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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Sex and the Ring of Fire: How to lose friends and alienate people

This is not a website about mining (for a good website about mining, see Republic of Mining). It is, in fact, a website about railways. However, since the future of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission might rely on transporting chromite from the proposed Ring of Fire, the two topics do intersect.

KWG Resources' recent decision to be represented by a pair of bikini-clad spokesmodels has become one of the most sustained news stories surrounding the sluggish development of the Ring of Fire. The video, which has now been viewed nearly 100,000 times on YouTube, has been boosted by this media coverage, but it remains to be seen whether it will help or hinder KWG's efforts in the James Bay Lowlands.

Women in the mining industry are upset that the video erases what progress has been made towards gender equality in what has traditionally been a male-dominated sector. Equally perplexing is what relevance the video has to the issues surrounding the Ring of Fire in the first place. As Melanie Paradis of Earnscliffe Strategy Group told Northern Ontario Business:
“There is nothing shocking about a video with two young women in bikini tops and shorts. What is shocking is how remarkably disconnected this video is from the realities of the Canadian mining industry. Sex might sell, but it definitely doesn’t build mines.”
Further, First Nations groups are distancing themselves from KWG's marketing, a move which further shows the growing tensions between bands and mining companies in what was supposed to be  a great opportunity to bring all groups together in a resource extraction project. Native people living in remote areas of Northern Ontario have long been one of the most disadvantaged groups of people in the country. By including their voices in the Ring of Fire development plans from the beginning, the potential revenues from the extraction of chromite were supposed to offer new opportunities to these communities.

Regardless of whether KWG's video is judged to be tasteful or not, it has caused many people to question not only their association with the company, but whether KWG is taking the project seriously enough. If the predictions are correct, the Ring of Fire could bring untold riches to mining companies, Native groups, Ontario Northland and the wider Canadian company. If the predictions are correct, the time for fun and games is over and it is time for the hard and serious work to begin.

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