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As Australia’s population and economy grow, so too does the need for the Australian public – and overseas customers - to have cheap, reliable energy resources that are governed by leadership in tune with sustainable energy and stakeholder coexistence strategies. These strategies should reflect the move towards a sustainable long-term coexistence between stakeholders (landholders) and energy and resource projects (such as coal development) to successfully coexist within their rural and regional locations (community and project specific). This paper aims to explores the fundamental question: How can you develop and facilitate sustainable long-term coexistence between landholders and coal mining companies and their developments? (Laplume, Sonpar, & Litz, 2008). This study examines the history of interaction between a small group of landholders and coal mining companies to identify emotional/social stages in the process of achieving (and evolving) \'co-existence’. This process involves the landholder learning about the coal mine development, negotiating about land tenure and land access, and transitioning to a state where the property that they owned now belongs to another.

Background – Brief Australian Landholder and Mining Context

Mining and resources are an intertwined, crucial part of our national story, synonymous with Australia’s identity, according to the Federal minister for resources and environment in a recent article published by The Australian (Frydenberg, 2016). It has been well documented that resource mining and energy development projects play a significant role in Australia’s economy, generating substantial social and economic value across all industry sectors and the country as a whole (Australia & BREE, 2014). However, in contrast to this positive economic contribution, there have been negative social and environmental impacts arising from these projects. More recently, this has been evidenced in Queensland’s coal seam gas (CSG) exploration and production (Cheshire, Everingham, & Lawrence, 2014; Uhlmann, Rifkin, Everingham, Head, & May, 2014) and the Hunter Valley coal mines in New South Wales (Connor, 2016; Connor, Albrecht, Higginbotham, Freeman, & Smith, 2004; Moran & Brereton, 2013; Sarker, 2014).

As Australia’s population and economy grow, so too does the need for the Australian public – and overseas customers - to have cheap, reliable energy resources that are governed by leadership in tune with sustainable energy and stakeholder coexistence strategies. These strategies should reflect the move towards a sustainable long-term coexistence between stakeholders (landholders) and energy and resource projects (such as coal development) to successfully coexist within their rural and regional locations (community and project specific). This paper specifically explores the fundamental question: How can you develop and facilitate sustainable long-term coexistence between stakeholders (landholders) and energy and resource projects (coal developments)? (Laplume et al., 2008).

This paper will look at the importance of building a strong foundation in the early stages of engagement with landholders in order to lessen any current and future coexistence-related-conflicts among industry and stakeholders’(Davis & Franks, 2014; Day, 1986; Greer, Tabert, & Lockie; Hodge, 2014; Kemp, Owen, Gotzmann, & Bond, 2011; Martin, Rutagarama, Cascao, Gray, & Chhotray, 2011; Ssentongo & Raalten, 2007; Stevens, Kooroshy, Lahn, & Lee, 2013; Wester-Herber, 2004). Can we ensure landholders and coal developments can realistically coexist in order to lessen any current experienced engagement inconsistencies and possible future coexistence-related-conflicts? This paper will look at coal mining engagement strategies throughout the process of achieving and evolving the coexistence through the social and emotional stages of landholder engagement.  The identification and examination of these key drivers as measurable outcomes can be used as a potential engagement tool to enhance, encourage and facilitate future sustainable coexistence and engagement strategies that will aid in the transitional development towards a low-carbon energy economy.

The Coexistence Landscape: Landholders and Coal Mining

Energy and resource developments lead to interconnected conflicting interests (agriculture, industry, community, mining) that manifest through ‘localised pressures’, such as a landholders examination of community,  infrastructure, housing, education and health facilities (Everingham et al., 2016). According to Jenkins and Yakovela (2006) economic development, environmental protection and social cohesion make up the required dimensions of sustainable progress (Jenkins & Yakovleva, 2006). I agree, but would also add a fourth dimension that aims to understand, develop and demonstrate the progress of each dimension individually and collectively

This research aims to approach the coexistence of landholder and coal development cohabitation through a model loosely based on the Kubler-Ross (1969) 5 stage grief and loss theory (Kubler-Ross, 1993; Kübler-Ross & Kessler, 2014). The Kubler-Ross theory will be used to form the foundation of identifying the stages a landholder experiences through the process of achieving and evolving coexistence. Kubler-Ross’s 5 stages of shock/denial, anger, bargaining/negotiation and acceptance will be combined with use of a transitional cycle in order observe the potential movement between stages (Calderwood, 2011; Carter, 1989; Goldsworthy, 2005; Hankes, 2015; Parkes, 1988; Weng Marc, 2013)

