The 1960s–1970s mining boom in Australia: A missed opportunity for socio-economic gain

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Kate Butler

Keywords

Mining, Mining industry, Australia, history, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander

Abstract

The 1960s–1970s mining boom was of great importance to Australia for various reasons, including the resulting shift of Australia’s trade focus from Britain to Asia. However, as this essay highlights, many opportunities presented by Australia’s great mineral wealth were not fully capitalised upon during this boom. The essay draws upon two existing arguments to illustrate this. Firstly, despite reforms towards the end of the boom, Australia’s taxation and foreign ownership laws lead to the economic gains being realised largely offshore. Secondly, Indigenous Australians were often excluded from the benefits of mining activity on their country. The essay does not dispute these arguments; however, it also contends that the mining boom played a role in fuelling the land rights movement, which has seen approximately one third of Australian land recognised as subject to native title. While this boom occurred roughly 50 years ago, it is important to reflect on such missed opportunities in order to better manage the approach to new economic prospects presented by Australia’s natural resources, such as the growing renewable energy sector. This essay surveys and builds upon existing scholarship on these subjects to highlight crucial lessons from the mining boom, some of which remain applicable to Australia today.

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