Alienation as a social impact of resource extraction developments

In his articles about coal seam gas extraction in Queensland, Australia, Kim de Rijke dissects some of the most salient social impacts that accompany many large extraction projects. Alienation constitutes one such impact that is rarely considered by the various 'impact assessments' but has a profound effect on a range of issues from local residents' mental health to important life decisions such as about leaving their communities and moving to a different area, for instance.

“Large resource extraction developments are commonly accompanied by housing shortages and increased housing costs, as well as increases in industrial traffic, which feature prominently in local concerns. In combination with the arrival of security personnel in the gas fields, publically non-accessible workers’ camps, pipeline corridors, compressor stations, concerns about invisible but volatile substances, technologies such as underground hydraulic fracturing and other material transformations, the large increase in non-resident workers and industrial transformations of the landscape may contribute to a sense of alienation among certain residents.”

“The common themes in the issues described above are feelings of under-appreciation, being overwhelmed, and frustrations with the need to constantly be on guard to protect what one regards as important to both family and agricultural business. These concerns are intertwined with a sense of place and responsibility, the economics of agribusiness, and the distribution of social power, with the formal distribution of rights in favor of industry. Related to identity and emplacement, we find knowledge of land, water, and animals based on long-term daily embodied experience in conflict with itinerant workers and the priorities of industrial gas developments. The cumulative impacts of multiple companies and diverging company attitudes, combined with unexpected demands, costs, and impacts, are particularly straining for landholders. Pervasive health and environmental concerns, and the inability of companies and government to alleviate those concerns satisfactorily, may lead to levels of anxiety difficult to manage.”


de Rijke, K. (2013a). Coal Seam Gas and Social Impact Assessment: An Anthropological Contribution to Current Debates and Practices. Journal of Economic and Social Policy, 15(3), Article 3.

de Rijke, K. (2013b). Hydraulically fractured: Unconventional gas and anthropology. Anthropology Today, 29(2), 13–17.

de Rijke, K. (2013c). The Agri-Gas Fields of Australia: Black Soil, Food, and Unconventional Gas. Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment, 35(1), 41–53.