The North American Plate went west. The Caribbean Plate went east. And a devastating 7.0 earthquake levelled much of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, and many other communities in the poorest of Caribbean nations. The movement of the strike-slip fault may leave as many as 200,000 dead and more than a million homeless in its wake.
Now, in the aftermath we are seeing how caring Canada's mining community can be. At the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame (CMHF) induction dinner held in Toronto on Jan. 14, just a day after the disaster, the 800 people at the event collectively pledged more than $900,000 between the soup and dessert courses.
Hall of Fame emcee Pierre Lassonde started the ball rolling by announcing that members of the head table would donate $150,000. Ed Thompson, the CMHF's treasurer, ignored his dinner, instead going from table to table collecting pledges written on the backs of business cards.
A total of 193 individual and 17 corporate pledges were made, and they are still coming in, CMJ has been told by Saley Lawton, the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada's director of communications. She also did the liaison with the Canadian Red Cross to see that donations reach those in need.
"The mining community really did dig deep for Haiti," Lawton said. "It was a wonderful and spontaneous demonstration of sympathy and generosity."
Communications consultant and CMHF co-ordinator emerita Nean Allman expressed her thoughts: "What impressed me on the evening was not just the corporations and well-off CEOs who contributed, but the number of individuals who dug deep into their pockets. Truly a heart-warming experience."
The outpouring of help was not made because the mining industry is heavily invested in Haiti. It came from a genuine desire to relieve the suffering of people who are unable to help themselves.
I believe such generosity belies the stereotypical notion that miners are only after the next ounce of gold, pound of copper or 10-ct diamond. Yes, the industry makes good money when commodity prices are high, and goodness knows prices rose steadily for a large part of the last decade. But the vast majority of miners are caring, ethical people. They are willing to help following the Haitian earthquake just as they are committed to sustainable development in the developing countries where many have interests in mineral deposits.
My hat is off to such individuals and corporations that do not hesitate to jump in with the appropriate aid in situations such as this.
And kudos to the Canadian government for promising to match donations from individuals. Last I heard, the government was making up to $100 million available. That doubles the effectiveness of the aid that each of us donates.