Russell Noble is the editor of the Canadian Mining Journal, Canada’s first mining publication. This editorial is from the December, 2010 issue.
Thanks to a cave-in, mining is now the world’s most popular profession.
Forget about doctors and firefighters for a moment because, to paraphrase, the word popular means: “known to the general masses of people,” and with that, who can argue that the recently televised rescue of 33 miners in Chile didn’t make mining popular?
No other event in the history of the industry has brought more attention to the profession than the rescue of those miners. That single event taught more than a billion people around the world just what mining is all about.
They learned about the earth and where minerals are found, they learned about the research and engineering that’s involved with getting at those minerals and, most importantly, they learned about the people who risk their lives to retrieve those minerals.
In all, no other profession has been so vividly showcased before the eyes of the world.
Sadly, though, no school has ever taught as much about the mystique and intrigue of mining as what was shown during those few hours of live telecasts from Chile.
Who knows-perhaps the rescue will do for mining schools what “Watergate” did for journalism schools throughout North America in the early 1970s. Enrolment went through the roof because of the novelty surrounding that event.
I’m not expecting it, but wouldn’t it be great if Hollywood came out with a movie based on the rescue in Chile — (I’d call it 33 Below (you read it here first) — and students got captivated by it and became interested in mining?
Far stranger things have happened, but from the mining industry’s perspective it would be welcomed because as most of you know, the next generation of miners isn’t exactly lining up at the shaft willing to get down and dirty!
In fact, mining is one industry where there won’t be a “next” generation unless more is done to promote it as a “professional” job, something on the same scale as the doctors and firefighters I mentioned earlier.
And why not? The money is often the same, and sometimes better, because miners are paid and treated well in most cases. Sure there have been ugly situations where workers and owners have gone head-to-head over working conditions and wages and benefits, but those issues hold true for most professions.
There isn’t a “perfect” job in existence, and mining is far from one of them; but then again, it’s a profession with many rewards, which makes it one of the most exciting in the world.
The 33 miners rescued in Chile are lucky to be alive thanks to the efforts of the hundreds of people on the immediate surface (below) and to the thousands of others around the world; but aside from that, they’re also the most “popular” men in the mining industry because of the way they made their peers feel about being miners.
Those 33 guys stuck together as a team, and that brotherhood rubbed off on every man and woman around the world who works, or has worked, in a mine. Being called a “miner” is now a bit like hearing your hometown’s name mentioned on television.
It’s a proud moment.