Friday, September 7, 2007

New York Sun praises Mine Your Own Business

On August 31 Alicia Colon of the New York Sun states:

"...Mine Your Own Business captures how radical environmentalists were suppressing progress in some of the world's poorest areas. An Irish journalist, Phelim McAleer, filmed the piece with honesty and integrity, allowing viewers to form their own opinion.

Find out for yourself. Order a copy of Mine Your Own Business through the website

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Noted academic praises Mine Your Own Business

The Independent Institute
Mine Your Own Business
September 5, 2007
Alvaro Vargas Llosa

WASHINGTON—One would think only a crazy couple would declare war on environmentalists by presenting them on film as snobs, hypocrites and enemies of the poor. Luckily for those of us who think one-sided debates are boring, Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney are just crazy enough to question the environmentalists' opposition to mining projects in poor countries in a documentary—“Mine Your Own Business”—that is gaining attention.

McAleer, an Irish journalist who covered Romania for the Financial Times, and McElhinney, his wife and co-producer, look at three mining investments: a gold project by Gabriel Resources in Rosia Montana, in Romania's Transylvania region; Rio Tinto's ilmenite project in Fort Dauphin, in Madagascar; and a vast Andean operation undertaken by Barrick Gold in Chile's Huasco Valley.

In the movie, many of the critics who claim to live in the affected areas are less than honest. One, a Swiss environmentalist who leads the opposition to mining in Romania, actually lives in the sort of town to which many of the impoverished peasants of Rosia Montana want to move.

The activists are adamant that the locals should preserve their “pristine” environment. A Belgian environmentalist says the people of Rosia Montana would rather use carts and horses than pollute the air with cars. “She says this to get noticed,” counters a Romanian peasant who looks totally bewildered.

Half a world away, when confronted with the argument that denying the people of Fort Dauphin a chance to obtain jobs would keep them poor, the leading critic of the ilmenite project and the owner of a luxurious catamaran pontificates to Gheorghe Lucian, an unemployed Romanian traveling with the film's crew: “I could put you with a family here and you can count how many times people smile ... and I can put you with a family that is well-off in New York and London and you can count how many times they smile, and then you can tell me who is rich and who is poor.”

You can imagine what this esoteric interpretation of wealth sounds like to Lucian, the Romanian who graduated from Rosia Montana's Technical College and is desperate to find a job. Two-thirds of his fellow villagers lack running water and use outside bathrooms even in freezing winter. For him, as for the other 700 prospective employees of the mining project back home, the choice is literally “between having a job and leaving.”

The film crew also traveled to the Chilean Andes to find out who was leading the fight against Barrick Gold. It turns out—as one local villager explains—that those who oppose the investment are mainly rich landowners who don't want the peasants working on their lands for a pittance to flock to the mines for twice their current wages.

McAleer tells us that the claim the mining project will displace three glaciers that provide irrigation for local agriculture is false. The glaciers will not be affected and the company will build a reservoir to guarantee that local farmers have a decent supply of water.

Will this industrial progress in Romania, Madagascar or Chile pollute the environment? Well, the alternative is much worse. Communist-era gold mining, which was technologically backward, bureaucratic and unaccountable, turned Rosia Montana's river into disgusting filth. In Madagascar's Fort Dauphin, slash-and-burn agriculture—the sort the rural poor resort to in order to survive—has destroyed the rain forest.

It would be naive to think these mining companies are in it for altruistic motives—they obviously want to make a profit. But the truth—one that Lucian, the unemployed Romanian, discovers as he ventures beyond his country for the first time in his life—is that progress involves hard choices. The wealthy nations of today were themselves “pristine” environments in which people gradually gave up traditional ways of life to improve their living conditions. Who are we to deny the poor of today the chance to do well for themselves when an opportunity arises if they decide to take it?

Yes, moving from the traditional to the modern way of life involves costs. But as one British professor at Kent University says: “People need to be trusted to work these things out for themselves.... Environmentalists feel they have the moral authority to tell them what to do.”

Not all nongovernmental organizations are as elitist and unfair to poor people as the many this film exposes. Not every mining project is as respectful of local choices as the ones depicted in this film. But this documentary speaks volumes about the Manichean vision that many bleeding-heart Americans and Europeans have of the dilemma between tradition and modernity in the developing world.

