Archive | Mining Documentaries

Blood on the Mountain: Blood on Their Hands – by Michael Berkowitz (Huffington Post – April 18, 2017)

Mari-Lynn Evans and Jordan Freeman’s “Blood on the Mountains” is a searing indictment of the coal industry’s war on the people of Appalachia. But beyond its story of regional devastation, this stirring documentary is a template of class struggle across America.

Evans and Freeman track the development of the coal industry, nicely framing the main issues and players as they roll out their woeful tale. In the late 19th century, cheap abundant coal fueled the United States’ industrial growth. Because this resource was located in rural areas, nascent coal companies were able to steer development.

They could structure every aspect of the companies’ composition and of their workers lives. Coal barons were able to shape this system in part because of the remoteness of mines from population centers and the failure of corrupt local and weak, remote federal governments. Continue Reading →

‘Gold Rush’ reignites influx to Dawson City – by Cody Punter (Toronto Star – March 4, 2017)

Reality-TV shows set in the Yukon have rekindled interest in the northern mining town that preserves its prospecting past.

DAWSON CITY, YUKON-Having a television show set in Canada strike ratings gold in the U.S. is about as rare as — well, as rare as getting rich as a sluice miner in the Yukon in 2016.

When the seventh season of the Yukon-based reality-TV series GoldRush premiered on Discovery Channel last year, it fell just short of the top spot on American cable, coming second only to the opening game of the ALCS between the Cleveland Indians and the Toronto Blue Jays.

In recent years, however, reality-TV shows based in Canada’s far north — Ice Pilots NWT, Ice Road Truckers — have become increasingly popular. Yet nothing has come close to shows such as Gold Rush and its National Geographic Channel competitor Yukon Gold, both of which are shot on location in Dawson City. Continue Reading →

Gold miners hike the Klondike Trail in new reality series – by Emily Fehrenbacher (Alaska Dispatch News – March 17, 2017)

There is a new three-part series on Discovery Channel called “Gold Rush: Parker’s Trail.” It will follow 22-year-old Parker Schnabel, who is apparently already a star of “Gold Rush,” as he attempts to conquer the Klondike Trail.

In the sneak peek for the show, the gangly young adult with a shaggy haircut says, “I want to test myself against my grandpa and the pioneers that came before him.” The more I watched of the 30-second teaser, the more I was convinced Parker is actually Adam Driver researching a new post-“Girls” role.

According to the Discovery Channel’s presser: “In the first episode, Parker and his team will set out on the first leg of the journey, considered one of the most physically challenging parts. The 45-degree ascent would be tough for any seasoned athlete, but is especially difficult for Rick, who’s out of shape, drinks too much and is a smoker.” Continue Reading →

Review: ‘Blood on the Mountain’ Looks at the Ravages of Coal Mining – by Neil Genzlinger (New York Times – November 17, 2016)

“Blood on the Mountain” is a clumsily made attack on the coal industry in West Virginia, but it benefits considerably from the events of the past two weeks.

The film jumps around chronologically and thematically in a way that dilutes its impact, but it still provides plenty of cause to question the wisdom of President-elect Donald J. Trump’s stated intentions of reviving coal mining and reducing environmental and other regulations.

The film, by Mari-Lynn Evans and Jordan Freeman, traces the unpleasant history of coal in West Virginia, including obvious black marks like the 2010 explosion at a Massey Energy Company mine, in which 29 people died, and less obvious ones like vanishing pension and health care benefits. Continue Reading →

Aberfan disaster: 50th anniversary marked with silence (British Broadcasting Corporation – October 21, 2016)

Wales fell silent on Friday as the country remembered the Aberfan disaster 50 years ago.
On 21 October 1966, a mountain of coal waste slid down into a school and houses in the Welsh village, killing 144 people, including 116 children. A day of events to commemorate the disaster included a service at Aberfan Cemetery at 09:15 BST on Friday.

Prince Charles has visited the Aberfan memorial garden and will unveil a plaque in memory of the victims. Earlier, he visited the Aberfan Cemetery and laid a wreath.

