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Dr Sarah Holcombe 

Senior Research Fellow 

Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining, UQ. 


Sarah Holcombe is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining (CSRM). She is a social anthropologist with 25 years’ experience working in Indigenous Australia, including with the two mainland NT Land Councils, and at the ANU, at research centres, including the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR).


She was the Social Science Coordinator at the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre, where she led development of the Aboriginal Knowledge and Intellectual Property Community Guide, which subsequently won the 2010 CRC Excellence in Innovation Award. 


From 2012-2016 she was awarded an ARC Future Fellowship (ANU), an outcome being the book; Remote Freedoms: Politics, Personhood and Human Rights in Aboriginal central Australia (Stanford University Press). Sarah established and convenes the professional development course: “Indigenous Cultural Heritage Management in the Australian Resources Sector” at CSRM. She has published widely, and is currently applying her critical applied social science lens to the anthropology of the extractive industries and the political economy of mining at the UQ.  

The Social Aspects of Mine Closure

This paper maps out some of the dominant themes on the social aspects of mine closure that have emerged from the literature to date. It draws from a paper written with colleague Nick Bainton (of the same title, in the journal of Resources Policy 2018) and expands on this to include more recent research that Holcombe has undertaken on this topic. A broad purpose is to characterise the social dimensions of the mine closure process.

The social dimensions of resource extraction have always presented a major challenge for the extractive industries.


These dimensions include social and economic impacts, human rights, gender considerations, cultural heritage and human development, among others.

These challenges and risks are particularly acute towards the end of the project life-cycle when multiple pressures align.


These include financial constraints as production rates decline, unfulfilled socio-economic development expectations, and increased complexity surrounding legacy issues, to name but a few.


Mine closures can, therefore, have significant adverse effects on local economies, contribute to impoverishment, trigger the loss of key services, and lead to out-migration. Poorly managed closure processes exacerbate these impacts and can damage corporate reputations, where operators are held responsible for the social mess that they have left behind.

It is increasingly the case that stakeholders expect mining operators to proactively manage the multi-dimensional impacts of closure – just as they are expected to manage impacts at other stages of the mine life.

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