Alvaro Vargas Llosa, author of “Liberty for Latin America,” is the director of the Center on Global Prosperity at the Independent Institute. His e-mail address is AVLlosa(at)

Alvaro Vargas Llosa
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Alvaro Vargas Llosa is Senior Fellow and Director of The Center on Global Prosperity at The Independent Institute. He is a native of Peru and received his B.S.C. in international history from the London School of Economics. He is widely published and has lectured on world economic and political issues including at the Mont Pelerin Society, Naumann Foundation (Germany), FAES Foundation (Spain), Brazilian Institute of Business Studies, Fundación Libertad (Argentina), CEDICE Foundation (Venezuela), Florida International University, and the Ecuadorian Chamber of Commerce. He is the author of the Independent Institute books The Che Guevara Myth and Liberty for Latin America.

More Support for Mine Your Own Business and telling the truth about Rosia Montana

September 5, 2007
Why Does Soros Want to Keep Some Folks Poor?
Yeah, sometimes instead of writing about Tennessee politics, media or the war I go off and write about a mining project in Romania that has caught my interest. This is my a blog, so you get what I'm interested in, and this story is one of those. It's about a the village of Rosia Montana, Romania, a poverty-stricken place that is seeing its best-ever chance at economic progress and a better life for its people blocked by environmentalists and by one very rich billionaire who doesn't lack for things like indoor plumbing and electricity the way many of the people do in Rosia.

I have come into possession of a copy of a letter that famed billionaire and funder of leftist causes George Soros wrote in mid-April to the CEO of Denver-based Newmont Mining, urging the company to not support a proposed gold mine in the impoverished Romanian village of Rosia Montana - a mine proposed by Gabriel Resources of Toronto, Canada.

Now, why would Soros, write such a letter - and address it to the CEO of Newmont rather than Gabriel Resources?

Newmont owns 19 percent of Gabriel Resources. And Soros owns a significant stake in Newmont. That answers the first question. But you'd think Soros, as a stockholder in Newmont, would want Newmont to profit from Gabriel's Rosia Montana mine project. On the other hand, if Soros only made what for him, dollar-wise, is a rather small investment in Newmont stock in order to have the standing to pressure Newmont to work against Gabriel's project, the question is much more serious:

Why does Soros, famous funder of a variety of leftwing causes both in America and around the world, believe that it is vital the people of Rosia Montana be denied a chance at major economic development

And that brings me to the deeper question of why Soros - who has significant investments in gold-mining and other mining operations - has made opposition to the Rosia Montana project a personal crusade, a question that remains unanswered, in part because the world media has not asked it.

Soros' Open Society Institute, which claims to be working to better the lives of people in places like Rosia Montana, recently opened an outpost in the impoverished village, under the name Soros Foundation Romania, ostensibly to help the locals fight off the mine.

The grand opening was booed by the locals, who desperately want the good jobs and wages that the Gabriel mine would bring to the town, which currently has a 70 percent unemployment rate and historically has made its living from mining.

Did the negative reception for Soros's organization in Rosia Montana make it into any of the world media that have covered the Rosia Story?


Recently, however, Gabriel Resources has begun to fight back against the campaign of lies and deceptions that the Soros Foundation Romania has been using to fight the mine. In late August, Allen Hill, CEO of both Gabriel Resources and the Rosia Montana Gold Corporation subsidiary, released an open letter to Renate Weber, the chairman of the board of the Soros Foundation Romania, exposing a slew of lies and deceptions on the foundation's website about the Rosia mining project.

The lies and distortions pushed by Soros regarding the project have become standard fare in major-media coverage of the Rosia project, which almost always portrays the battle as a David-versus-Goliath story, with the village as the David and Gabriel Resources as Goliath.

The truth that is beginning to emerge is that, yes, this is a David-and-Goliath story, but it is Gabriel Resources that is the David, fighting a multi-headed giant comprised of a series of Soros-funded "environmental groups" and NGOs.

Hill's letter is a shining example of, pardon the pun, the gold standard in pushing back against biased and inaccurate media coverage by attacking the lies and distortions at their source. Here is the letter in its entirety:

Dear Ms Weber,
I write to call to your attention the factual falsehoods on your website concerning the Rosia Montana Project – errors that must in fact be known to your organization, as they differ from the project’s EIA report, which (as is evident from citations on various pages of your website) you claim to have studied and analyzed.

As the false statements are too numerous to list in this letter, suffice it to say by way of example that the “case study” appearing on your website contains 10 errors in just 5 paragraphs.

In Soros Foundation shorthand, the Rosia Montana project is defined by “dynamiting four mountains,” “destroying 958 households” and “demolishing the town.”