Science and engineering approaches often lack capacity to facilitate understanding of the associated social problems. Values and emotional impacts associated with the pressure on local communities and their individuals are subjective by nature and are often hard to quantify qualities (McManus, Albrecht, & Graham, 2014; Pearce et al., 2010)


Numerous environmental psychology and rural sociology theories have been proposed to rationalise the landholder’s connection to place based identities and place based meanings through the use of psycho-social and pyscho-terratic influences. While the literature covers an extensive yet broad diversity of such theories relating to the coexistence of sustainable development of energy and resource projects, the acceptance of energy technology, and the resilience of rural and regional resource communities. This paper will only focus on one aspect of the expansive body literature relating to the coexistence of stakeholders (landholders) and energy and resource developments (coal mining projects). Subsequently the literature presents these themes in a range of contexts and this paper will primarily focus on the process of identification of the emotional and social stages of achieving and evolving coexistence through the assessment of grief and loss frameworks. The major themes which emerge continuously throughout the literature reviewed have been identified in the landholder’s attachment to social and place identity, psychoterratic change and the landholder engagement through the social licence to operate (SLO).

The review will firstly look at social and place identity through grief and loss theory followed by the social licence to operate, corporate social responsibility, landholder coexistence concluding with landholder engagement through community relations. For the purposes of this investigation, the following definitions of stakeholder, coexistence and sustainable (development and relationships) have been established to set out firm framework boundaries.

STAKEHOLDER: Freeman’s classic definition describes a stakeholder ‘as any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievement of an organisation’s objectives.’ (Freeman, 1984, 2010; R. Freeman & McVea, 2001; Laplume et al., 2008).

COEXISTENCE: Oxfam (year) defines coexistence as ‘recognising each other’s status and rights as human beings, developing a just and inclusive vision for each community’s future and implementing economic, social, cultural or political development across former community divides.’ (Berns & Fitzduff, 2007).  This definition was later expanded by Burns and Fitzduff (2007) to include ‘social inclusion’ and ‘social cohesion.’

SUSTAINABLE: (relationships and development) In 1987, the Brundtland report of the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) defined ‘sustainable’ in the terms ‘humanity has the ability to make development sustainable – to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to respond to their needs.’ ’(Basiago, 1995; Brundtland, 1987; Stephenson, 2015; Visser, 2009).

Place Identity and Kubler-Ross

Place identity incorporates the stakeholder’s perceived aesthetics associated with their landscape settings that are ultimately linked to their identity through the value of land based connections Wester-Herber (2004). Researchers Webster-Herber and Devine-Wright argue the  social-psychological and sociological behaviours of an individual are critical to understanding the concepts of place based identity through place based attachment (Devine‐wright, 2009; Jacquet & Stedman, 2013; Wester-Herber, 2004). Indeed the notion of place identity the landholder’s connection to their space (property/land) remains intrinsically linked with place based connections and attachment through their values and perceptions and the role of land (Albrecht et al., 2007; Burton, 2012). As a result recent studies of landholders’ perceptions of resource extraction (coal and csg) indicate that little research has looked into the issues of coexistence between landholders and the resource company in shared spaces (Huth et al., 2014). In other words, the shared space that makes up landholder’s home, space and identity also includes the resource extraction landscape that makes up a company’s profit, exploration and business identity (Huth et al., 2014).

The pace and phases of induced change have been well documented in the psycho-social research surrounding the impacts on the landholders psyche from the severing of healthy links between themselves and their home/land/territory energy and resource projects. Psychoterratic (psych) geographies refers to the mental states that can be both negative and positive that are related to the place and conditions of the earth (terra) (Albrecht, 2012b). The emotional attachment to one’s landscape has been well documented by the researchers’ Kearns and Collins (2012) through the positive bond between people, places and localities (Kearns & Collins, 2012). This can be explained through Albrecht’s psychoterratic terms topohilia and solastalgia (McManus et al., 2014).

Topophilia and Solastalgia are terms used in refers to the mental states of have highlighted how peoples intimate personal relationships with the Environment represents a much larger aspect that these relationships and the emotional states they sustain are critical (McManus et al., 2014). Auden a poet first used the idea of topophilia in his work to describe the love given to particular places within a built environment. Tuan (1974) later expanded on Auden’s interpretation and defined topophilia as a concrete personal concept through the bond and love of environment (Mithun, 1976). However, when are individual’s familiar place in threatened by change this can cause intense emotional responses (Kearns & Collins, 2012; McManus et al., 2014). Feelings of deep sadness encircling emplaced desolation was conventionally portrayed through nostalgia as an expression by the individual’s longing for pleasant reminiscences of the past (Albrecht, 2011, 2012a, 2012b; Albrecht et al., 2007).

