I have just added another blog to my blogroll–see list to the right of the page for Strings, Connections, Links. It is not a blog about mining per se. But many of the postings are of interest to the miner concerned with project management, the environment, sustainability, the built environment and a host of other eclectic topics. The site came to my attention when the blog author, Andrew Abernathy sent me a comment on some postings on this blog. Here is what he wrote (I repeat with his permission and some editing to protect the innocent.)
I found your site by doing some searches for work that a friend has published. I found that you had written about some of his work back last year. He and I share a number of similar experiences and have come to many of the same conclusions about the change management issues in business. After reading the piece you reprinted in your blog I thought I’d poke around and see what else you had to say.
I’m an architect and planner by education and your comments about the remote mining camps and the lack of social, cultural and economic diversity around mines is also an interest of mine. You see I’ve lived in both Texas and Arizona since the 1970’s where the natural resources extraction businesses are very real to our economies. I have toyed with the idea of working in the Pennsylvania, TX and ND / Utah O+G [oil and gas] fields to help both that industry and the local communities understand they can do their business and at the same time help the small communities which become overrun with activity in the early development stages of a project and maybe help them manage that growth, establish a sustainable economic engine through diversity, and plan for the eventual shrinkage driven by the O+G retraction.
I now in Cochise County just a short distance from the proposed Rosemont Mine in the Pima Co, north of Sonitia. While Rosemont has done a much better job than many before them, they are still on the defense and still fighting a battle that they should have been able to win several years ago. They will have a significant and long-term effect on the several small communities surrounding the mine for well over 30 years. That’s plenty of time for these communities to get their act together, work with Rosemont and the other allied businesses feeding in and out of the mine to help develop a diverse economic community that will be around long after the mine is reclaimed. Unlike Safford, Miami, Globe, Cottonwood and a host of other towns left on the edge of survival after the mining operators left town. There are ways to plan for the growth and contraction cycle which surrounds the natural resources extraction industries. There are ways to create great places to live, even in the cold, hot and seemingly inhospitable places we find these resources.
Placemaking is really more about the people in a place than the weather. Give them good schools, good food, good friends and stable employment and a varied culture and most people will say they enjoyed living in such a place. Mining today does a much poorer job at meeting the social and cultural side of workers than they did back at the turn of the century. I like to bring up Ajo, AZ as a great example of what can be done. By all rights, Ajo should have been dead years ago, but it still holds on and is coming back. A vibrant arts colony and emerging tourist economy are all being fed off the central plaza built in the 1920s and 1930’a by the original mining operator. He and his wife had a vision that Ajo would be a town after the mine played out and to some extent, they were right. It could have been a better result if PD and FMM had continued that original mindset but they didn’t and now what could have been a thriving town is digging out of a difficult position. Fortunately they do have some good assets to work with and a community wanting to survive. So there are models for us to look at which show us mining towns don’t have to be ghost towns after the mines play out.