Tales from the Covid Bunker: Day 7

Header image: looking out over one of the biggest copper mines in the world, in the mining town of Bor, from Mundoro's HQ.

Housekeeping notes: With the cancellation of all of our overseas jobs for the foreseeable future…  I’m waving a tin can around in the proverbial mining streets this week. I’ve launched a Patreon service, where you can sponsor our newsletter and content from €3/month. All support will be greatly appreciated.

Congratulations amigos,

Together, we have made it halfway through the proposed quarantine in Slovakia. I want to start with a huge hi-five to the Slovak people and authorities here. We came across the border for cheaper rent after losing a lot of work this Spring, but we’ve found the most sensible and efficient reaction to the corona virus imaginable.

Statistically, Slovakia has the lowest infection and spread rate in the developed world right now, thanks to observation of quick and well distributed government information and an educated, sensible population. The only people in the streets are walking their dogs/children or generally exercising and all are wearing face masks and staying away from each other. Supermarkets are running low on luxury items, but fully stocked with my millennial essentials, such as Marmite & avocados.

Compare this to the UK, where this week some fumbled measures were announced, school closures and support for renters/homeowners with their mortgages etc. But overall, the NHS are reporting absolute confusion and I’m hearing from countless friends who’ve been ‘let go’ from zero-hour contracts in the service industry with no pay and no compensation.

I’m truly sorry for anybody facing this nightmare without the social security that a modern world and tax payment should provide us. I would strongly urge British people to watch how we treat our young and working classes now, when considering your next vote.


This morning I was sent a video by my good friend and old Uni housemate, Leo, who is an exceptional botanist at the Eden project in the UK and assisted me with my research into how plants distribute REEs in soils, while I was trying to be an academic!

The video is a great example of how younger, media savvy people are winning the battle against miners in areas of controversy. Watch it (if you can be bothered), then we’ll chat…

The video is quite fair, it describes the need for mining and uses of the material, it dedicates a lot of time to both sides of the story, told by local people, not company spokespeople in suits in London. It is a well-made video and I’m inclined to trust the issues raised by both parties. It’s a weird one, because it ends up effectively being a protest against Rio Tinto’s environmental reserve… The optimum solution (oddly, not mentioned) to both side’s problems is to screw the local environment and burn everything to cinders. Why did Rio bother helping in the first place eh?

Unfortunately, we know most videos are never fully watched. From studying statistics on Facebook and Youtube, I can confidently tell you, this video’s target audience will react to video title, more than its content. Despite being a very positive journalistic review video, it was uploaded by a highly biased group called Mongabay, who promote environmental activism and share related content worldwide.

Their headline is perfect for this simplistic target audience: ‘Marginalized voices from resource conflicts enter the mainstream via video’.

Think back to previous Bunker emails, this hits several of our marketing psychology ‘clickbait’ buzzpoints. Before we’ve even clicked on the article, many of us have already formed an opinion, because of the linguistic style used:

  • ‘Marginalized’ Inspires the inner rebel that sits within all of us and naturally back the underdog, it also implies this was an intentional act by operators (Rio Tinto)
  • ‘Resource conflicts’ implying there’s a fight and the reader needs to pick sides immediately.
  • ‘enter the mainstream via video’ Again, implying these people have been suppressed and that this channel now and this story represents their voice, not the video, but this article.

Previous posts from similar groups include:

  • Barrick Gold in the Dominican Republic, a silent environmental genocide (Podcast)
  • Map reveals Canadian mining company’s environmental, social conflicts (Article)
  • Hundreds, literally hundreds of identical biased articles and not a single mention of positive action by miners. (Mining Page)

We see this continued use of ‘headlining’ which mining companies are still too afraid to do. For the most part, mining has remained academic and logical (boring and old) or gone too far to the extreme with poor headlining that just attacks the opposition, rather than encouraging dialogue.

