Some of my best friends are confirmed hypocrites. They loudly criticize Wikipedia, while proudly praising the Encyclopedia Britannica. Yet on enquiry, I find that none of them owns a hard-copy of the famous encyclopedia, nor are they prepared to pay for a subscription to the encylcopedia’s website. I suspect they have never actually looked into the encyclopedia.
Their criticism of Wikipedia is the complaint that they do not know who writes the articles and that they are not assured of the accuracy of the articles. To which I reply: big deal, use your brains and discretion to judge, and take a look at other e-resources on the same topic.
I tried to get a subscription to the e-version of the Encyclopedia Britannica. They wanted my credit card number so they could give me a one-month free trial. But I could not find anywhere how much it would cost me thereafter. So I closed the site and fled to the comfort and easy-use of Wikipedia. There I found a feature I had not previously seen: they now have articles on Canadian Mining Companies.
I tried Barrick Gold for no particular reason. At the very top is a warning; The neutrality of this article is disputed. Damn, I wish I could afford a paper copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica. But the warning is so enticing that I read further. I finished the article and can see why somebody would dispute the neutrality of the article. Consider these statements, that are but representative of many more under the unusual heading On-going litigation against Barrick:
Now I could check the truth of any of these poorly written pieces by trawling the web. My gut instinct is that there is some truth in them and a lot of distortion.
There are obviously different contributors to the posting. Consider this little bit:
While accusations of environmental malpractice have been and continue to be directed at Barrick, the company maintains that its record speaks for itself. Barrick operates the Henty Gold Mine in Tasmania, which is located inside a Recommended Area for Protection (RAP), immediately adjacent to a World Heritage Area. In over ten years of operation, the Henty Gold Mine has never exceeded the discharge or operating parameters of its operating license, and is kept under close scrutiny by legislative and governing bodies. Many innovative and pioneering methods of preventing discharges into the environment have been emplaced at Henty, in particular a High Density Paste Fill (HDPF) plant, which returns waste rock and tailings generated by the mine back into the underground voids, the INCO cyanide destruction process, a geo-membrane encapsulating the pipeline to the tailings storage facility and a wetlands water management system which removes silt, fines and trace heavy metals from non-process water prior to discharge from the site. The water quality at the discharge point from the wetlands system is of a higher quality than the river it discharges into, and a family of platypus monotremes have made the wetlands water treatment system their home for the last eight years.
I wonder if Barrick and its supporters, including its shareholders are contributing to the Wikipedia posting. Maybe they could not be bothered. Anybody relying on information in Wikipedia to decide on buying and selling shares is….well I had better not say it.
The quality and ambit of the various entries in Wikipedia for the various mines varies immensely. The posting on Cameco is brief and to the point, but full of typos. The posting on Falconbridge is almost homely and tender. This abstract, sounds almost like the local high school jock writing:
Falconbridge lent its name to a company town northeast of Sudbury, which grew to be a community in its own right. The town of Falconbridge was incorporated by the provincial government in 1957. It was organized along with several other communities into the Town of Nickel Centre and Regional Municipality of Sudbury in 1973. Some Falconbridge workers also lived in the nearby community of Happy Valley, which was abandoned in the 1960s due to pollution from the Falconbridge smelter. “Falco”, as it was often called by Sudbury residents, remained for decades the second-largest employer in the Sudbury area, exceeded only by rival mining giant INCO. The economic fortune of the city was tied to those of the mining companies; a strike at either had a major effect on the local economy and the livelihood of the population, involving thousands of workers in the major industry of the town. The effect diminished as economic diversification progressed in the 1980s and 1990s. Citizens, particularly workers and their families, came to develop an attachment to what were seen as local companies with significant size and influence in the mining industry. In particular, a certain degree of rivalry between workers at the two mining giants, who were members of rival trade unions, developed. A proposal to merge the INCO and Falconbridge in 2006 was headed with a slogan “Two proud histories, one great future”, in reference to the strong identities which workers and the community had attached to the companies. A major street in Sudbury is named Falconbridge Road, after the company and community.
Clearly Wikipedia has a long way to go before its coverage of Canadian Mining Companies is authoritative. Maybe the mining industry should take a hand in clearing up the current mess. On second thoughts, why bother? Rather go to InfoMine–please excuse the blatant ad! It will be interesting to see which model wins out in the end: the commons of Wikipedia or the closed, you-pay-for-it model of InfoMine and the Encyclopedia Britannica.