Filmmaker John Dougherty argues he has held Hudbay to account with his latest documentary, but his ambitions go far beyond that.
Dougherty, who was in Flin Flon last week to screen Flin Flon Flim Flam, says he is also advocating for a system that ensures mining communities can survive once their ore is depleted.
“The mining companies need, I think, to be held responsible for maintaining the society that they created,” said the veteran journalist.
Dougherty believes companies must do more than fill in the holes of their mines when their operations close: they should make substantial contributions to economic development and help retrain displaced workers.
He is currently on a cross-Canada tour with Flin Flon Flim Flam, a 52-minute documentary film that fans praise as revealing and critics deride as misleading.
Dougherty says about 30 people attended a screening last Friday, June 10 at Flin Flon’s Hapnot Theatre. He says his biggest turnout so far was in Toronto, where 75 people attended.
Each screening has stimulated vigorous conversation, he says.
“By and large the information that’s being presented to the public, I believe, has been fairly favourable to Hudbay, and I took a much more critical look at the situation,” said Dougherty.
But the way Flin Flon Flim Flam made it to the big screen has been a source of controversy. It was funded by Farmers Investment Co. (FICO), a company that openly and strenuously opposes Hudbay’s proposed Rosemont mine in Arizona.
FICO was reportedly also the primary funder of Cyanide Beach, Dougherty’s 2012 documentary that gave Augusta Resource Corp a similarly no-holds-barred treatment. At the time, Augusta was proposing to develop the Rosemont mine.
So what of the criticism that Dougherty is against the Rosemont mine and keeps making movies to try and influence the outcome of the project?
“I’m making movies to show the actual history of these mining companies and what their legacy is,” he said. “I can’t influence the decision making as far as what the regulators do with the Rosemont mine. They’re going to make their decisions based on the science and the political pressure that they’re experiencing. And what I do with [Flin Flon Flim Flam] or not, or Cyanide Beach, the primary purpose is to inform the public that this is how these mining companies operate. Beware.”
Dougherty says it’s fine for people to suggest that Flin Flon Flim Flam was influenced by its funders – he says that wasn’t the case at all – but he adds the information in the movie “stands for itself.”
In a previous interview, Hudbay spokesman Scott Brubacher said the company was “unable to see how a fair and balanced outcome was possible in a video paid for by opponents of Rosemont.” The company declined to be interviewed for the film.
As for Flin Flon, Dougherty is urging residents to find another economic base, diversifying the economy any way they can, rather than relying solely on Hudbay.
Flin Flon Flim Flam can be seen on YouTube.