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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An analysis of the stable single resource mining community in British Columbia Gunder, Robert John Michael


This thesis examines the problems of impermanence, isolation and external dependency of single resource mining communities (SRMCs) in British Columbia. It poses the question: can the problems of SRMCs be resolved within the parameters of our present planning/decision-making system? After an outline of the historical evolution and the specific problems of SRMCs identified in the Canadian literature, demonstrating the inherent impermanence of these communities, the study reviews relevent critical literature from the field of political economy. The reviewed literature suggests the significance of socially allocated indirect wages such as social services and infrastructure for the perception of quality of life by British Columbians, and in particular to the problems of isolation and dependency of SRMCs. Three groups of concerned actors " in SRMCs are identified: government, multinational extraction companies, and community residents. These actors' goals and resultant roles are determined from the literature and inter-actor conflict and alliances explored, along with their respective value positions and ideology. Liberal belief in the value of economic growth results in an alliance between government and organized capital. To facilitate provincial development in a competitive global economy, the provincial government tries to minimize extraction expenditures for the mining companies, attempting to provide low aggregate labour costs while still maintaining a politically stable environment. This government/corporate alliance results in lower than (provincial) average levels of indirect wages for residents of SRMCs. Furthermore, local self-determination is purposely limited. These conditions create many of the typical SRMC problems, leading to community dissatifaction and high turnover rates. A case study of the five-volume provincial Plan for Tumbler Ridge is then undertaken. It was found that the dominant goal of the plan is to create a community capable of attracting and maintaining a viable labour force at lowest government and corporate cost. Proposed levels of collective consumption are intentionally lower than in non-SRMCs and below provincial standards. Seventy percent of the repayment of the community's direct costs is allocated to Tumbler Ridge's future residents, even though the potential life span of the community could be as little as fifteen years. The proposed per capita municipal debt is over three times higher for Tumbler Ridge than the per capita debt of Vancouver. The planning document proposes specifically limiting local government self-determination in Tumbler Ridge to protect corporate rate payers, even though the ratio of residental to corporate municipal debt is similar to the ratio in Vancouver. The thesis concludes that a contradiction exists between the requirements of a stable community at the local level and those for attracting multinational corporate development at the provincial level. As a result SRMCs are inherently unstable. Resolution of SRMC problems does not appear likely within the constraints of our present decision-making system. Planners should acknowledge this reality and attempt to design implementable alternatives to the traditional SRMC. One efficent option may be the modern commuting work camp, allowing mine workers to live in a stable community when not at the work site.

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