Solastalgia in this sense describes intense emotional reverberation connection with the negative experiences of chronic change to the environment similar to feelings of ‘homesickness. Albrecht (2007) argues the feelings of displacement by individuals in forced separation from their home when the individual has not left their home are similar place based stress felt (Albrecht et al., 2007). This was evidenced by the Hunter Valley residents through the unwanted threat and material reality of change. The competing identity discourse of the upper hunter region continues to increase the number of conflicts between the landholders and various industries (horse studs, agriculture and mining) competing for space.

This is a part of a much larger conflict about the cultural, biophysical and identity of landholders’ space within the intrinsic values and perceptions and the role of one’s landscape setting. To demonstrate the nature of the problem Kubler-Ross’s 5 stages theory (grief/loss framework: shock/denial, anger, bargaining/negotiation, depression, acceptance) combined with use of a transitional cycle will be employed in order observe the potential movement between stages. Understanding a landholder’s experience will help to identify emotional/social stages in the process of achieving (and evolving) \'co-existence’. (Calderwood, 2011; Carter, 1989; Goldsworthy, 2005; Hankes, 2015; Parkes, 1988; Weng Marc, 2013). According to Kubler-Ross when an individual experience grief they move through the 5 stages of grieving (Kubler-Ross, 1993). By extension, Goldsworthy argues in the Australian social work journal that ‘All changes involve loss, just as all losses require change.’(Goldsworthy, 2005) In making this statement Goldsworthy aims to expand on the Kubler-Ross grief and loss theory by linking grief and loss with changes we experience throughout life; not just association with death or the dying of a loved one.

The grief, loss and transition theories of Kubler-Ross (1969) and Parker and Lewis (1981) present a theoretical base in order to facilitate the understanding of reactions experienced by landholders that is not tied or fixed to time (Aquillanti & Leoux, 1999; Bugen, 1977; Parker & Lewis, 1981) In terms of landholder adaptation to change the Kubler-Ross theory is extremely relevant in the process of achieving and evolving coexistence. Similarly, grief associated with job loss, a missing pet and divorce can be just as traumatic as the loss of a loved one. Therefore, the loss experienced by landholders are reasonable, appropriate and expected with the process that involves the landholder learning about the coal mine development, negotiating about land tenure and land access, and transitioning to a state where the property that they owned now belongs to another.

The first three stages of the Kubler-Ross model of shock/denial, anger and bargaining/negotiation is a good starting point in the understanding of the initial transition of identifying the emotional and social stages in the process of achieving and evolving coexistence. The first stage of shock/denial correlate with the landholder learning about a proposed exploration program for mine on their working property either through a coal mining company’s representatives, media or gossip. Landholders may ask questions as to why us? And why is this happening to our property? The shock/denial phase will eventually transition to the next stage once the landholder has had a chance to mentally process the information they have received. The second stage of anger is an interesting phase as it is completely normal to experience resentment towards the coal company and extending out to the legislative and governing bodies of the mining and resources industries. The stage of anger may take days, weeks, months and in some cases years to work through. Some landholders may not be able to transition smoothly through this stage and eventually decide to return to these feelings at a later date to work through. Finally, the third stage of the Kubler-Ross model is the bargaining/negotiation period. This can involve the landholder bargaining with themselves or with the coal mining company over the coal mines proposed exploration activities’ or coal mine developments through the protocol of preliminary and advanced land access agreements. Some landholders may move through this period quite quickly to coincide with a coal mine company’s pre-feasibility studies. The bargaining/negotiation continues as a landholder signs appropriate code, conduct and compensation agreements. With access to the project information the landholder begins to deal with emotionally with their loss of a changing environment and place identity. It is important to remember that there is no prescribed time or time constraint with transitioning through each stage (Aquillanti & Leoux, 1999; Hankes, 2015)  

As the landholder moves through each stage an understanding of the process of coexistence begins to emerge as process that is not static in method but circular in reasoning. Being circular in nature allows the model to adapt and transition with the landholder. Depending on the strength of the relationship between the landholder and the coal company stage regression is a common observation as identified by Parker and Lewis (PL) (1981) in their transitional model. The first four stages of the PL model are similar to that of the KRM first three stages (Parker & Lewis, 1981). By extension the PL model allows the landholders to explore and test the new behaviors that come with a changing environment and the realization to a stage where the land they once owned now belongs to another but still remains a working property.

