Friday, March 30, 2007

Mine Your Own Business selected for Bucharest Film Festival

MYOB has been selected for screening in the prestigious Bucherest Film Festival,
The film will be screened on Sunday 15th April at 4.00 pm at Cinema Eforie, Eforie St, Bucharest
A very large crowd is expected so get there early.

Monday, March 12, 2007

"A HOT DOC" says Canada's National Post

A hot doc

National Post

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Toronto-based Gabriel Resources has one of the hottest gold prospects on Earth, at Rosia Montana in Romania, but has been having a lot of trouble getting the project moving. It's not that the vast majority of the locals aren't keen to exploit the opportunities (including ripping off Gabriel if they get half a chance). It's that a bunch of international environmentalists have descended on Rosia Montana and made it an anti-development cause celebre.

Gabriel's painful experience is the subject of a brilliant and controversial film, Mine Your Own Business, which was made by the Irish husband-and-wife team of Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney. The two were in Toronto this week to show their work at the Prospectors and Developers Association Conference, where I met them on Monday.

Their movie is a gripping expose of "the dark side of environmentalism." It reveals big international environmental organizations as far more concerned with posturing on behalf of lemurs and "spiritual" mountains than lifting poor people out of poverty.

The campaign against Gabriel was led by a by a Swiss journalist-turned-environmentalist named Stephanie Roth. Ms. Roth dubbed Gabriel and other mining companies "modern-day vampires" (Rosia Montana is in Transylvania). However, the view that she and her colleagues peddle of Rosia Montana as an

idyllic community that would be ruined by Gabriel's development is a pure fantasy, as the film makes clear.

Mr. McAleer decided to make a film after covering the Gabriel story for the Financial Times of London. The fact that he was partly financed by Gabriel (who nevertheless had no editorial control) has inevitably been used against him, but he notes that nobody has ever successfully refuted the facts presented in the film.

Rosia Montana is desolate and polluted, the site of former Communist state-owned mines and a mining history that goes back to Roman times. Its soil is barren. Its streams are polluted. Its inhabitants are 70% unemployed. As Gabriel chief executive Alan Hill points out, "This is a mine to clean up a mess."

Mine Your Own Business goes beyond Romania to examine activist opposition to other proposed mines in Chile and Madagascar, where the story is depressingly similar. The film's undisputed villain is the appallingly smug figure of Mark Fenn, a representative of the World Wide Fund for Nature, who is charged with holding up a mine in Madagascar. He announces that the locals put no value on better housing, nutrition or education and that if they had more money they would just spend it!

One inspired move by the filmmakers was to take along a young miner named George from Rosia Montana to Madagascar. Mr. McAleer says that the main challenge during the sequence in which Mr. Fenn was explaining the joys of poverty was to stop George from pummelling the environmental blowhard!

Mine Your Own Business has drawn wide praise, and been described as "devastating" to "the self-satisfied delusions of the environmental left." The Wall Street Journal declared: "Move over, Michael Moore. You have competition in the art of political film-making ? [but] instead of advancing the cause of smug liberal hypocrisy, [McAleer] is debunking it."

In fact, comparing Mine's film-makers with Michael Moore is an insult. They don't manufacture facts and edit for hyperbole; they let the people of Rosia Montana speak for themselves.

The feisty filmmakers have been doing a good deal of globe-trotting to promote their work, but are having trouble getting it into film festivals, most of whose organizers tend to be sympathetic to radical environmentalism. When they showed their movie at the National Geographic Society in Washington, Greenpeace tried to have them banned.

Mr. McAleer and Ms. McElhinney point out that their film has even cost them friends. They told me of one New York couple who watched their film and immediately started attacking them on global warming, a topic not even mentioned in the film! When they asked the couple what specifically was wrong with the film's message, they were accused of "badgering."

It will be interesting to see if they make the cut at this year's Toronto-based Hot Docs festival, perhaps the leading documentary festival in the world. Their inclusion would seem obviously justified not merely from the quality of their film, but because one of this year's festival themes is "Spotlight on Central & Eastern Europe."

The inclusion of one film about Transylvania has already been announced. It is called Village of Socks, and portrays "The alluring charm of a community practicing a centuries-old tradition while on the edge of the EU behemoth."

While Village of Socks may be a fine and important film, Mine Your Own Business touches on much more critical issues of global development.

Gabriel, meanwhile, struggles on to provide the good jobs and working conditions that the villagers of Rosia Montana so desperately need. The company has devoted millions to preserving local heritage, and has guaranteed the preservation of all the local historical buildings and churches. They are still working on the most rigorous possible environmental assessment. Nevertheless, Gabriel recently had to call a halt to its generous house-purchase program when the locals were discovered to be -- illegally -- building new structures on land where the mine site would be. "They want more mone y," CEO Hill said in a conference call this week, adding: "And who wouldn't?"

Gabriel's mine is the best thing that could possibly happen to Rosia Montana. As Mine Your Own Business demonstrates, the worst thing would be if the radical activists' anti-development jihad were to triumph.

© National Post 2007

Thursday, March 8, 2007


Environmental fascism – Mining facing misinformation and downright lies from anti-mining NGOs
Lawrence Williams
'07-MAR-07 08:00'
TORONTO ( --In an interesting initiative at this year’s Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) meeting, the organisers invited film makers Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney to show their film – Mine Your Own Business. Following the showing the flimmakers fielded questions about the film itself, as a part of a debate as to how the mining industry should face up to the problems it faces from NGOs who mislead the public with anything from deliberate misinformation to downright lies about the benefits or otherwise that the industry brings to local populations.

