MAC: Mines and Communities

Catholic Church warned on getting too close to the mining industry

Published by MAC on 2015-04-09
Source: The Catholic Register,

As is often demonstrated on this site the Catholic Church has - in general - a track record of supporting communities in resistance to mining.

Yet there are concerns that talks which the mining industry has initiated with the Vatican have led to an intiative called “Mining in Partnership”. Those communities, and their representatives want to make it clear that they repudiate such increasing partnership.

Previous article on MAC: Pope Francis joins global battle to "save the planet"

The Church should not allow itself to be bought

7 April 2015

An open letter from the group Churches and Mining about the seductiveness of mining companies. Churches and Mining is a Latin American network of Christian communities and religious who, with the support of various bishops, the Pan-Amazon Ecclesial Network (REPAM), the Department of Justice and Peace of the Latin American Episcopal Conference (CELAM) and the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI), was organized two years ago to confront the impacts of mining. Attached is the final document of the last meeting of Churches and Mining, held in Brasilia in December 2014. About 100 representatives of affected communities were present, along with partners from North America and Europe.

We know close up the suffering of many communities and traditional peoples, as well as violations of the rights of the environment and of future generations, provoked by the big mining projects that are expanding on our continent. These business undertakings violate the American Convention on Human Rights and the UN principles for multinational corporations and Human Rights.

Various bishops and some Episcopal Conferences have declared their support for the affected communities and denounced the conflicts which are provoked by mining companies and many times have the approval of national governments.[1]

The pastoral activity of the churches and their official stance in favor of the communities have been effective in showing the contradictions of the extractivist economic model and the damage it causes to human life and to the Planet. They have also helped strengthen the people in their struggles and resistance, and have promoted the search for alternative models.

The biggest mining multinationals are organizing strategies to oppose these activities and accusations. But while they have increased their presence in the communities, the companies have not been able to seduce the leadership and the people who are more aware, many of whom are organized around their Christian communities.

Because of this, the companies have added an institutional approach: senior executives and big investors of various mining companies requested a day of “retreat” at the Vatican (October 2013) and a day of reflection at Canterbury in order to come closer to the Anglican Church (October 2014). At both of these events they experienced an attitude of listening and an openness to dialogue. However, they were not able to co-opt the Churches nor were they able to receive a blessing on their operations, since the mining companies are generally concerned with promoting their own economic interests and, in the majority of cases, their formal declarations are not accompanied by an effective practice of listening and respect for the communities at the grassroots.

A third seductive initiative was recently launched. We want to spread awareness of this initiative, and make clear our profound repudiation of the same.

The initiative is called “Mining in Partnership”.[2] It proposes “to help theological seminaries in their training of pastors and other church leaders to serve communities affected by mining projects”. It points out the benefits that this initiative would bring to both the companies and the churches. It also proposes that the churches “think theologically, ethically and liturgically about mining in the locality and internationally.”

We would like to present our position on this initiative:

We reject the invitation for the church to enter into partnership with the mining companies. A re-reading of the document produced after the “retreat” at the Vatican provides a clearer picture of how the companies understand partnership: they raise the question “how can the mining industry give a better impression?,” and one of the executives shares the expectation that “a leader of public opinion of the stature of the Catholic Church (...) could help to inform people around the world of the significant progress made in the mining sector”.

It is not the role of churches to convince the faithful about the goodness of an undertaking. It is also absurd to think that churches are simply called “to serve communities affected by mining projects.” The Church (cf. GS1) takes on the dramas, hopes and demands of the poorest and of the victims of an economy that increasingly discards people (EG 53) and jeopardizes the balance of Creation. It is the obligation of companies, under supervision of the State, to obtain the prior consent of communities before installing themselves in a place; to guarantee adequate conditions for getting a license; to avoid social and environmental damage; and to pay taxes to the State to cover social policies and fines for every violation. It is by doing these things, and not by suggesting other types of funding or partnership, that the companies will receive our recognition as responsible actors.

