Mining Films Paint an Ugly Picture – by Patrick Whiteway (Canadian Mining Review – June 1, 2010)

To turn the industry’s negative image around, the mining industry needs to invest millions in new films

Canada’s latest contribution to popular culture, Justin Bieber, is bathing in positive publicity. His Twitter page tells 2.8 million followers, largely pre-teen girls, seemingly everything about him. And a music video of his song Baby has been viewed 171 million times on You Tube (as of June 1, 2010).

Not so with the mining industry. Mining publicity in today’s popular culture is exclusively negative, documenting the shenanigans that go on in the industry.

Two films about gold mining, for example, were screened recently in Toronto at the Canadian International Documentary Festival, more commonly known as the HotDocs Festival. One was the world premiere of The Devil Operation directed and produced by Stephanie Boyd.

And the other was entitled They Come for the Gold, They Come for it All, directed by Pablo D’Alo Abba and Cristian Harbaruk.

On May 3rd I took in The Devil Operation.

Set in Peru at the Yanacocha gold mine, operated by Newmont Mining Corp., this film documents the surveillance, harassment, kidnapping and torture of ecoactivists and indigenous farmers (and the murder of one protester) by security guards reportedly hired by Newmont (see trailer above).

Following the screening, the hero of the story, a Catholic priest, Father Marco Arana, answered questions from the audience. He mediated talks between Newmont and the local farmers.

One of his many messages was that if investors want to make responsible investments in mining companies, then investors should demand to know the details about how their money is being spent. In this case, Newmont reportedly paid security forces who committed crimes against local farmers.

The Devil Operation made me think about the biggest scandal in Canadian mining history: the Bre-X Minerals Inc. fraud in Indonesia and whether or not that story has been satisfactorily portrayed in film.

For the rest of this interesting column, please go to the Canadian Mining Review website: