The Minerals Council of Australia announced two games in August 2021. The aim was to “raise awareness of the possibilities in the modern technology-driven Australian minerals industry”.
The organization represents the largest coal producers in the country. Given the discussions about climate change, the announcement has sparked much controversy.
The games in question are Resource, react, save made to “let players simulate the effects of natural disasters on mining cities” and Old as dirt which describes the “iron ore journey from the pit to the port” in detail. The former is based on Minecraft and the latter uses a proprietary engine. Both were developed for use in elementary schools.
“We are not ashamed of our ambition to hire more Australians and promote careers in mining for all Australians,” said Tania Constable, chief executive officer of the Minerals Council of Australia.
Resource, Respond, Rescue and Old as Dirt are currently used in 57 schools across Australia. It’s about improving the image of mining in the eyes of children. But most of them can see through all the smoke and mirrors. As climate change becomes more and more worrying, children view the mining industry with skepticism. Especially with coal.
“Young people increasingly do not believe that fossil fuels are part of their future,” said the director of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, Ian Davies. Climate analyst Ketan Joshi took up this feeling. “The youth climate movement is really freaking out the fossil fuel industry in Australia,” he said.
Surveys have shown that these opinions are correct. The study, carried out by the Red Cross in 2020, found that 80% of people between the ages of 10 and 24 in Australia were either “concerned” or “extremely concerned” about climate change. The study carried out by the United Nations shows that 69% of people between the ages of 14 and 18 worldwide view climate change as a “global emergency”.
This is where Resource, Respond, Rescue and Old as Dirt come into play. Many want to keep them out of the curriculum.
“I really don’t think the Department of Education should approve this,” argued Professor Jeremy Moss of the University of New South Wales. He went on to describe the campaigns as “egregious”.
“I don’t think it will work,” he said. “I think it’s a pretty desperate attempt to change the mostly negative perception of the fossil fuel sector in the mining industry.”
The educators were mostly silent on this matter. Many have shifted the discussion to advancing science, technology, engineering, and math.
“We support schools that have programs that encourage students to take an interest in STEM subjects at a young age,” said Martin Clery, executive director of statewide services, Western Australia’s Department of Education. This reflects the language of the Minerals Council of Australia.
“It is hoped that students will choose STEM subjects in later years of study to pave the way to high-paying and highly secure STEM careers,” said Constable.
Moss goes a completely different way. “The last time I checked, they were already teaching science and math in school,” he said. “And I’m sure they are already doing a good job.” He continued, “I don’t think this is about STEM. This is really about promoting the mining industry. “
Studies have shown that children are simply disinterested in working in the mining industry. “Graduates from courses that focus on fossil fuels are falling and they are desperately trying to turn this around,” Joshi emphasized.
When the United Nations Climate Change Conference came to a disappointing conclusion last November, the fossil fuel industry as a whole, and mining in particular, came under great pressure. Resource, Respond, Rescue and Old as Dirt could take advantage of this very well if they gain a foothold in schools. How things will develop in Australia remains to be seen.
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