development. The history of land use in the region can be divided into two parts, before 1960 and after 1960. The thing is that in 1960 the Commonwealth Government lifted restrictions on iron ore exports11. This decision gave rise to a great number of mines and stimulated population growth. As a matter of fact, during the period between 1965 and 1990 the population in this region has increased almost by 1700 per cent. Thus, these statistical data suggest that economic development of the region is closely linked with mining industry. This is one of the reasons why the government is reluctant to limit the expansion of such companies as Hamersley Iron. However, many scholars believe that the government should exercise more control and monitoring of mining for industrial purposes in order to make sure that mining does not diminish the conservational value of this land (Morris, n. d. p 43). The overarching argument, made by the advocates of this policy is that industrial companies can easily claim the lands of Dampier Archipelago and that too little attention is paid to the potential effects of these activities (Morris, n. d. p 43). The major concern is that they can result in the pollution of the environment and the destruction of the natural landscape. More importantly, unrestricted mining may pose a threat to tourism industry. Judging from these arguments, one can suggest that mining may also decrease the economic capacity of the region, especially in the long term. This argument illustrates the point that laisser-faire attitude of the government toward economic affairs is not always acceptable, and that such processes as urbanization and industrialization of the living territory must be put under governmental control, at least to some degree.

In the previous section of the paper, we have pointed out that mining or extraction industry can constitute a threat to the cultural heritage of Dampier Archipelago. In particular, many scholars are concerned with the preservation of rock art or petroglyph12. It is hypothesized that many of these petroglyphs have already been destroyed by the mining companies. In addition to that, historians and archeologists believe that the local government should take a more active stance on this issue. According to them, the local authorities virtually disclaimed this responsibility and put it on the shoulders of private companies which are much more concerned with the profitability rather than cultural heritage13. If the situation remains unchanged, there is great probability that these petroglyphs will be wiped from the face of the earth, and this will be a great cultural loss for Australia. This is why we can say that the expansion of the extraction industry has to be at least monitored by the state.

This is one of those cases when the government finds itself on the horns of a dilemma: on the one hand, they have to promote economic development of the region, while on the other, they need to preserve the environment of Dampier Archipelago. Their main task is to make these things compatible with one another. This conflict exemplifies the common challenges of modern urbanization, when the interests of various stakeholders collide with each other. The key question which arises in connection with this dispute is how the government should act in such a situation. This issue will be analyzed in the next section of the paper.

Polity and Space

One of the major ideas that can be derived from the above findings is that the use of space and the development of infrastructure in a certain area is driven by private enterprises. One should not assume that this influence of corporations is a negative phenomenon, since in many cases they contribute to job creation, construction of railroads and other facilities, which improve the well-being of the community. To some, the town of Dampier is good evidence in support of this argument. Nonetheless, the growing power of private organization may also infringe upon the rights of other people, for example, by polluting the environment or by destroying the landscape. Therefore, those people, who are responsible for urbanization and city planning, have to take into account the needs of various stakeholders like community, private businesses, and non-governmental organizations. In this case, the government has to act a mediator that helps the stakeholders find a compromise, especially if the sides come into conflict with one another, and this task is not easy to perform, because the government has to weigh economic development of the region, on the one hand, and the environmental effect of mining. This is one of those situation when the local government to consider long and short-term perspectives of economic development. Sooner or later, mining industry may decline because the supplies of iron, coal or nickel are exhaustible, while tourism can be a constant source of revenue for the region. Even if we look at this problem from purely economic point, we may argue that the uncontrolled expansion of mining industry is not always profitable. The thing is that modern manufactures have already realized that natural reserves may soon become depleted and they try to rely more on nanotechnology and biofuels, and in the near future this trend may eventually diminish the economic value and power of the extraction industry. Certainly, this may not happen in the next year or in the next decade, but the government should not overlook this possibility; they need to work out some alternative strategies for the economic development of the region. At this point, we can argue that the local government adopts a laisser-faire attitude to the industrialization of Dampier Archipelago, especially as far as preservation of environment is concerned. Such situation is not always tolerable because the role of the government is to consider the interests of various groups and find a solution would suit each side.


Therefore, we can come to the following conclusions: 1) mining industry has become one of those factors that drive industrialization in Australia; 2) extraction companies greatly contribute to the development of local infrastructure; 3) the expansion of mining industry may endanger natural environment and cultural heritage of the region; 4) the local authorities often encourage the expansion of the mining industry often at some expense for the community. The expansion of any industry often entails many environmental and economic risks, which must be taken into consideration by those people, who are responsible for city planning. The main problem that has to be addressed is that too often local authorities allow themselves to be controlled by private companies and their short-term economic interests.


The Map of Dampier

(Aveling, 2010, unpaged)
(Aveling, 2010, unpaged)

Reference List

Anonymous Author. ‘Dampier’. The Sydney Morning Herald. 2004. Web.

Aveling. ‘The Map of Dampier’. Web.

Australian Bureau of Statistics. Year book, Australia 87. Aust. Bureau of Statistics, Melbourne. 2005.

Bednarik. R. Dampier information page. IFRAO (International Federations of Rock Art Organizations.) 2002. Web.

Morris. K. Dampier Archipelago. Nature Reserves. Management Plan. 1990-2000. Department of Conservation and Land Management. Web.

Penrith D. & Seal. J. Live & Work in Australia. Crimson Publishing, Melbourne 2008.

The Dampier Port Authority. The Official Website. 2010. Web.

Wines. M. ‘Uneasy Engagement Australia, Nourishing China’s Economic Engine, Questions Ties’ The New York Times, 2009. Web.


  1. Wines. M. ‘Uneasy Engagement Australia, Nourishing China’s Economic Engine, Questions Ties’ The New York Times, 2009, p 1
  2. Penrith D. & Seal. J. Live & Work in Australia. Crimson Publishing, 2008. Melbourne, p 302.
  3. Ibid., p 302.
  4. The Dampier Port Authority. The Official Website. 2010. Web.
  5. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Year book, Australia 87. Aust. Bureau of Statistics, Melbourne. 2005, p 829
  6. Ibid. p 829
  7. Wines. M. ‘Uneasy Engagement Australia, Nourishing China’s Economic Engine, Questions Ties’ The New York Times, 2009, p 1
  8. Ibid. p 1.
  9. Anonymous Author. ‘Dampier’. The Sydney Morning Herald. 2004. Web.
  10. Ibid. inpaged
  11. Morris. K. Dampier Archipelago. Nature Reserves. Management Plan. 1990-2000. Department of Conservation and Land Management.
  12. Bednarik. R. Dampier information page. IFRAO (International Federations of Rock Art Organizations.) 2002.
  13. Ibid. unpaged

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