The final stages of depression and acceptance through a landholders’ search for meaning and the incorporation of their loss into new life experiences. (TBC)

The social licence to operate, corporate social responsibility, landholder coexistence and the role of the non-government organisations

Globally mining and resources operations have demonstrated that they are able to operate in extreme climatic, geopolitical, and economic conditions, such as during civil unrest. Widespread literature also notes that the stakeholder and communities associated with the energy and resource projects are just as vulnerable to climatic, geopolitical, economical and civil unrest events as they are to the social and wealth generation from energy and resource project development (Ford et al., 2011; Pearce et al., 2010).  Associated literature citing the negative impacts of the energy and resource projects on communities states that extractive industries can contribute to social underdevelopment (Bush, 2008; O\'Higgins, 2006) and environmental impacts relating to land and water use conflicts (Kemp, Bond, Franks, & Cote, 2010).

For example, in a third world context in West Papua, Indonesia – certain mining practices caused serious human rights violations. The American-owned company Freeport Mining allowed its Indonesian subsidiary Freeport Indonesia all the privileges associated with the extraction of natural resources while the West Papuan indigenous peoples in Timika suffered marginalisation and forced relocation without compensation or recourse for any environmental damage to their land (Soares, 2004).. In 1995, The Australia Council for Overseas Aid (ACFOA) launched a report documenting widespread human rights violations, such as murder, rape, disappearances and torture committed by Freeport with the direct and indirect involvement of the Indonesian Government (Soares, 2004). In Africa, the failure to support community development from energy and resources’ development revenue has led to civil unrest (Garvin, McGee, Smoyer-Tomic, & Aubynn, 2009).

In the first world, Canadian communities have been left more vulnerable to the effects of climate change due to poor environmental and stakeholder management through the lack of adaptation planning for future climate change impacts.  That has resulted in detrimental effects to local economies dependent on their natural resources (Ford et al., 2011), e.g., oil and gas, forests, hydroelectricity, and coal. Several recent studies in Australia also find that ineffective landholder engagements have disrupted already displaced stakeholders and their communities. That has been most notably seen through competing land tenure use and degradation of the environment (Kemp et al., 2010; Lockie, Franettovich, Petkova-Timmer, Rolfe, & Ivanova, 2009).

There are attempts to document leading practices and to learn from these case studies.  Nonetheless, coexistence related conflicts continue to emerge between energy and resource projects and landholders’. Addressing these issues has been aided by increased level of scrutiny by Non-Government organisations (NGO) and the media, (Gifford, Kestler, & Anand, 2010).  That has pressured many energy and resource companies to develop a more proactive approach towards stakeholder management to ensure they can operate within the boundaries of their respective communities and legislative frameworks. The Recent growth of global operational transparency through the development of online media, print campaigns, journalistic reporting and social media platforms (facebook, twitter, Instagram) has only reinforced the importance of correlating a company’s reputation through sustainability based engagement strategies (Humphreys, 2000). The growing right of the average citizen to have an opinion or direct participation in their social, economic and environmental communities has given rise to local groups of all kinds demanding a voice (as well as voices of non-local groups, such as international environmental NGOs).

One such voice in the form of a political activism group is the ‘Knitting Nannas Against Gas’ (KNAG) who, according to their website,  ‘…. Draw on their broad history of knitting’ and used as tool for non-violent political activism knitting only in yellow and black colours to identify with the ‘Lock the Gate’ group’. The KNAG’s have delayed drilling campaigns by throwing long lengths of knitting across gates to forcibly stop drill rigs from entering properties and providing knitted ‘chain sleeves’ for protestors to prevent lock-on blisters. While the KNAG group activities may seem trivial and comedic to some, failure to recognise and respond to niche activist groups over time can impede business performance through delays, project interruption and related project costs (Davis & Franks, 2014).

…Community relations in the mining industry is a veritable minefield, in which anything resembling a strategy is likely to blow up in the face of its owner and everyone involved would like to pass the buck to someone else. But it is still a game which must be played, however many no-win situations it contains (Filer, 1990).

