The authors suggest that the implications of place attachment and loss in generational coal mining communities are currently underexamined in the energy transition discourse, by using the example of a coal community in New South Wales, Australia. The paper identifies the relationship between coal mining and the generational identity of this community, thereby adding a useful perspective to the energy transition discourse by highlighting how the hidden dimensions of loss can reinforce the local support of an extractive industry. By combining scholarship on the emotionality of the minescape with the work on how place attachment can translate into feelings of loss in response to material change, they suggest that the factors of time and place can make community-level actors within the energy landscape either receptive or resistant to change.
This work thus highlights how the place-industry relationship is inherently emotional and irrational, thereby calling for a greater acknowledgement of this emotional dimension to address issues of conflict related to the extractive industry productively. The authors suggest that, while not all that is valuable can be preserved, transition strategies could be better served by exploring ways in which the intangible associations with place—identity and attachment—can be maintained at the community level in the face of material changes in the physical environment. The lessons from the paper have the potential to be applied to the context of transitions in other coal communities where transition planning is under way.