By Bill Hobbs | August 20, 2007 - 01:04 ET
PBS is scheduled to broadcast nationally Tuesday night a biased documentary about a gold-mining project in Romania. The segment of the PBS series Wide Angle, titled "Gold Futures," looks at the ongoing controversy over a proposed gold mine in the village of Rosia Montana and all indications are that it will follow the anti-mine perspective promoted by a variety of European environmentalists who don't live in the village, an effort now backed by leftwing American financier George Soros, whose Soros Foundation-Romania recently opened an office in Rosia to fight the mining project.
(Soros' history of investment in gold-mining companies raises questions about why he has chosen to oppose the Rosia mining project, but that's a subject for another post some day.)
"Gold Futures" portrays the controversy as a David and Goliath battle with the poor residents of Rosia Montana trying to defend themselves against a giant mining corporation.
PBS describes the film this way:
"Gold Futures is a David-and-Goliath story set in a scenic Romanian village in the heart of Transylvania. At stake: Europe's largest deposit of gold ore - and a 2,000-year-old village community that has existed since the ancient Romans found gold in the mountains. Now, as a Canadian company plans the largest open-pit gold mine in Europe, mineral wealth and badly-needed jobs compete with time-honored rural traditions and concerns about poisoning the environment. Set against the backdrop of Rosia Montana's misty forests, Gold Futures captures the unfolding conflict between villagers who welcome the company's buy-out offers and their neighbors who remain fiercely defensive of their way of life and anxious to maintain the stunning landscape of their homeland."
David and Goliath? The truth, however, is much different. The majority of villagers actually support the project, in part because it would provide jobs for a village that, historically, has depended in mining. Additionally, the Canadian mining company would clean up the decades of horrific environmental damage left behind by now-closed state-run mine of Romania's communist era.
Their story is told in the moving and entertaining documentary Mine Your Own Business, a powerful documentary that exposes how powerful environmental activist groups advance their one-sided, highly self-serving agenda at the expense of the well-being of some of the world's poorest people.
The documentary is a powerful counterpoint to a misleading article in the Jan. 3, 2007, New York Times, "Fighting Over Gold in the Land of Dracula," that was little more than a one-sided piece attacking the proposed gold mine in Rosia Montana, where unemployment has run around 70 percent since the old communist-run state-owned mine was closed.
The NYT portrayed the situation as a struggle between a big, bad mining company and a lone person seeking to stop the mine. The truth is far different, as shown in Mine Your Own Business, directed by award-winning documentary filmmaker Phelim McAleer and produced by New Bera Media in association with the Moving Picture Institute.
The NYT article reflected the thinking of left-wing Hollywood elitist cause-celebre environmentalism that runs roughshod over the very real needs of people like the impoverished residents of Rosia Montana - needs such as decent jobs and housing that the mine would bring. The NYT never mentions that a majority of the people of Rosia Montana support the mine or mentions that 60 percent of the property owners affected by the mine have already chosen to sell their property to the mining company. The NYT never mentions the abject poverty that would be alleviated by the development of the mine, and the creation of hundreds of new and desperately needed jobs.
Mine Your Own Business exposes the exaggerations and misleading claims of the foreign environmentalists opposed to the development - and to other mining projects in Madagascar and Chile - and presents the amazing spectacle of some environmentalists asserting that the people in the affected villages don't want prosperity but prefer the simple peasant life where they are poor but happy. On film, however, Rosia villagers speak instead about their desire for development that will bring prosperity and clean up the damage from hundreds of years of environmentally unfriendly mining projects.
"Mine Your Own Business is the first documentary to take a hard look at the environmental movement," says the director, "and what we found was not pretty. Activists believe that people in remote areas are 'poor but happy.' They think that development will spoil their idyllic rural existence. But I've been there, and poverty is neither charming nor quaint, nor is it a lifestyle choice."
I have written more than a dozen posts about or referencing MYOB on my personal blog, billhobbs.com, which you can see here.
PBS ought to show MYOB in addition to "Gold Futures" in order to give viewers a balanced look at the issue. PBS's Wide Angle show is underwitten by the following:
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Mutual of America Life Insurance Company, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Foundation, The Jacob Burns Foundation, Ford Foundation, Josh and Judy Weston, Rosalind P. Walter, and The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation.
Gheorghe Lucian, a resident of Rosia Montana, has some more discussion of the PBS documentary on his blog, Report from Rosia.
"Gold Futures" airs nationwide on PBS at 9 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday - check your local listings for station and local air times in your city.
—Bill Hobbs is author of Who Is Fred Thompson, a blog-centric look at the presidential candidate.