None are true.

Dynamiting four mountains…
Fact: if the reference is to the four proposed mining pits comprising our project, your web-visitors should know that not one of the sites is pristine – indeed, all four sites bear the ravages of past mining, and one is in fact an abandoned crater, heavily polluted by poor mining practice, which our modern mining practices will clean up. Modern “mining for closure” practices – documented in our EIA – will ensure that when the mine is closed, lands will be reclaimed, revegetated and returned to use by man and wildlife. And in the case of Rosia Montana, our mine will in fact leave the area cleaner than we found it.

Destroying 958 households…
Fact: according to World Bank standards, homes are being purchased on a “willing buyer/willing seller” model, at generous prices unavailable in the natural “real estate market” in impoverished rural Romania – which is why 98% of all local residents have had their properties surveyed by the company. 12 of the 16 sub-commune of Rosia Montana are not affected by the project – and for those families who seek to live nearby, a new village Piatra Alba is being built at company expense, the collaboration of a Romanian and Colorado/USA design team that has developed U.S. resort communities.

Demolishing the town…
Fact: Far from demolishing Rosia Montana, all 41 currently-designated historic structures in the village are preserved under our mining plan, whether they are located in the Protected Zone or outside of it. Two churches must be moved under the mine plan; depending on the congregations’ wishes, the churches will either be moved or rebuilt to the congregation’s specifications. Perhaps this is why the Special Rapporteur from the Council of Europe termed our patrimony programme at Rosia Montana “an exemplary model of responsible development.”

…Although that’s a fact not fit for the posting on the Soros Foundation site.

All of these facts are present in our EIA, whose contents are legally binding on us.

Perhaps you have just copied your case against us from the statements of partner organizations who are opposed to our project, reporting their falsehoods as your own. Indeed, many of the “facts” on your site look to come, cut-and-paste style, directly from statements made by Alburnus Maior and the Hungarian Government.

But we should give credit where credit is due -- and acknowledge falsehoods that appear to be your own organization’s invention.

For instance, your site claims that the Rosia Montana “project violates also the Berlin Convention (10 October 2001), which stipulates the interdiction of the cyanide use in the mining exploitations on the territory of the European Union.”

Of course the Berlin Convention, as you are doubtlessly aware, has no force of law in the EU. Indeed, cyanide use in gold extraction is legal within the EU (and is currently used in a majority of operating EU gold mines), and is subject to even stronger standards as a result of the EU’s 2006 Mining Waste Directive – with which our project complies from Day One. In fact, at the most recent G-8 gathering in Germany, the G-8 nations made a joint statement explicitly endorsing the International Cyanide Management Code (ICMC) -- promulgated under the auspices of the United Nations Environmental Programme, outlines strict Standards of Practice governing cyanide use in mining.

Is the G-8 wrong about cyanide?

Are the heads of the world’s foremost democracies violators of the law?

Is the UN a co-conspirator in the lawless use of cyanide?

Or is it the case that the Soros website simply chooses to mislead its visitors, in hopes that they will remain ignorant of the facts?

The Soros Foundation cannot in good conscience post such false statements on its site if it is sincere in its wish to have an honest and open discussion on projects such as ours.

The volume of such statements on your website suggests not random error but rather a concerted campaign -- a suppression of any and all fact-based evidence recognizing that the Rosia Montana Project conforms to the highest international standards. Beyond your web-based campaign, we also call on you to clarify your role in the leaking of the IGIE Report (the so-called “ad hoc report”) in March 2007, whereby fed negative news stories in Romania on what was in fact a positive report. Finally, given community support for our project and your claimed commitment to accountability, we urge you to explain how your anti-mining stance squares with your mission statement “to promote patterns for the advancement of a society based on freedom, accountability and respect for diversity.”

Perhaps we are destined to differ. Still, it is the case that people are entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts.

As a publicly-traded company, Gabriel Resources is required by law as well as the regulatory rules that govern security exchanges to conduct itself in an open and transparent manner. The same cannot be said about your “open society” organization. We urge you to remove the false statements from your website immediately, and desist from misleading the interested public about our project.