He also attended a reception with the families of some of those who lost their lives, before signing a book of remembrance. Prince Charles said anyone old enough remembers where they were when they heard the “appalling news” about the Aberfan disaster – saying he was at school in Scotland. Continue Reading →

Beneath the Surface: a look at early mining in Rankin Inlet – by Sarah Rogers (Nunatsiaq News – October 14, 2016)

Frank Tester’s new documentary premieres at the Inuit Studies Conference

It was the mid-1950s. Elizabeth Alareak had only just married her husband Edward Alareak when he was “summoned” to come and work at the Rankin Inlet nickel mine, among the first mines to operate in the Canadian Arctic, from 1957 to 1962.

“We didn’t understand what a mine was,” she recalled, laughing. “We simply agreed.” The Arviat elder, whose husband has now passed away, is one of the many voices featured in a new film documenting life at the mine and its impact on the region, called Beneath the Surface: Inuit miners at Rankin Inlet 1957-1962.

The film premiered Oct. 9 at the Inuit Studies Conference in St. John’s, Nfld. In the 1950s, the fox pelt market upon which so many Inuit relied for material goods had dropped so low that those who had made their living trapping could no longer survive that way. Continue Reading →

Op-Docs: My Beautiful, Deadly City – by Victoria Fiore (New York Times – August 9, 2016)

Not many people have heard of Norilsk, an industrial cityin an isolated part of Arctic Russia. No roads or trains lead there; internet is severely limited; and it is it closed to foreigners.

Getting there, I would find out, is very difficult. Yet despite its obscurity, Norilsk has one of the largest mining and metallurgical complexes in the world and produces most of the earth’s palladium, an essential mineral in electronics and automobiles. Most of us probably have a bit of Norilsk in our pockets, bags or homes.

Having this connection to such an alien place intrigued me; Norilsk was the most important city I’d never heard of. Continue Reading →

The New Gold Rush: How the Yukon became Canada’s most reality-TVed jurisdiction – by Tristin Hopper (National Post – July 11, 2016)

Two years ago, the National Post wrote about how the Yukon is the last place in Canada still handing out homesteads. In the months since, an incredible four separate production companies asked for contacts to shoot a “Yukon Homesteaders” reality T.V. pilot.

The Yukon might be the country’s most lightly populated jurisdiction, but it’s apparently filled with Canada’s most watchable people. As of this writing, there is one “Yukon” series for every 5,000 Yukoners, and many more movie-length documentaries and special episodes set in the territory. The result is arguably the world’s highest regional per-capita density of documentary camera crews.

In a place renowned for its misfits and recluses, this hasn’t always been the most welcome development. But there is apparently no noun or activity that can’t be made into a hit T.V. show without adding the words “Yukon” or “Klondike.” Continue Reading →

‘Fireflies In The Abyss’ Is A Sobering Look At The Lives Of Meghalaya Coal Miners – by Suprateek Chatterjee (HuffPost India – July 7, 2016)

Filmmaker Chandrashekhar Reddy recalls the first time he stepped inside a coal mining pit. It was in mid-2012, near Lad Rymbai, Meghalaya. It was pitch-black, of course, and he could feel the oxygen levels falling as he descended down a slippery wooden ladder, terrified that he might fall off.

When he got to the bottom, he realised he lacked the flexibility to actually navigate the tunnels, the so-called ‘rat holes’, which are barely big enough for a fully grown adult to crawl through. “I had to be put in a cart and wheeled around in turns by some of the other men working there,” he said, in a conversation with HuffPost India.
“Despite the lack of oxygen, I saw some of them smoking in there, which, from my knowledge, is quite dangerous, as every mining activity results in the release of methane, which is flammable.” Continue Reading →

Documentary: The Bomb (2015)

The Bomb is a 2015 American documentary film about the history of nuclear weapons, from theoretical scientific considerations at the very beginning, to their first use on August 6, 1945,[1][2] to their global political implications in the present-day.

