A model who wears a bikini in a video promoting a northern Ontario mining project says it has received exactly the sort of attention she was seeking, but many in the mining industry are condemning the tactic.
Theresa Longo produces a series called "Mining Minutes" for KWG Resources' YouTube channel. A recent video features Longo and another woman, identified only as Ashley, wearing bikini tops and cut-off shorts and sharing facts about the Ring of Fire mineral deposit.
"Believe it or not, we actually were sitting around in our bikinis and then we decided let's put on some shorts and we'll present this in a way that is fun and lighthearted," Longo said in an interview with CBC News.
Longo said she is a shareholder in KWG and produces the videos as a "personal pilot project under the wing of KWG."
Company president Frank Smenk responded to criticism of the video by telling CBC News that "sex sells," but Longo said she didn't approach the video that way.
"Although we knew we looked great, we didn't think that it would trigger the kind of response it has, which is great," she said. "It's a lot of exposure for the series."
But it's the wrong kind of exposure for an industry that has struggled to attract women to work and invest in the sector, according to many insiders.
"I found the video to be absurd and inappropriate," said Jessica Draker, the director of communications with the Mining Association of Canada. "We hope that this sort of behaviour does not undermine the industry's efforts to attract women to the exciting careers that mining offers."
The Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada issued a statement saying: "KWG is not currently a member of our association, and we find the video tasteless and unreflective of the complexities of mineral exploration in the Ring of Fire, and of the important role women play in mineral exploration."
'Reeks of exploitation'
The Canadian Mining Journal wrote an editorial asking, rhetorically, "Can sex sell junior mines?"
Writer Marilyn Scales said Longo is "misguided" and the video "reeks of exploitation" in an industry that has worked hard to counter claims of sexism.
Scales, who has covered the industry for more than 40 years, remembers situations such as being told that if she wanted to go underground with a shaft-sinking crew she would have to shower with them afterward.
Sexism "was out there and it was bad, and to counter this we have to be consistent in the message [to women]: we want you for your abilities, not your looks," she said.
The video, and the media attention it is garnering is a "distraction" from the real issues in the northern Ontario mining development that was once touted as the economic equivalent of the oilsands, but is now faltering.
"The Ring of Fire is one of the most important projects seen in decades and to speak so trivially of it and treat it almost comically is quite disappointing," said Melanie Paradis, a senior consultant with Earnscliffe Strategy Group who has worked with the mining industry for more than a decade.
Paradis said she felt compelled to speak out, but worries about the attention the discussion is giving to the video.
"Instead of talking about bikinis and barbecues and videos and their appropriateness, we could be focusing our efforts on finding innovative solutions to infrastructure challenges to generating business opportunities with northern communities and Aboriginal peoples," she said.