Top 5 mining documentaries prove that where there’s muck, there’s money

Mining has always been a treacherous business. For those going underground, it can be deadly; it’s only mitigated by the possible rewards. However, whenever we uncover a wealth of raw materials under the surface, there will inevitably be some impact on the surrounding environment. Our need for precious metals and minerals is in constant conflict with the desire not to despoil the planet on which we live. RTD’s mining documentaries highlight the never-ending quandary of how far one can go before the payback is not worth the risk.

1. The exploitation of new silver deposits in Mexico raises environmental concerns in RTD’s new mining documentary Bearing a Lode. The film visits the central state of Puebla, where international mining concerns have discovered rich deposits. Plans to mine have divided the community, with some pleased it will bring jobs, and others concerned over the environmental impact.

2. India has vast coal deposits. Even so, it has brought little wealth to the people who live in the vicinity of one of the biggest coalfields, Jharia. Underground fires have made the air thick with acrid smoke, and villagers have had to be forcibly removed. As mining is the only way they can earn a living, they must eke out an existence breathing in high levels of deadly carbon monoxide. You can find out more in the documentary Inferno Village.

3. The Democratic Republic of Congo is rich in valuable metals and rare minerals. The film Congo, My Precious investigates the conditions miners have to suffer in order to earn just a few dollars a day. They put their lives at risk looking for metals needed in electronics and weaponry. The minerals are worth lots of money, but the miners see little of it.

4. The lure of gold is universal. Wherever it’s found, people are willing to risk their lives in an attempt to ‘strike it rich’. In the Philippines, gold miners flock to Paracale, where the illegal mines are death traps for the unwary. The miners must descend into mud-filled shafts to retrieve a few scraps, but sometimes they never return, as we discover in the film Golden Gamble.

5. Iron-ore mining on a grand scale is the subject of the RTD series Iron Characters. The films look at the people employed at a vast opencast site at Kachkanar in the Urals. It’s a dangerous place to work with blasting on a daily basis. The massive plant and machinery dig out thousands of tons of ore a day piling it into wagons for delivery to the smelters.

There are lots more fascinating mining documentaries to watch at