“END OF THE RAINBOW” is an in-depth look at the consequences and so-called benefits of mining on local populations, their traditions, their economy, and their environment.
The film focuses one particular gold mine in Guinea, West Africa, exploring the hopes and problems that the villagers face, revealing, perhaps unwittingly, the commonplace reality of modern development.
In this particular case, the local villagers, who traditionally live as subsistence farmers, welcomed the arrival of the mining company, who promised to bring them prosperity and a better life.
Having quietly bought the villagers’ land from the government in 2005, the villagers were essentially bought out and several villages were forced to relocate to make way for the mine. The company compensated them, but even so, many villagers did not want to leave their land.
As time rolled on, and the mine started making its millions, the once-pristine landscape was replaced by a massive open-pit mine “fouled” with cyanide waste water. And with the trees gone, and with cave-ins becoming a constant danger, traditional life began to fade away, even more as villagers went to work in the mine—all dreaming for the promised life.
The company, on the other hand, does great for itself. The mine’s chief engineer even managed to build a local pub. It’s a whites-only pub, complete with satellite television.
Then, one day, the region was hit by a drought. The villagers knew it was going to happen, after all, it’s happened several times before. But it was never too big of a problem in the past because the villagers would just dig up some gold for themselves to trade and buy food and water.
Things were different this time. When the villagers tried to get at some of the gold, the company called in the military. The company said they were concerned about “safety issues.”
The military, “shockingly abusive to their fellow citizens, ” imprisoned the villagers into metal shipping containers as the hot sun pounded on.
This happened more than two years ago now, but the story has continued to unfold. Today, it appears that the mine is nearing its end. The gold’s running out.
Many villagers will welcome the day that the white people finally leave. But even so, the damage has been done: The land has been defiled, the cyanide waste water will remain and cave-ins will occur far into the future, claiming who knows how many unsuspecting women and children. And, with the gold gone, their economy will have no choice but to roll back to what it used to be.
A film by Robert Nugent, END OF THE RAINBOW premiered last week on the PBS WORLD Series Global Voices. It was co-produced by Trans Europe Film with Looking Glass Pictures, ARTE and ITVS.
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