The Hole Story Reveals History about Mining in Canada

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Written by Peter Miller

Canada’s economy has been extremely dependent on the resource and extraction it the country's history. The Hole Story, a documentary produced in 2011 looks at the history of the mining industry in Canada. A story is revealed during the documentary that shows that Canada’s resource extraction industry has had a history of amazing profits, while leaving little for the Canadian people in return.

The documentary informs the viewer about mines in Ontario and Quebec. There are highly profitable nickel, copper, silver, and gold mines in Northern Ontario.

The film provides information about labour history in Northern Ontario and Quebec that is filled with struggle. At the turn of the 20th century, life expectancy for miners of cobalt was only 46 years of age. A fire at the Hollinger Gold Mines in Timmins in the 1928 resulted in 39 workers dead from asphyxiation. The closest rescue team was in Pennsylvania at the time.

Mining labour Unions were not recognized in Ontario’s North until 1944, with the accreditation of the Mining, Mill and Smelters Union. In 1969, Nickel Miners that worked for Valle Inco went on strike. 18,000 workers went on strike because of human health issues. Half of the miners lived less than the Canadian Average, and a significant amount of people in the surrounding area died before the average Canadian as well.

Today miners have won better working conditions, with union representatives as health inspectors at many of the mines. These gains would not have been made without worker’s struggle.

The documentary discusses how many mining companies have deferred paying taxes and pay minimal royalties when they do pay taxes. In 1973 one mining corporation owed the government $300 million in taxes. The company deferred paying taxes year after year. In 1973, the same company gave $300 million away to shareholders.

Municipal governments in Northern Ontario are only allowed to tax mining companies on the value of their buildings and land.  As a result, these municipalities have a hard time maintaining infrastructure, and while the corporations make large profits, populations in towns in Northern Ontario have a significant population that lives under the poverty line.

In 2006, a company in Brazil bought out Vale Inco. At the same time, a company in Germany bought another mining company, Falcon Bridge. In 2011, a mining strike occurred at the Nickel mines in Sudbury that are now controlled by the Brazilian Company when the company insisted on cutting worker's benefits. Because of Ontario law, scabs were allowed to be brought in to take the place of striking unionized workers.

The film also goes over the lack of environmental oversight and regulations of mines in Northern Ontario and Quebec. As a result, Mining companies are able to harm the environment in unbelievable ways with impunity.

The Hole Story also reveals that Canada is increasingly relying upon resource extraction, without the benefit of finishing products. Instead, valuable minerals are shipped off to places around the world to be processed.

John Rodriguez, Sudbury’s Mayor from 2006 until 2010 advocated for public ownership of Canada’s resource industry during the film.

For Rodriguez, public ownership of the mining industry would allow Canadians to benefit much more from resource extraction. He also believes that the resources should be used to produce goods inside Canada, thus providing much needed jobs for the citizenry. Nationalization could create more jobs, as well as make the mining industry much more accountable to Canadians, First Nations People, and the environment because of democratic control of the of the industry.

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