The timeline of issues here is clear and needs to be laid down, because these protests DO have an original cause in the ‘Chinese Whisper’ development chain in many countries:

  1. Lazily operated Canadian/British junior company negotiates claims with a ‘cash-in-hand’ local operator with assurance of local support.
  2. Junior company sends international team to evaluate site.
  3. International team goes with security on a controlled route to property, kick a few rocks around and meet a local government representative then return home.
  4. Junior company list property on CSE/AIM and claim to have full local support, based on original operator’s claims and a single meeting with a single representative in the region.
  5. Money is raised from investors who are positive about working with a company who have done full social awareness studies and know their local government.
  6. Junior company goes drilling and their new field team meet the real locals who have no idea who they are, what they’re doing or how they can engage in the situation.
  8. ‘Woke’ kids from Brighton start waving banners around outside London offices and claiming the Junior company are causing a genocide…
  9. Investors drop out and project is buried.
  10. Protestors, claim victory and strengthen their cause/numbers

This flashpoint of conflict is so late in the development stage of a mining project that it is very difficult to untangle and by the time it happens, these ‘headlined’ topics fit neatly into the narrative of the protestor. The Junior miner can’t win at this point, not without a huge expenditure on PR/security.

Imagine if, at stage 2-3 in the process, the initial team had taken 2 extra people down to the site to meet the local community, engage them, teach them about the project and confirm their needs…? The cost of taking two friendly social science graduates along to a remote location is… Flights + travel + day rates + report writing cost, what’s that…€8-10k? These don’t have to be high-cost professional negotiators, they’re friendly faces who’ll record what’s said honestly, communicate with as many people as possible in a local language and leave a positive impression on the local people.

The ‘shock conflict’ at stage 7 is thus avoided and the news doesn’t reach the kids at stage 8. It is likely as this development progresses there will be more stakeholders to engage, but if the company stays ahead of the game with local communities, they can easily expand relations as the project does.

The cost of fighting a protest group funded out of London is excruciatingly high (ask Lydian). I have been on these protests and the % of people called ‘Hugo-Bonaparte’ or ‘Clementine’ who go sailing at the weekends and rely on money stashed in Daddy’s savings in a Surrey country house is very high. In an ironic loop, their parents, who may have made money investing in the 70s oil boom, are now unknowingly funding activism against future projects, and probably their own children’s future wealth potential.

Fighting a group of young people who are at University studying media and politics, with a high spare income and A LOT of spare time is not something a junior miner should be engaging in.

This is a topic I see as easily resolvable, but when I describe it to elder miners, they’re appalled… They tell me ‘I know nothing about the industry’, they believe young people should be on their knees for miners, should follow our work and respect mining for what it gives them. They think they’re above the protesters.

I can confirm, having been one of these protestors in a past life, that is bullsh*t and, while I’m still learning about the mining industry, I was a very effective environmental activist. Bricks were thrown and arguments were won quickly… Nobody gives a damn about the work miners do, nobody cares about the suits (except perhaps where they park their car!), very few people are aware of where their products come from and they are not going to learn. There’s too much instagramming to be done and too much avocado to eat.

A lot of these protests are fun, expressive social events, for people to gather, wave flags and shout, the same way church used to bring us together as a community with a shared and pointless belief, protest does now.

You can’t win against the church. The only way to get past this barrier is to start earlier with your engagement and environmental work and involve better humans in the entire process. Start right away in the beginning with your media documenting, employ a company (like us!) to come and meet your local people and record what you’re doing… So if any conflict arises, you are already ahead of the game and the protestors are (hopefully) aware and supporting your positive change and early intiative in the area…

I can assure you, employing our team to visually document and communicate an early social engagement project is a lot cheaper than facing a protest and shut-down later on (I repeat, ask Lydian how arrogance in this phase went for them…).

If ‘McDonalds Theory’ teaches us anything with their glowing M: Marketing is a Pavlovian mind game and humans are just mindless pawns. Play this game properly and you won’t get burned.

Have a great weekend friends and keep on surviving!

Liam Hardy
Spotlight Mining

Posted in Tales from the Covid Bunker

Liam Hardy View posts by Liam Hardy

With a family background in African mining exploration and a degree in geology, Liam brings a mix of technical ‘on-the-ground’ ore hunting and suit-booted office experience to the team. Liam worked in Liberia with Hummingbird Resources and spent 4 years as a geochemical analyst, before focusing on streamlining communications and development in exploration businesses, through the founding of ‘Spotlight Mining’.