Alan Hill
President & CEO
Gabriel Resources & Rosia Montana Gold Corporation

Hill's letter is filled with facts, while Soros' letter to the Newmont Mining CEO is filled with unsubstantiated assertions and misleading spin. Just one example: Soros cites "a recent poll organized by a special committee of the Romanian parliament (that) found 90% of respondents rejecting the project," but fails to inform the Newmont CEO that the "poll" was an unscientific Internet poll that collected many votes from people who didn't live in Rosia but, instead, were associated with organizations opposed to the new mine.
One more: Soros charges that the Rosia project will result in "involuntarily resettling hundreds of people," when the truth is the village only has a few hundred people and most favor the mine - and are selling their property to Gabriel for generous prices that are allowing them to resettle in nice new homes in a new village a few miles away.

No one has been involuntarily moved.

Why is Soros attacking - directly and through surrogate groups he funds - the Rosia gold mine project? Only Soros knows for sure, but there is much speculation. Rosia Montana is located in the region known as Transylvania, which once belonged to Hungary. Soros is Hungarian. Could nationalism - and a desire to keep Rosia down as long as it is part of Romania - play a role?

What about Soros' business interests? Soros is not opposed to mining, as his investments show. He's not even opposed to gold-mining using cyanide leeching, as contributor Paul Driessen explains in a piece I'll excerpt below.

Perhaps Soros aims to block the Rosia project, then ride in as the town's savior, buying up the existing abandoned mines and proposing his own gold mine that would, no doubt, be promised to be even more environmentally friendly than Soros and his allies allege, falsely, that the Gabriel project isn't. The Soros-funded NGOs likely wouldn't bite the hand that feeds them.

Just a thought.

But perhaps not totally off the mark.

Driessen, senior policy advisor for the Congress of Racial Equality and the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green Power - Black Death, speculated on Soros' possible financial motives for organizationg opposition to the Rosia mine, in an excellent column at last week:


The radical NGOs simply hate mining, don’t live in the village, have no compassion for these families, and are under no legal obligation to be honest, transparent or accountable for the consequences of their actions. As one foreign activist said in an email:
"Why should any NGO come forward with alternative projects? That is not the job of civil society. We are not a humanitarian organization, but a militant environmental NGO. If the whole community is in favor of the project, we simply put it on the list of our enemies."

They will spend millions to stop development, but not one cent on poor people or the environment. They destroy thousands of jobs, but create no new ones. When someone asked the Alburnus Maior president where his money comes from, he said "It’s not your business!"

George Soros and his Soros Foundation Romania appear to be the principal money behind this campaign. Not only is this support anti-poor, anti-environment and anti-Romania. It's also hypocritical, because Soros has made millions from mining operations that use cyanide – and a silver mine that relocated an entire village. But stopping Gabriel and other Western corporations could certainly benefit his political agenda and provide opportunities to profit from fluctuations in metals prices caused by restrictions on mining in the face of surging demand to meet the needs of new technologies and developing economies.

It also promotes Hungary's desire to assert influence over lands that once were part of its empire, or at least prevent those regions from becoming economic competitors. That desire may explain why its government issued a press release condemning the project, almost immediately after it had submitted 122 questions about the project, but before it had received a single answer.

Twenty-one Romanian NGOs visited Rosia Montana and met with the people and company. Eighteen of them changed their minds and now support the project. The radical activists refuse to have any dialogue.

Read Driessen's whole column.
Meanwhile, I'll take this as one more chance to urge you to see the documentary Mine Your Own Business, which reveals just how disconnected from reality - and from the needs of the people of Rosia Montana - are the various environmentalist organizations and NGOs fighting the Rosia project.

Charleston screens MYOB

Manic Miners

Sick of Sicko? Fuming at Fahrenheit 9/11? For those who like their political filmmaking a little more right of center, help is at hand.

The Bastiat Society is a local organization aiming to "promote that the free market is the most productive, most humane, and most moral form of large-scale social organization." It's hosting the S.C. premiere of Mine Your Own Business, a 2006 documentary that claims to be the first to explore the dark side of the green scene.

Filmmaker Phelim McAleer is worried about environmentalists' "pernicious effects... on the poorest people in some of the poorest countries in the world." The former Financial Times correspondent looks at the impact eco-friendliness can have on miners, who stand to lose their livelihoods thanks to anti-mining campaigns coordinated by foreign environmentalists.

The Bastiat Society is named after 19th century French economist Frédéric Bastiat who once said, "The worst thing that can happen to a good cause is, not to be skillfully attacked, but to be ineptly defended."

The one-off screening of McAleer's skillful attack on tree-huggers takes place at the American Theater, 446 King St. on Wed. Sept. 5 at 5 p.m. Tickets won't cost a red cent. —Nick Smith