Ignorance as strategy: ‘Shadow places’ and the social impacts of the ranger uranium mine

Rebecca Lawrence and Ciaran O'Faircheallaigh

Public and corporate policies regarding mine closure focus on bio-physical remediation and ignore the social impacts associated with the end of mine life and the legacies that mining leaves. In a departure from most existing writing on social impact assessment and extractive industry, we show that this situation does not simply reflect the disciplinary dominance of environmental science or a gap in knowledge regarding social impacts that can be addressed by allocation of additional resources and research effort. Rather it reflects the strategic application of ignorance, allowing the social impacts of mining to be ignored and extraction to continue unhindered. We use the contentious Ranger uranium mine on Mirarr Aboriginal land in the Kakadu region of the Northern Territory of Australia to illustrate our argument. Information on the negative social impacts of mining on the Mirrar has been available through the life cycle of the Ranger mine. It has been consistently ignored by the State and by the mine's corporate owners, and social impacts remain conspicuously absent in the mining company's mine closure plans and governmental assessments. In an important theoretical innovation we brings Val Plumwood's concept of “shadow places” into conversation with the ignorance studies literature to explore how the practices of ignorance do not just involve the absence of knowledge but are actively mobilised in order to obscure the social impacts of mining on Indigenous lands, and perpetuate long-standing social and environmental injustices in settler colonies such as Australia.

Lawrence, R., & O'Faircheallaigh, C. (2022). Ignorance as strategy:‘Shadow places’ and the social impacts of the ranger uranium mine. Environmental Impact Assessment Review93, 106723.

Ignorance as strategy: ‘Shadow places’ and the social impacts of the ranger uranium mine