The Hole Story Documentary: Analysis Of Ethical Issues in The Mining Industry

The mining industry has a long history of unethical business practices. “The Hole Story” is a 2011 documentary by Richard Desjardins and Robert Monderie. It investigates the history of mining and the significant impact it has on workers’ health and the environment. In this analysis of the documentary; we will explore the presence of some environmental justice issues, Bullard’s three types of equity, and governance tension and their possible solutions. Environmental JusticeEnvironmental justice is a movement that fought for the “fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect the the development, implementation and enforcement laws.

” (Olive, 2016, p. 220) It is an ideology that formed from the conditions of race and environmental risk in the united states during the 1980’s.

In Canada, environmental justice focuses more on the distribution of the environmental benefits and burdens, and procedural equity. (Olive, 2016, p. 220) The documentary focuses on the various acts that conflict with environmental justice throughout Canada’s mining history.

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The most significant issue that was brought up, was the responsibility of maintaining the area around these mining factories. As stated by Claire Bolduc during the documentary “We end up with the environmental damages…that we the citizens have to pay for… they (private mining companies) take the resources and we get crumbs. And those crumbs don’t even cover the cost of restoring the sites that have been destroyed. ” (Desjardins and Monderie, 2011) The mining industry has had a long history of polluting and impacting the environment around them.

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Another example in which the documentary displayed the lack of environmental justice within the mining industry, is the Horne Smelter located in Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec. It is known as one of Americas biggest polluters. This smelter created a twenty-five million tons of sulphur smoke was produced from its smokestacks. (Desjardins and Monderie, 2011) in response to this, the government set up a sulphuric acid company to extract the Sulphur from the smokestacks. The production of sulphuric acid also creates a lethal byproduct, sulphur trioxide. All this is located close to residential area in the town placing many citizens at risk. The company has also removed the soil from the neighborhood, leaving them bare and covered in dirt. This further exposes the citizens, especially children to the harmful heavy metal contaminants, such as lead, arsenic, and sulfuric acid. Although the documentary does mention some major environmental justice issues, a significant one that they failed to mention is the is the impact mining has had on aboriginal communities socially, economically and environmentally. “Studies in the 1970s showed that 90% of aboriginal children had arsenic levels in their hair above the safe levels of one part per million. ” (Keeling and Sandos, 2009, p 119) Aboriginals where greatly affected, however received significantly less compensated. Bullard’s Equity Robert Bullard three equity ask the question of whether environmental justice exists. Procedural equity is the fairness felt by employees about the procedures, governing rules and regulations of the company. (Bullard, 2005. p 436) this applies to the documentary and the case of the Vale mining workers in Sudbury who went on strike against the changes to their collective agreement. They imposed many changes such as pension plan cut back.

Geographical Equity refer to the location of communities in proximity to environmental hazards, noxious facilities and locally unwanted land use like landfills. (Bullard, 2005 p 436) An example of this in the documentary is the Rouyn-Noranda town in Quebec. The residents are closely located to the sulphuric acid production plant as well as the Horne Smelter. Social Equity examines the roles of sociology such as race, class, culture etc, with decision making. This is the one equity does apply, as the documentary failed to portray. Although it does exist. Governance TensionsA government tension that is mentioned in the documentary can be seen in the Quebec town Rouyn-Noranda and the Horne Smelter. The smelter has a great impact on the health of the public living in that area. However, if the government closes down the plant, 500 jobs will be lost, and there will be a significant economic impact on employment. As explained by Dr. Real Lacombe, the Director of Public health for that region “The risk of an economic impact on public health might be greater than those levels of arsenic exposure. ” (Desjardins and Monderie, 2011) A possible solution would be enforcing more scientific research, and evaluations should be done on each plant for the amount of pollution it would create. There then should be limits enforced to the amount of pollution that can be produced. Also, they should enforce regulations as to where these mines or towns can be located. As they should not be placed within a certain distance of each other, to avoid harm to citizens.

The Aggregates tax, as explained by john Rodriguez Mayor of Sudbury at that time, “mining companies operating in Sudbury, you have to pay us seven cents for every ton of gravel you scrape off your property to sell to contractors, but I didn’t get one penny” (Desjardins and Monderie, 2011) Mining companies were also being taxed just on their building. A majority of the wealth accrued by these mining companies where going south. The communities were left to pay for the damages to their road and infrastructure caused the mining companies. This have been a continues habit seen from mining companies over many years. A potential solution to this would be created stricter laws and penalties for these mining companies. Taxing them for land, instead of building, as many companies would have acres of land but only a few buildings. Justice in the mining industry for workers and the community is a possibility, if the right precautions and regulations are put into place. There are many solutions to the problems faced today. However, these changes will take time and a lot of funding. The major obstacle would be correcting the pollution with in the communities happening today.

Updated: Feb 22, 2024
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The Hole Story Documentary: Analysis Of Ethical Issues in The Mining Industry. (2024, Feb 13). Retrieved from

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