Fish and Coal Building in King’s Cross, London. Photo: George Rex / Flickr

Over the next decade, coal mines will likely close across the world, as many countries shift their energy systems away from fossil fuels and towards cleaner energy. This will not only be driven by climate policies, but also by other factors, including the rapidly falling costs of renewable energy, concerns about air pollution, and global shifts in coal demand.

A potentially rapid decline in coal production raises important questions about the impacts on workers, mining communities and producing countries, as highlighted by the growing debate on “just” transitions. These impacts will be potentially disruptive and unevenly distributed across society; planners will need to grapple with how to plan and implement strategies to mitigate these impacts, and how to create alternative social and economic foundations that can sustain coal-dependent areas.

This paper assess the existing knowledge base to better understand the economic, social and political consequences of mine closure at the national and subnational scales, as well as the measures taken by different actors to mitigate these impacts. To do so, the authors systematically mapped published literature on the social, economic and political impacts of declining extractive-based economies.

From these historical cases, the paper extracts some lessons that might help guide communities and governments in current coal production areas as they prepare for an end to mining.