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UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

It is what it is : between a rock and a hard place in a Northern Ontario community Kovacs-Kowalke, Eva-Marie Caroline


Abstract: The discourse surrounding mining extraction, mining communities and corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies is both a local and global issue. It is a particularly Canadian issue since over seventy five percent of mining done worldwide is connected to a Canadian owned mining corporation. I conducted my research in Marathon,Ontario, a mining enclave for one of the top gold mining corporations in the world,Barrick Gold Corporation. Many of those working in the mining industry see this area as a modern-day Klondike and, in fact, it has generated ten times more in come than the Klondike itself (Sudol 2014). No one can doubt that northern Ontario is rich in natural resources but,since mining communities typically become entangled in a perpetual boom-and-bust cycle of extraction, the benefits of that wealth are very unevenly distributed. Corporate social responsibility programs have been touted as one way to distribute the benefits more equitably, and to avoid or limit the social and health problems that arise during bust cycles and then worsen for those who stay on after extraction is complete and the company leaves town.The narrative of Marathon provides insight into how miners, mine workers, community members and Barrick’s middle and upper management have become entrenched in a false sense of economic sustainability due to the fact that the Hemlo mine site has been in operation for over three decades. On the basis of an eclectic set of methods and fieldwork practices, including participant-observation, interviewing, shadowing and discourse analysis, this research provides insight into how mining enclaves such as Marathon could benefit from a more common shared value approach to defining their specific needs and voices and achieving their own chosen path to an enduring future. Through understanding how corporate language silences alternative visions of the mining industry, places like Marathon can hopefully be empowered to take control of their future before it becomes too dependent on a resource that will one day be gone.

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