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Mis-Communicator of the Week: Barminco

5th March 2013

Ah, the internet. The graveyard of so many reputations as corporations and individuals struggle to apply common sense thinking, which does them such a great service in life, to the on-line world. From lack of urgency to heavy-handedness via mis-comprehension of the power of the web, every week sees a new failure to grasp the reality that sound judgement is required when dealing with digital content. This week is no exception.

The context: Mining, whether in Australia, South Africa, Uzbekistan or China faces consistent threats to its reputation. These come from allegations of corruption, poor safety standards, environmental concerns and even human rights. Mining for precious metals or fossil fuels is a lucrative business but one where a keen eye needs to be kept on the perception of the firm involved, backed by a rigorous commitment to transparency and best practice.

The “crisis”: A group of miners working a night shift in an Australian gold mine relieve their boredom by performing the latest internet dance craze sensation the Harlem Shake and post it to YouTube. Watch their version here:

The over-reaction: Up to 15 workers at the Agnew gold mine have been sacked and banned for life from every Barminco project in the world. A dismissal letter cited by the mine owner Barminco considered the stunt a breach of its "core values of safety, integrity and excellence".

The result: A Facebook page calling for the reinstatement of the "sacked WA Harlem Shake Miners" has been set up and global media have reported on Barminco’s response while the company has suddenly become unavailable for comment.

The verdict: If doing “The Caterpillar” through a muddy puddle is a sackable offense then it’s news to me. Barminco has created a crisis where none existed and then are failing to deal with the scrutiny they have put themselves under. For that Barminco is my Mis-Communicator of the Week.

Written by Edward Staite, founder of Staite Communications

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