WHEN it comes to the impact of mining companies on the local community, Jack Campbell is one of the biggest supporters.
Jack and his family have been part of the Narrabri Shire for generations, and together with his father, run the family business Namoi WasteCorp, started in the town 19 years ago.
“Due to Whitehaven Coal and the mining industry in the area – the Narrabri underground longwall mine – we have seen growth and found opportunities that would be unthinkable for small businesses in most small communities,” Jack said.
“Namoi WasteCorp has provided waste collection and recycling services to all industries in the Narrabri shire since its inception, but now thanks to recent contracts awarded to us from mining companies, we provide services across the Narrabri, Gunnedah and Liverpool plains shires.
“We are currently contracted to provide waste services at all Whitehaven facilities across the Gunnedah Basin.”
The success story is reflected in the business’ 17 employees and 14 trucks, and its ability to supply a substantial amount of work to sub-contractors local to the region.
Jack said their situation was not unique.
“We work with a broad spectrum of industries in the region and there are numerous local businesses that get a considerable portion of their income, directly and indirectly, from the mining industry that surrounds us,” he said.
“Mining and agriculture have worked side by side in the region for as long as living memory.
“I think that this alone is the reason why Narrabri and Gunnedah remain to be thriving communities.”
Over the years though, farming has provided less and less direct employment.
As a result, the community benefits that flow from farming now reside in local suppliers which can facilitate goods and services required by agriculture.
More often than not, these suppliers can diversify to offer goods and services to the mining industry as well.
“Considering the drought that has hit the region hard, farmers are not the only ones feeling the pinch,” Jack said.
“A lot of these suppliers I’ve spoken about would not be able to keep their doors open if it weren’t for the local mining industry.
“Major agricultural distribution and research facilities are downsizing or shutting down resulting in significant unemployment locally.
“As farming practices become more streamlined, young people are met with less opportunity regionally and need the professional job prospects that the mining industry can provide.”
Jack said that thanks to Whitehaven Coal and the local mining industry, families like his were able to keep their children in town.
“Normally, they would have to leave for regional and capital cities to find meaningful work. And they probably would never return,” Jack said.
“But now the kids are staying – there’s more opportunity for them.
“They are able to pursue professional careers like engineering and environmental science while still being able to live in the community where they grew up.
“This is rare in country towns these days.”
Jack said he felt country towns were dying across Australia, largely because of lack of employment and meaningful opportunities.
Yet Narrabri and Gunnedah have reversed that trend: not because of the work of the local councils, nor some local or state government initiative.
Simply, it’s because mining came to town.