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Wed, 10 May


HO1.73 - Ourimbah Campus

Filling the void: imagining post-mining landscapes in the Hunter Valley

Presented by Dr Hedda Haugen Askland

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Filling the void: imagining post-mining landscapes in the Hunter Valley
Filling the void: imagining post-mining landscapes in the Hunter Valley

Time & Location

10 May 2023, 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm

HO1.73 - Ourimbah Campus , 10 Chittaway Rd, Ourimbah NSW 2258, Australia

About the event

Australia is one of the largest coal exporters in the world, and the rural Hunter Valley in New

South Wales is the source of much of this coal. The Upper Hunter Valley is today characterised by

a moon-like landscape dotted with empty craters and barren hills. Most of this landscape is

planned to be regenerated through progressive backfilling of pits, however, plans for

rehabilitation and restoration are poor, and there is no cohesive framework to guide the process

of mine closure. However, as the world is responding to the urgent need to address carbon

emissions, the pace of transition in the Hunter is changing. The industry is facing a terminal

decline, which will see 130,000 hectares of mine-owned land become available for re-use over

the next two decades. Part of this includes 25 so-called ‘final voids’, which will leave toxic holes

that will present permanent multiple threats to both the environment and local residents. This

paper takes these final voids as its empirical starting point and questions how we can reimagine

post-mining landscapes in the Hunter. It speaks to themes of displacement and replacement,

just transition and liveable futures, and environmental entanglement. The paper draws on an

ongoing research project on social and affective dimensions of final voids. It reports on the early

stages of community collaboration and efforts to reimagine broken landscapes, and discusses

how the arts may be used as a tool for visualisation, collaboration and engagement.


Dr Hedda Haugen Askland is a Senior Lecturer in Anthropology, working at The University of

Newcastle in Australia. She has been conducting work with mining affected communities in New

South Wales since 2015, exploring themes of power and place, displacement and disposession,

home and hope. She is the chief investigator of an ongoing four-year research project funded by

the Australian Research Council that interrogates the social and affective dimensions of mining

voids and the role that reimagining post-mining landscapes can play in the process of a just


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