Extractive industry: Impact of non-resident workforces on rural communities

Based on their survey in Queensland, Australia, researchers have concluded that “the social license to develop new mining projects is strong for projects requiring a 25% or less non-resident workforce, diminishes significantly thereafter and is very weak for projects planning to recruit a non-resident workforce in excess of 75%” (2).

When we switch our concern away from the corporate licence to operate and look at the bigger picture for a moment, we will see that in fact, many big development projects have relied on non-resident workers who work extended block rosters, live in barracks near their work sites and travel home for weekends or holidays. In the context of shale gas development, these places have often been dubbed “man camps.” You can see photos of man camps in the US here and here, for example.

Research on boomtowns has shown that the increasing reliance on transient workers can undermine local economic sustainability as well as overstretching local services due to increased crime, violence and prostitution. For workers, block rosters and substance abuse often take a heavy toll on their families and make them withdraw from the lives of their home communities.

The findings of this survey show that in the case of mining projects in Australia, there are few benefits that accrue to the communities living in the vicinity of the new mines while at the same time, local residents have to bear a whole new set of burdens.


Carrington, K., & Pereira, M. (2011). Assessing the social impacts of the resources boom on rural communities. Rural Society, 21(1), 2–20.