[Documentary] The Hole Story (2011)

(Photo: qpirgconcordia.org)

The Hole Story is an absorbing documentary that explores the origins of mining in Northern Ontario and Quebec, the environmental impacts and the corporate greed associated with mining. The city of Sudbury is one of the main cities showcased, along with fellow towns, Timmins, Cobalt, and Rouyn-Noranda. This was a very eye-opening documentary that really hit me at my core. Let me explain why.

(Photo: Northernlife)

As some of you are aware, I was born and raised in Sudbury, Ontario. Let me share with you two points of what it means to be from this Northern Ontario town:

1. Sudbury is a mining town (The Nickel Capital of the world!) and if you are from Sudbury, you likely know or knew someone who worked for a mine.

2. There is a lot of rock in this town. I wish I was talking music here…

I no longer live in Sudbury, but the rest of my family does, and so does the hubs’ family (we didn’t meet in Sudbury, though). Basically, every time I return home, I am reminded of what Sudbury is about just by observing the landscape:

The Inco (now Vale) Nickel refinery Smelter Superstack* in the distance…

(Photo: wikipedia)

And rocks. Lots and lots of rocks. In fact, everything is built on a rock and what isn’t has been blasted through rock to create whatever.

Blackened rocks (Photo: upload.wikimedia.org)

Being from Sudbury, growing up, I never paid much attention to the landscape until an outsider describes your town differently than you’ve ever thought before. Their description: Barren. Rocky. Ugly. The fact that there weren’t too many trees and the granite that covered our fine city was black from the refinery fallout, and not pink-grey never crossed my mind, because, well, I lived in Sudbury an ignorant kid who didn’t know any different.

Not much was ever mentioned when in Elementary and High School in the 80s we talked about “the environment” as a concept and “acid rain” as a thing but would never utter the words “Inco”, nor ever point a finger towards the Copper Cliff refinery with a “THEM!!” on our lips. Nope. Not when a major employer kept the town going by providing families with a decent wage.

Eventually you educate yourself, or just plain pay more attention to what is around you. You grow up and get more environmental awareness. You read the news on environmental disasters… and then YOUR HOMETOWN is highlighted. The main employer in your old town has a spotlight shining brightly on it as a culprit for the world’s acid rain emissions, and responsible for killing off most of the vegetation around Sudbury by the 1950s, never to see a rejuvenation until 1978 when efforts began to re-forest the city. And what is that you say?? The rocks are NOT supposed to be black??

As this documentary states: “You can’t break the law when you are the law.” The mining companies hold a lot of power over the towns they operate in. Thanks to the Hole Story, if I wasn’t aware of what was literally going on under the shadow of the smokestack, I was certainly in for a shocking experience.

Sudbury has very much grown back most of the vegetation lost from the 50s. The black rock is also slowly gaining back its light pink shade, making the city more luscious and green.

I definitely feel that being from Northern Ontario had a lot to do with my interest in the Hole Story, but anyone who enjoys films on the corruption of “big smoke” capitalism and environmentalism would take away plenty from this film. The Hole Story is one of those rare films where you think the content is going to be heavy, but then 80 minutes go by effortlessly and you walk away learning a thing or two. I was seriously swept away by such an interesting piece of journalism and I truly recommend it.

Currently streaming on Netflix Canada, and free to watch on the National Film Board of Canada website: nfb.com @.


*Say Smelter Superstack three times. You’re welcome.

@ Sorry, I think this website is regional, so if you are from outside of Canada, you might not be allowed to watch the film on NFB.