WHOLE communities have been wiped off the map in the Upper Hunter as a result of the expansion of the region's mining boom and urbanisation.Some that remain, like Bulga, only exist because defiant and determined residents fought tooth and nail to save the areas where generations of their families have lived.
Dozens of villages and hamlets scattered throughout the valley, including Ravensworth, Mount Thorley, Hebden, Long Point and Wambo, are now little more than names on a map.
Experts warn that without intervention, the Upper Hunter's narrow economy is set to teeter, hingeing on the fortune of its major employer, the coal mining industry.
Economist calls for "immediate action"
Newcastle-based economist Bill Mitchell says crucial towns, such as Singleton and Muswellbrook, home to 40,000 people, could be left "ghost towns" if no action is taken as momentum for leaving coal in the ground accelerates globally.
In between, small hamlets and villages throughout the Upper Hunter will be caught up in the economic twilight zone, the precursor to more being wiped off the map.
Professor Mitchell, director of the Centre for Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE), says unless urgent action is taken by the state and federal governments to implement a structured transition plan to invest in new industries and support business and retrain workers, the Upper Hunter will be "doomed by coal".