The boat slide quickly along the calm sea, but tidal waves were forming and threatening a rough voyage. We stood on the deck gazing at a blue ocean, green trees, and towering peaks of snow. A peaceful scene wrought of turmoil and storm that reminds you the world is not always beautiful.
The conversation moved to social media in mining. One old man (much older than me) asked: “Could social media change mining as we know it?”
Another younger man asked: “Is mining effectively using social media?”
I ventured answers, which I record here. These are my opinions, not necessarily those of all who stood on the deck as the currents swirled.
“Social media and their effective use have brought down Arab governments. Think what they could do to mining in the hands of skilled opponents.”
And: “The mining industry is not using social media, and I despair they ever will find an honest way to use it effectively.”
Use Facebook and you can coordinate a protest of a million young people. A million protestors gathering in unison and peace can bring down a tyrant, or close a mine.
Use Twitter and you can change minds and hearts with pithy, hard-hitting phrases. An example: The Pebble Mine is a choice between salmon and cheap jewelery from Wal-Mart. One hardly need ask, which do you choose?
Google Earth affords a view of every mine and the cuts into the forest. Slower than Facebook and Twitter, but equally inevitable. I can see the deck chairs on the patio of my in-laws suite in Huntington Beach. You can see every oil sands tailings impoundment and every clearing for a new mine. And the pictures are not flattering.
We can argue the wisdom of protecting innocent civilians from the wrath of a 40-year dictator and his venial family. But the air waves pulsate with opposition to Arab kings and princes and none shall escape the wrath of young people disposed of all but their cell phone and Blackberry.
So too the mining industry or an individual mine could find itself under concentrate attack by opponents skilled in the use of social media. As the newly-announced Republican presidential candidate said today: “Why hurry to register when you can move so fast via social media?”
At the right moment, Republican hopefuls will announce and then we will see a blitz of e-mails, Twitter Feeds, You-Tube postings, blogs, and all the rest. And I suspect that next US president will be the one whose organization most skillfully manipulates the social media.
Yet the mining industry does not even know what these media are, or is scared to look at them, net alone use them.
In a speech last week to the Alaska Miners Association in Juneau I urged the mining industry to take a faster, more positive, and more aggressive approach to using blogs, You Tube, and the rest, to deal with opponents who tell and broadcast lies about mines. Only thus can we have a civil debate. For hopefully in the West we can debate vigorously without resorting to fighting and no-fly zones.
Let us look at blogs in mining, for I know a little about them. There are few blogs about mining–see my blogroll on the upper right hand-side of this page. Many are good and readable. Sadly many are neglected or venial. None openly attack mining when it veers from the straight and narrow. Where are the other retired miners and mining supporters who know mining, who can write, and who could–but do not–blog? To them I say: write a blog on what you know and what you think, and enter the fray of debate about mining. Negative or positive, you can contribute.
Where are the blogs written by opinionated workers on mines and in mining institutions? To them I say: it is your duty as people who benefit from mining to enter the fray and say what you truly believe. Complimentary or attacking, you are doing a service in promoting honest debate about mining.
The mining industry cannot afford to let the battle field be owned by those who write well about the sins and failures of mining. The mining industry cannot afford an unending litany of condemnation of mines because the writers oppose mining as a philosophical tenant.
Talking about it, or writing about it as I do now, is not enough. Mining workers must start blogging, twittering, face-booking, and more. For if you do not, be sure there will be a one-million man march against your next mine, before you even know the opposition is gathering.
Once you have mastered the art, it takes no more than an hour over coffee in the morning, or half an hour after brandy at night. If you need ideas and help in setting up a blog, call on me. I would gladly help. Or pass you onto to Zoe Mullard who recently completed her thesis on this topic.