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Kids, Cameras and the Mining Industry

Industry lobby group offers cash prizes for youth-created, pro-mining, propaganda

by Miles Howe

This child is likely not in junior high school, and so is not quite yet eligible to compete in the MANS' 'Mining Rocks!' video contest. [Photo: jaychiu]
This child is likely not in junior high school, and so is not quite yet eligible to compete in the MANS' 'Mining Rocks!' video contest. [Photo: jaychiu]

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) - An ongoing contest put on by the Mining Association of Nova Scotia (MANS), is offering thousands of dollars in prize money to the junior high and high school aged students who can make the best promotional video in support of resource extraction in the province. The contest, amusingly called 'Mining Rocks!', leads interested applicants to a strange promotional video (made for a song on iMovie) that alternates between still shots of excited, mostly Anglo-Saxon, teens and pre-teens, stock footage of open-pit mining operations, and a slow-motion pan over a screen full of money. Young applicants are encouraged to plumb the depths of a sister-site, titled 'Not Your Grandfather's Mining Industry', for highly industry-friendly inspiration for their directorial assignments.

Through its choice of promotional language, MANS is expecting, it would seem, a green-washed smattering of videos, to be divorced from the historical uneasiness of an industry that might have done some polluting, killing and expropriation in the past. But the past is past, and never mind that. So far, Nova Scotia's school aged children have not disappointed, and the dozen or so entries on the MANS site show kids eager to say and do almost anything in support of mining, if there's money to be had.

Yes, Disney World is built on Nova Scotia aggregate, as one young entrant gleefully recounts, while holding a Minnie Mouse doll. Yes, we do need and appreciate table salt. Indeed, there is gold in this here cell phone. But this exuberant focus on the end products we all consume - and hence other issues be damned - is childish, and does no justice to the extractive process or the veritable wasteland it can leave behind.

“Not your grandfather's mining industry? True, but only because your grandfather was part of a union, along with many many other grandparents who were miners or involved in the mining industry,” says Canadian Labour Congress Atlantic Regional Representative Tony Tracy. “The gains that workers in the mining industry have made in Nova Scotia have been entirely because of the collective work of miners in their unions.

"Without the fights that miners and their unions took on in Cape Breton, Springhill and other mining communities, we would still be left with the exploitative 'company stores', child labour in the mines, low wages and health and safety violations that led to the workplace deaths of countless miners in this province over the years, including at Westray. The fights for workers rights in the mines were long and bitter battles in many Nova Scotian communities, and many miners gave their lives to that battle, including Cape Breton's William Davis. Yes, it's not your grandfather's mining industry anymore, and we have unions to thank for that.”

You listening, kids?

If the most glaring examples of land appropriation, child labour, union smashing, explosions, death and environmental degradation have (temporarily) left the shores of Nova Scotia (this is not your grandfather's mining industry and MANS doesn't want to know about it), as Tracy mentions, there still remains the spectre of the Westray mining disaster (your father's mining industry?), the possibility of land expropriation, and a wealth of public complaints against (your) modern-day coal strip mining.

The timing of MANS' contest is also fortuitous in that Chris Cline's 'The Cline Group' has recently purchased a 75% controlling interest in the moribund Donkin coal mine in Cape Breton, and nothing says cheap and easy public relations stunt like young people with cameras making pro-mining propaganda for non-unionized, cut rates.

Cline himself is worth over a billion dollars, owns coal mines across Illinois and Appalachia, sits on billions of tons in coal reserves, is a master of bipartisan lobbying efforts, runs largely non-unionized mines, and is something of a climate change denier who was caught distributing literature in his children's schools that says sunspots might be equally responsible for the earth's heating predicament. This 'race to the bottom' of the ownership barrel for Nova Scotia's resource extractive assets isn't limited to Cline alone; for yet another example look to current owners of the Northern Pulp mill, Asia Pulp and Paper.

Kids?

“The contest definitely raised my eyebrows,” says a Nova Scotia public teacher who requested to remain anonymous. “I think we have to be very cautious anytime you get an industry lobby group trying to feed a message to school kids. It's kind of ingenious, actually. The Association's essentially getting the kids to make advertising for them at bargain-basement prices.”

Judges for MANS' contest include provincial Natural Resource Minister Zach Churchill, who recently co-hosted a Donkin-related public meeting for Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, residents, alongside Cline Group spokesperson Matt Fifield.

Another MANS' judge is the perennially popular (in local-speak, Hali-famous) Chronicle Herald arts reporter Stephen Cooke. With his deep knowledge of festivals and movies, theoretically Cooke will be a discerning critic on how well the children's videos kowtow to the mining industry. The Chronicle Herald (in local-speak, the Chronically Horrid) has already shown itself to be comfortable with the big spoon/little spoon relationship it maintains with extractive industries in the province. The paper's most recent lament was a torrent of editorials chastising the provincial government (and ill-educated rural Nova Scotians for their concern) for imposing a 'moratorium' on the environmentally destructive gas extraction technique of hydraulic fracturing.

The prize money, for all this, isn't all that much; $1500 for each winning video, along with $500 to the winning schools. Kids can pick up extra cash though, by referring their friends to the MANS site and getting them to create their own submissions. Not only do they, at an early age, learn the valuable skill of supplication to industrial task masters, the contest also teaches them valuable, quasi-Ponzi scheme, money-making techniques.

Sponsor companies for this venture run the gamut of local industrial players, and some of the money appears to be linked to the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum's charitable arm, the CIM Foundation, which is offering its own 'Peoples' Choice' award. The CIM boasts over 13,000 members convened from industry, academia and government, with societies which encompass members in the coal, oil sands and mineral extraction – including uranium – sectors.


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