Students around the world may soon be viewing and discussing Ground Rules, an educational film detailing the positive side of mining, crafted by Science North and commissioned by equipment giant Caterpillar.
Dan Hellige, manager of safety and sustainable development with Caterpillar’s global mining group, says the movie was necessary so as to highlight the more positive elements of the sector.
“I have a niece, who in the Fifth Grade, read Al Gore’s book, An Inconvenient Truth, in the classroom so they’re really only getting the one side of the story a lot of the time about what’s going on with industry and business,” says Hellige.
“We felt like it was a good time to tell the other side of the story, especially for the mining industry’s efforts and what they put in.”
The 25-minute, high-definition movie is designed as an educational tool to spark classroom discussion on the various topics touched on in the film. These include such elements as the reclamation of coal mining in Wyoming and the environmental diligence required by Xstrata to redirect the MacArthur River in Australia.
While it points out the necessity of mining in nearly all aspects of daily life, the movie also emphasizes the creation of jobs and training opportunities mining companies have created in the far-flung reaches of the world, where Caterpillar’s many partners operate.
The film features a whirlwind tour of many of the world’s most breathtaking mining vistas, including the mountaintop gold mine of Grasberg in West Papua, Indonesia, and even swings into the depths of Vale Inco’s Creighton Mine in Sudbury.
The movie acts as a timely replacement of a similar one created in 1993, called Common Ground, which was seen as being in dire need of an update.
Although this initiative stemmed from the company’s global offices, the decision to go with the team from Science North was a small journey in itself.
Having first approached Caterpillar two years ago to consider making a donation -- which they did, to the tune of $50,000 and an excavator-simulator -- Science North invited company officials to Sudbury for a tour of their operations.
Upon viewing some of their award-winning Imax projects, Caterpillar knew that they had found the right partner to develop this new project, and proposed teaming up.
“Their grasp on geology and science overall and on the mining industry seemed to be a perfect fit to partner with us to tell that story,” says Hellige.
Guy Labine, head of business development at Science North, says being offered the chance to create this message alongside Caterpillar represented a “huge opportunity,” and not only because of the company’s status as a globally-operating company. The film will be used for many years to come as a resource for Science North and Dynamic Earth, where it will be played at the Atlas Copco theatre, one of the first digital theatres in Northern Ontario.
Labine, who is credited as an executive producer on the film, says the logistics involved in shooting footage in working mines around the world were extraordinarily complex and were a result of intense coordination Over the course of a six-week period beginning in June 2008, shooting took place across six countries and required working not only with the many communities and mine operators but also with national officials to ensure that the proper permits were in hand.
The film also marks the Science North team’s first high-definition production, which Labine says to be an important step.
“It speaks volumes about the quality of people we have working here at Science North, the experience we’ve developed over the years in doing these types of shows,” says Labine. “We built an Imax theatre in 1994 and we’ve done four Imax films since. We’ve built the digital theatre here and opened it two year ago, so hopefully this is just the first of many HD films we’re going to do in the years to come.”