We recognize the importance of dialogue between Christian communities and the mining companies. We seek this dialogue every day (often in vain) in the most diverse local situations of conflict, where the communities denounce concrete violations and present specific demands. This is the place where dialogue should begin, where the true attitude of companies toward the communities can be measured. Pastoral agents do not need formation provided by mining companies to mediate this dialogue competently.

Funding initiatives for theological seminaries appears to be a strategy for co-opting the Church, for utilizing it to benefit the interests of the mining companies, and to divide it, weakening its role as “advocate of justice and defender of the poor” (Pope Francis[3]). The companies, instead of providing money to repair the damage reported by the communities, invest in publicity campaigns or in activities that provide economic support for leaders of communities, unions or pastoral activity, with the evident objective of reducing criticism not by change, but by co-opting those who raise the problems.

We therefore invite the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, the Episcopal Conferences, our Reformed Sister Churches, theologians, Christian Churches involved in the defense of the communities affected by the violation of their socio-environmental rights, and all people of good will, to join with us in rejecting this initiative of the big mining companies created to co-opt the opposition.

We will continue to walk with the communities humbly and persistently. They are becoming more aware of their situation, protagonists of the process and more deeply rooted in the defense of their lands. It is in this process that the Kingdom of God is being built.

Churches and Mining, April 2015.

Ação Franciscana de Ecologia e Solidariedade - AFES
Agenda Latinoamericana Mundial
Amerindia Colombia y Continental
Associação Ecumênica de Teólogos/as do Terceiro Mundo – ASETT
Associação Madre Cabrini, Irmãs Missionárias do Sagrado Coração de Jesus – Brasil
Asociación Menonita para Justicia, Paz y Acción Noviolenta -JUSTAPAZ
Caritas de El Salvador, El Salvador
Caritas Jaén, Perú
Centro de Ecología y Pueblos Andinos -CEPA- Oruro Bolivia
Centro de Justicia y Equidad -CEJUE- Puno, Perú
Centro Franciscano de Defesa dos Direitos, Brasil
Coalición Ecuménica por el Cuidado de la Creación, Chile
Consejo Latinoamericano de Iglesias - CLAI
Consejo Mundial de Iglesias, Justicia Climática -CMI
Conselho Indigenista Missionário -Brasil
Coordinación Continental de Comunidades Eclesiales de Base
Comissão Verbita, JUPIC- Amazonía
Comitê em Defesa dos Territórios frente à Mineração, Brasil
Comunidades Construyendo Paz en los Territorios - Fe y Política -Conpaz- Colombia
Comisión Intereclesial Justicia y Paz -Colombia
Comissão Pastoral da Terra -CPT- Brasil
Comunidades de Vida Cristiana -CVX
Comunidades Eclesiales de Base, Colectivo Sumaj Kausay, Cajamarca, Argentina
Coordinación Continental de Comunidades Eclesiales de Base
Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos, Perú
CPT Diocese de Óbidos, Pará, Brasil
Derechos Humanos Sin Fronteras, Perú
Derechos Humanos y Medio Ambiente de Puno -DEHUMA-, Perú
Diálogo Intereclesial por la Paz en Colombia, DIPAZ, Colombia
Diocesis de Copiapó- Alto del Carmen – Chile
Diocese de Itabira- Fabriciano Minas Gerais, Brasil
Dirección Diocesana Cáritas de Choluteca, Honduras
Equipe de Articulação e Assessoria as Comunidades Negras do Vale do Ribeira, EAACONE, Brasil
Equipo Investigación Ecoteología, Universidad Javeriana, Bogotá
Equipo Nacional de Pastoral Aborigen, ENDEPA, Argentina
Franciscans International
Hermanas de la Misericordia de las Américas, Argentina
Iglesia Evangélica Presbiteriana de Chigüinto, Chile
Irmãos da Misericórdia das Américas Juventude Franciscana do Brasil – JUFRA
JUPIC Claretianos San José del Sur Argentina, Chile, Paraguay y Uruguay
Justiça, Paz e Integridade da Criação Verbitas - JUPIC SVD - Província BRN
Mercy International Association at the UN
Mesa Ecoteológica Interreligiosa de Bogotá D.C. – MESETI
Misioneros Claretianos Centro América y San José del Sur, Argentina
Misioneros Combonianos, Brasil e Ecuador
Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens no Vale do Ribeira -MOAB- Brasil
Observatorio de Conflictos Mineros de América Latina -OCMAL
Oficina de JPIC OFM, Roma
Oficina de JPIC Sociedad Misionera San Columbano, Chile
Orden Franciscana Seglar, Uruguay
Organización de Familias de Pasta de Conchos, México
Pastoral de Cuidado de la Infancia, Bolivia
Pastoral Indígena, Ecuador
Pastoral Indigenista de Roraima -Brasil
Pastoral Social Cáritas Oruro, Bolivia
Pastoral Social Diócesis de Duitama Sogamoso, Boyacá, Colombia
Pastoral Social Diócesis de Pasto, Nariño, Colombia
Radio el Progreso Yoro-ERIC- Honduras
Red de Educación Popular de América Latina y el Caribe de las Religiosas del Sagrado Corazón
Rede de Solidariedade Missionárias Servas do Espírito Santo, Brasil
Red Muqui, Perú
Red Regional Agua Desarrollo y Democracia, Piura, Perú
Secretariado Diocesano de Pastoral Social, Garzón Huila, Colombia
Servicio Internacional Cristiano de Solidaridad Oscar Romero -Sicsal
Servicio Interfranciscano de Justicia, Paz y Ecología -SINFRAJUPE-, Brasil
Servicio Internacional Cristiano de Solidaridad con América Latina, Oscar Romero, -SICSAL
Servicios Koinonia
Vicaría de la Solidaridad, Oficina de Derechos Humanos, Jaén, Perú
Vicariato Apostólico San Francisco Javier, Jaén, Perú
Vivat International

