“Our family. Our jobs. Our future,” is the message conveyed on the Facebook page and Twitter feed. Gazing out from the screen are a blonde woman, two blonde children, a pair of sheepdogs - and a miner wearing overalls.
This is the all-Australian family, with the mining sector at its heart, as envisaged by a campaign called “Our Iron Ore”. It is one of two competing public relations initiatives embroiled in bitter argument in Australia over this abundant commodity.
As the patriotic element of the “Our” campaign suggests, iron ore is anything but prosaic in Australia, whose economy relies heavily on the hundreds of millions of tonnes sucked in annually by China’s steelmaking industry. In Western Australia’s Pilbara region, the iron ore heartland, its price movements are part of everyday conversation.
In 2011, the price of iron ore scaled the heights of $190 per tonne and brought a bonanza for Australia. Four years later, the price has slumped by about 75 per cent: this month it fell below $45/t. Thousands of jobs are being cut and smaller, domestic miners are under pressure.
What has ensued is an Australian iron ore civil war, in which the main antagonists are the miners themselves.
Behind the “Our Iron Ore” campaign is an Australian miner called Fortescue Metals Group and its combative founder and chairman, Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest. It blames the price slump on multinational rivals - meaning BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto - and accuses them of harming Australian interests by flooding the iron ore market with excess supply, driving down industry profits and tax revenue and putting jobs at risk.
Iron ore taxes “help pay for schools, roads, police stations and pensions”, the campaign says, adding that the sector needs a “sustainable, Australian-focused future”.
Such pro-Australia arguments seemed to strike a chord. Even Tony Abbott, prime minister, mused on whether an inquiry into the workings of the iron ore market would be sensible.
David Flanagan, managing director of a junior producer called Atlas Iron that was rescued from oblivion by a complex deal with its suppliers and contractors, backs the idea of a parliamentary inquiry, saying ordinary Australians need to understand how the iron ore price is set and how the industry works.
Mr Flanagan says the rhetoric of BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto is partly to blame for the drop in prices, with their plans to keep expanding spooking many investors and traders.
The multinationals are hitting back through the Minerals Council of Australia, a sector lobby group, saying restricting output would not work. The council has set up a rival online and social media campaign called “Iron Ore Facts”, promising to address “myths” put out about the industry.
One fact - or at least prediction - is that iron ore will be worth $600bn to Australia’s economy over the next 10 years, more than in the past decade.
“If Australia’s iron ore production is capped, competitors in the global market place would seize the opportunity to fill the gap,” the campaign says. “The Australian government can’t control global markets.”
Indeed, Mr Forrest’s arguments that miners should agree an output cap piqued the interest of Australia’s competition authorities. And the idea of an inquiry - branded a waste of money by Andrew Mackenzie, BHP’s chief executive - was rejected by the government.
With many analysts thinking iron ore prices could go lower, the arguments are set to run. Future historians of this part of the Australian commodities downturn may find much to mine in the rival digital campaigns, just as the miners have found fortune in the Pilbara’s riches.