Extractive resource development in a changing climate: Learning the lessons from extreme weather events in Queensland, Australia
Authors: Vigya Sharma, Shashi van de Graaff, Barton Loechel and Daniel Franks
In this study, a number of lessons for improving adaptation to extreme climatic events within the resources sector were identified, including: methodical learning and timely adjustments to plans and strategies; long-term water resource management and planning for droughts/floods by both governments and industries; improved understanding of local and regional socio-ecological landscapes hosting mining operations; engagement and communication across stakeholder groups to build cooperative relationships and address community anxiety; collective knowledge management, transfer and training; greater flexibility in resource management plans to accommodate abrupt climatic changes. Key barriers to developing adaptation strategies in Central Queensland’s coal mining region, include difficulty in switching industry mindsets between extreme ‘dry’ and ‘wet’ conditions, economic and psychological impacts on the community, community perceptions of the mining industry, and the lack of available and useable climate data. The competing (and at times, contradictory) agendas of water conservation and excess flood water management, the lack of preparedness for sudden climatic change, and shortsightedness due to high staff turnover have exacerbated the socio-ecological vulnerability of the coal mining industry to climate extremes. This study used a literature review, targeted interviews with government and industry, and workshops with stakeholder groups to understand the impacts (direct and flow-on) and response mechanisms for climate extremes experienced since 2000 in Central Queensland’s coal mining region.