How a company behaves is a crucial reflection of the company’s value systems and underlying currents of the world in which they operate (Humphreys, 2000). This is evidenced in their employees in that they and their company are not something apart from society. Often when the company’s priorities change and employees are not privy to this information, major inconsistencies in the public’s perception of the way the company handles sensitive priorities can emerge. Failure to recognise and respond to changing priorities at a community level can lead to extreme stressors. Frame and Brown (2008) cite ‘subjective’ issues, i.e., values and emotional impacts, are often oversimplified, misrepresented or represented through interdisciplinary frameworks that are inadequate to provide multidimensional structures. (Brown, 2008).

To give but one example, the 1989 shutdown of the Bougainville Mine operated by Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) in Papua New Guinea (PNG) is well-documented evidence of the collective power of a landowners’ crusade against Panguna copper mine. The protests increased until they became an act of uprising against the all state authorities of PNG (Filer, 1990; Humphreys, 2000). Social disintegration caused by a volatile mixture of Landowner strikes against BCL represented a significant story of social change containing relevant historical and ongoing current indicators. By addressing the historical and current indicators as questions of how these sorts of crisis might occur and reoccur in relationships between landholders and coal developments through a diversity of stakeholder’s opinions, views and expectations.  As a result, we can hope to build better foundations for landholder and project coexistence through enhanced community relations and engagement strategies.  

Deetz recognises the strategic advantage of connecting company activities to the issues of concern in society within a CSR framework that is adaptive, resilient and most importantly flexible in the ideas and concepts underpinning diverse meaningful interests (Deetz, 2008). However, Okoye (2009) argues that CSR is a fundamentally challenged concept (Okoye, 2009). while the two authors disagree over a minor points of the CSR definition, they share a deep concern for the development of CSR along the lines defined by Godfrey and Hatch (2007).  The latter acknowledge that CSR is a tortured concept by any means where scholars have struggled to achieve any sort of stand-alone hypothesis, let alone find shared semantics to guide the revolving door of transdisciplinary conversations (Godfrey & Hatch, 2007). In plain language, they are saying that the best way to understand the notion of CSR is to see it not as a clear or consistent strategy but rather as an opportunity to act as a forum for social, economic and environmental awareness through the diversity of individual and collective sentiments and the continued acceptance for the deliberation over social norms and activities attached to corporate activity (Guthey & Morsing, 2013).

Landholder engagement through community relations

Humphreys (Humphreys, 2000) emphasises that community and landholder relations is really no different from any other issue a company must deal with when achieving maximum return for their shareholders. Further, Humphrey argues that community and landholder relations represents a volatile mix of inherent risk and potential opportunities that must be evaluated, understood and managed. Experience and the study by Davis and Franks suggest that Humphreys is correct in stating that if you can get community and specifically landholder relations right, it will make for the corporate bottom line a success; however if you get it wrong, results will be costly and project stopping by any measure (Humphreys, 2000).

Landholder engagement can be a stressful process felt by all stakeholders involved and overtly singularly complex at times. Consider the economic benefits from the robust expansion of the 2014 Gladstone Coal Seam Gas (CSG) liquefied natural gas plant (GLNG) which has been projected to accumulate $850M per annum in royalty rents to the Queensland Government.  Hence resulting in an economic contest between the CSG and agriculture industries. CSG extraction has caused environmental and social impacts and will continue long after resource depletion and yet foregoing CSG developments will result in substantial loss at local, state and federal levels (Chen & Randall, 2013). This complexity surrounding the extraction of minerals and or CSG continues to be well-documented by the study of the economic, environmental and societal sphere, also known as the triple bottom line (TBL). This notion has become increasing popular in stakeholder engagement literature (Rogers & Ryan, 2010). The TBL study identified a central common theme that early stakeholder participation can be helpful in building successful project deployment and a social licence to operate (Rooney, Leach, & Ashworth, 2014).

A unified approach of policy and legislated agreement frameworks that aim to engage early are ultimately proving crucial to resolving potential conflicts at a community level (Sarker, 2014). The term ‘Co-production’ employed by Rooney, Leach and Ashworth also highlights one of key characteristics of a successful engagement strategy through going above and beyond what is required of company’s legislated operational requirements (Rooney et al., 2014). Trust based relationships can be achieved through responsible internal and external company behaviour and appropriate dialogue through communication processes that provide the opportunity for stakeholder interaction, debate and conflict resolution among stakeholders and energy and resource projects (Guthey & Morsing, 2013; Rooney et al., 2014). Further to established engagement strategies a clearer understanding to what is happening in their region. Increasing need to assess and recognise all stakeholder’s perceptions, experiences, values and ethics and incorporate them into local governance (Das & Teng, 1998).


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