The two Irish documentary makers were invited initially by Gabriel Resources, currently trying to develop Romania’s Rosia Montana gold project against strong environmental opposition. McAleer and McElhinney agreed to do this provided they had totally independent editorial control of the film they would produce. Indeed Alan Hill of Gabriel felt initially that he would have preferred a different type of film altogether.

McAleer, takes on the role in the documentary of devil’s advocate looking at the claims and counter claims of the miners and the NGO opponents. In person it is apparent that he now feels extremely strongly from a personal front about what the NGOs seem to be trying to do in stopping mining where it promises, not only to provide jobs and income to poverty-stricken locals, but in Rosia Montana’s case actually help clean up a horrendous environmental legacy of poorly-controlled state mining operations at the site.

He claims to have absolutely no interest in mining per se – his background is journalism with London’s respected Financial Times newspaper – but does have a strong interest in what a developing industry can do for jobless locals living in horrendously primitive surroundings. Thus he and his colleague have ended up producing a Michael Moore-type documentary highlighting the hypocrisy and damage being done by some anti-mining NGOs in their fight to kill new mining operations in various parts of the world.

He admits that the NGOs may believe deeply that what they are doing is justified, as may the people who fund them, but that they are perhaps more than just misguided and that their actions actually harm the people they are supposedly setting out to protect.

At Rosia Montana, for example, the NGOs paint a picture of an idyllic mountain village where villagers live on good income generated from agricultural and sheep raising income, and that the locals almost unanimously oppose the big mining project. In fact it seems to be the reverse that is true. The locals are almost unanimous in their support for the new mine, while the local ground is too poor to support an agricultural alternative. Living conditions in the village are extremely primitive and the mine offers not only jobs, but new modern housing.

The filmmakers did not just rest their case with Rosia Montana – they also looked at two more projects being set up in extremely poor areas of the world – Rio Tinto’s titanium sands mining project in Madagascar – the world’s third poorest country – and Barrick’s Pascua Lama gold mining project high in the Chilean Andes. They found that NGO’s operating largely from a western viewpoint that the locals would obviously prefer living a poverty stricken existence and maintaining their indigenous cultures, when in fact the opposite is true.

In Madagascar the prospective mine life is 60 years, and the project would involve building a decent port there – which would be the seventh largest in Africa and provide long term benefits to the local community that they could currently only dream of. In Chile, the NGOs are supported by local landowners who do oppose the project, but primarily because if the mine is built they will have to compete with the mines for local labour which is currently paid below subsistence level wages.

Here too one of the leading lights in the anti-mining campaign turned out to be an environmental activist living in one of London’s wealthier suburbs who had never been to the Pascua Lama site, yet felt qualified to speak supposedly for the locals who he had never met!

It was apparent from the question and answer session that the two filmmakers both felt that the NGOs seemed, in all three studies examined, in a ‘conspiracy’ to keep the poor in continuing poverty, with all the problems that brings in terms of poor health, poor life expectancy, high infant mortality and the ‘pleasure’ of continuing to live in horrendous conditions.

What is also interesting is what this writer terms environmental fascism. There have been attempts to suppress this film and prevent it being shown. The filmmakers have even received death threats because of it. Documentary TV channels and film festivals won’t screen it, although will happily carry works which try to paint the opposite picture.

What can one do about this. In the subsequent discussion at the PDAC one has to say that not much came to the fore in realistic ways of attacking the problem faced by miners. There wasn’t any real opposition to the findings – but then the film was shown to a highly supportive audience. There perhaps was a consensus that the industry should perhaps be more proactive in putting its case and that the film should be made available to educational establishments – although whether they would actually show it is perhaps another matter.

Phelim McAleer himself, who has inherited a very jaundiced viewpoint about the activities of the NGOs during the making of the film, even feels that mining should not even try and work any of the NGOs at all, although one speaker from the floor did urge caution and pointed to some significant cooperative work between Rio Tinto and some environmental groups.

Combating NGO misinformation is something the industry will continue to have to deal with. Whenever a prospective mine springs up nowadays, special interest groups will almost automatically oppose it. While often local people and politicians will ultimately ensure that the projects do go ahead for the benefits they bring to the local communities, getting to this stage can be a long and costly process for the mining company. Perhaps the McAleer approach of trying to bring the NGOs to account has a lot of merit, but whatever is done, the industry itself has to remain squeaky clean in its dealings and operations so as not to give opponents further sticks to beat it with.

The NGOs, like terrorists, do not seem to abide by the rules of the game. They do need to be brought to account in some way or other, because misinformation and lies once promulgated in the media tend to be considered as fact by the general public – even though they may be withdrawn at some stage in the future. The question is haow can the industry achieve this. The debate continues.

Monday, March 5, 2007



"Michael Moore but with actual research and journalistic skill"

Ian O'Doherty, the Irish Independent's leading columnist, has praised Mine Your Own Business describing it as "revelatory" and "excellent".

Read O'Doherty's comments in full.....

Make it your business
Irish film maker Phelim McAleer's excellent documentary 'Mine Your Own Business' gleefully exposes the stupidity of many of today's professional environmentalists. Their casual disregard for the needs of the people they purport to help really sticks in the craw.

The most unintentionally amusing moment of the film comes when, explaining his opposition to a mining project in Madagascar which would enormously improve the shattered local economy, environmentalist Mark Fenn of the Worldwide Fund for Nature says that giving locals jobs would ruin their culture.

"In three or four days it's (local culture) gone. They'll buy cases of beer and invite their friends. They'll just buy a stereo. In Madagascar the indicators of quality of life are not housing, not nutrition, and specifically not health in a lot of cases. It's not education. A lot of children in Fort Dauphin do not go to school because the parents do not consider that to be important."

Needless to say the unemployed locals held a rather different attitude.

To find out more about this revelatory documentary - think Michael Moore, but with actual research and journalistic skill - check out