Another offering from the Guelph Festival of Moving Media at the Planet Bean venue was a two documentary set made up of New Eldorado and Mine Your Own Business. The first film was produced by an environmental group with a lot of the rhetoric you’d expect.
Now I should make my stance clear. I don’t think I’m an anti-environmentalist, or right-leaning or even a fascist pig. In fact I consider myself an environmentalist and have training to back it up: a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science and a Masters degree in Ecology.
So when I say rhetoric I mean that Flora Film International, who produced New Eldorado, stooped to misrepresenting the truth about the proposed mining operation. They play on the negative image many mining companies earned from the 30’s to the 80’s. But it is not fair to necessarily paint all mining companies in this light, especially in other countries less well off. Do we in the West, who have reproduced the moon and precipated acid rain in Sudbury, poisoned our water ways in Love Canal and produced massive dead zones through nuclear testing, have the moral high ground to decide how others develop their resources?
New Eldorado appeals to comfortable environmentalists of convenience. It is easier for us in Canada and in the States to say that a big mining company should abandon its plan to develop a mine in Romania than to be really earth friendly back home. What? You think I should abandon my SUV and bike to work? Are you crazy?
The Romanian town in question, Rosia Montana, is an old mining site. It has over 2000 years of excavation history, in fact the Romans mined there. The State run mine is closing down and a new consortium, the Canadian-Romanian Montana Gold Corporation wants to develop the mine using modern technology and techniques. Of course, certain environmental interest groups have taken umbrage at the idea.
I agree that this new mining company should certainly be made to ensure that environmentally friendly means of extracting resources are followed. In fact, since a Canadian company is involved, I would suggest that they adhere to the same environmental regulations they would be forced to back home. But they shouldn’t be prevented from doing their business by outsiders. The same foreigners who concoct silly reasons to prevent Romanians with their Canadian partners from developing these resources. Is it really our place to offer more than advice?
Phelim McAleer, the Irish narrator of Mine Your Own Business, takes an opposing view but I would argue his has the better balance and perspective. Phelim befriends George, a local living in Rosia Montana who shows him some of the ‘pristine’ sites that Flora Film claims will be destroyed by the new mine. There’s a mountain stream that would be very picturesque but for the lurid orange colour of the water which comes from the currently operating State mine, an open pit mine just a few kilometres from the town centre. The ‘environmentalists’, and I use the term very loosely, contend the town could survive happily with agriculture and tourism but George points out that the only crop that grows is potatoes and wonders who would want to see the sites?
But Phelim takes it one step further and takes George, who has never been to his own capital, to Madagascar and Chili to visit mining operations there. To see for themselves if other mining operations, also called into question by foreign environmentalists, are any better or worse. The point that emerges, underscored by expert testimony, is that perhaps we should really examine why we have issue with these mines. Why are we fighting these efforts? Are we trying to be a shining light of liberal smugness or are we trying to keep our ‘friends’ in developing countries poor? Are there ‘environmentalists’ out there who have a vested interest in ‘fighting these o-so-good fights’ to keep themselves employed. Environmentalists who would not last very long if they had to live under the same conditions as the natives, hmmm?
I don’t want to sound like I’m condoning development for its own sake. I don’t. We’ve had enough of that kind of thinking in the developed world. But you cannot mislead and lie to stop the Third or Second World from developing. You can offer to help with advice and knowledge transfer about environmental issues and assessment. You can act locally and help globally by promoting and supporting Fair Trade.
I applaud the GFOMM for showing both of these films together. If you have seen New Eldorado I would recommend you see Mine Your Own Business too. Then make up your own mine… I mean mind!
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