[3][4][5][6][7] The two-hour PBS film was written and directed by Rushmore DeNooyer, who noted the project took a year and a half to complete, since much of the film footage and images was only recently declassified by the United States Department of Defense.[5]

According to DeNooyer, “It wouldn’t take very many bombs to really change life on Earth, … The idea that there are thousands of them sitting around is pretty scary. I don’t think people today realize that. They don’t think about it. I don’t think they are scared. Continue Reading →

Documentary: Uranium – Twisting The Dragon’s Tail (2015)


The story of uranium is part science, part history and all epic adventure. It’s a journey through place and time, around the most dangerous and wondrous rock on Earth.

Born violently in the collapse of a star long ago, uranium is woven throughout the fabric of Earth. It has properties like no other rock: the element spits energy which can transform DNA, shaping the very nature of what it means to be human. Once considered worthless, this rock has become the most desirable, most expensive and most feared substance in the world. And on a warming planet with limited fossil fuel, uranium may transform once again—into our savior.

Uranium: Twisting the Dragon’s Tail is an action-packed journey to explore this dangerous, wondrous and controversial rock. Join physicist Dr. Derek Muller, creator of YouTube channel Veritasium, as he travels to Russia, Japan, North America, Europe and Australia to explore the vast world of this fascinating element. Continue Reading →

Documentary: KONELĪNE: our land beautiful (British Columbia’s Golden Triangle)

Celebrated for using art to seek beauty and complexity where you least expect to find them, KONELĪNE(pronounced Ko-na-lee-na) is garnering rave reviews for its fair-minded and sensual exploration of northwest British Columbia and the extraordinary people who move across it. Miners call this land the Golden Triangle, hunters call it the Serengeti of the North, and the Tahltan First Nation call it home.

KONELĪNE’s visual poetry delights in exploding stereotypes. Heidi Gutfrucht, at once a big game hunter and fierce environmentalist, swims her 17 horses across the massive Stikine River; a Tahltan First Nation diamond driller bores deep into the same territory he loves….and that his elders are fighting to protect; white hunters carry bows and arrows while Tahltan elders shoot moose with high-powered rifles; and the world’s biggest chopper flies 16,000-pound transmission towers over mountaintops, their metal struts catching the light like giant gleaming crosses. Continue Reading →

Film review: KONELĪNE finds drama in BC’s Golden Triangle – by David Perri (Northern Miner – June 1, 2016)

KONELINE: Our Land Beautiful (Trailer) from Mark Lazeski on Vimeo.

Northwest British Columbia is a land of abundance and beauty. Teeming with wildlife, the mountains, rivers and valleys are also home to the Tahltan First Nation. Riches below the surface have inspired miners to call the region the “Golden Triangle.”

This landscape is the focus for Nettie Wild’s documentary KONELĪNE: Our land beautiful. The film-maker points a lens at the people who live and pass through this remarkable land, capturing the intersection of natural beauty, development and a native homeland. Continue Reading →

The Mine Wars: West Virginia’s Coal Miners March on Public Television – by Mark Hand ( – January 20, 2016)

In the 1980s, writer Denise Giardina’s “Storming Heaven” offered a wide-ranging portrait of southern West Virginia’s coal camps, while film director John Sayles’ “Matewan” focused on one of the defining moments in the long-running battle between the state’s coal industry and its workers. One was a novel and the other one was a low-budget movie drama. And yet both storytellers filled a hole in research that professional historians had neglected to cover for more than half a century.

Miners and their family members, who had kept quiet for decades, gradually found the courage to speak out. Since the release of Storming Heaven and Matewan, numerous other books, films and articles have been produced about this important period in the nation’s industrial and labor history. Continue Reading →

[Coal mining] Introduction: The Mine Wars ( – The American Experience)

In the first two decades of the 20th century, coal miners and coal companies in West Virginia clashed in a series of brutal conflicts over labor conditions and unionization. Known collectively as the “Mine Wars,” the struggle included strikes, assassinations, marches, and the largest civil insurrection in the United States since the Civil War.

Coal was the engine of American industrial progress at the beginning of the 20th century. It powered locomotives, factories, and home furnaces, and it helped to purify the steel used in erecting skyscrapers all over the U.S.

Nearly three quarters of a million men across the country spent 10 to 12 hours a day in coal mines blasting, hand-picking, shoveling, and loading the indispensable rock onto railway cars bound for destinations across the country. Continue Reading →