COPPER CLASH: Under Rich Earth
by MATTHEW HAYS
From the early moments of Malcolm Rogge’s intense documentary Under Rich Earth, we know a grave injustice is being done. The trouble dates back to the mid-’90s, when a Japanese mining firm moved into Ecuador and secured the rights to copper in one region of the country. The local population protested, knowing full well that extensive mining of the land would lead to environmental disaster.
But the government officials stand firm, insisting that the company will do no wrong and that the financial kickbacks will be good for everyone. More protests follow, and then, there’s a local angle for Canadians that is bound to leave you feeling queasy (it sure did it for me). The mining rights ultimately landed with a Canadian company, Ascendant Copper. They in turn hired private security firms to allow for the continued mining of the region and to keep the protesters at a distance.
Rogge managed to get footage that shows clear malfeasance and violence on the part of the private police force, and also gets both sides to deliver their versions of what actually went down in those hills near the mines. Given the ongoing collapse of the international financial systems, the stalwart capitalist system we were sold turned out to be built on quicksand, Rogge’s film—which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September—turns out to be a remarkably prescient cautionary tale about the vicious downside of globalization. (MH)