To contact us and learn more about our activities and proposals: iglesiaymineria[at]

[1] Documents of the Churches of Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Peru and CELAM on this issue.

[2] Attached is the text of the complete proposal. It was received by some of our religious congregations in March 2015.

[3] Address to the communities of Rio de Janeiro, July 2013.

Make mining companies accountable, bishops demand

By Michael Swan

The Catholic Register

25 March 2015

Catholic bishops and religious orders from the high arctic to the southern tip of Patagonia are demanding accountability for Canadian mining companies operating in Latin America up to and including the right of villagers and farmers to sue in Canadian courts in the event of environmental disasters and human rights abuses.

Both the Canadian and United States conferences of bishops sent representatives to a Mar. 19 hearing of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington, DC where Guatemalan Bishop Alvaro Ramazzini and Peruvian Bishop Pedro Barreto made the case for applying Canadian or American law to mining companies operating in Latin American countries.

The two bishops conferences also submitted letters of support which the Consejo Episcopal Latinoamericano (CELAM) submitted to the human rights commission.

“It is a particular concern to us as well that the majority of mining operations in Latin America are controlled by companies registered in Canada,” wrote CCCB president Archbishop Paul Andre Durocher.

Durocher argues that mining can and should “be an important component in integral human development.”

But if local governments are incapable of applying environmental and human rights standards on a par with Canada’s, Canadian companies operating in smaller countries with weaker mining laws should still face Canadian justice.

“We also support in principle the creation of a law in our country that would allow these companies to be prosecuted under Canadian law for crimes committed abroad,” Durocher wrote.

A new, tougher Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility office in Ottawa should be able to address the Canadian bishops’ concerns, Mining Association of Canada president and CEO Pierre Gratton told The Catholic Register.

“The latest iteration is, I think, a considerable improvement over the original strategy and now contains a number of improvements that frankly go a long way toward meeting the original intent of the ombudsman idea,” Gratton said.

Ottawa appointed its first Extractive Sector CSR Counsellor, Marketa Evans, in 2009. She quit the post in 2013 without ever having brought a complaint process to conclusion. Former mining engineer Jeffrey Davidson replaced Evans in March this year. Davidson will have the power to withdraw consular support, government loan guarantees and other economic supports from companies that refuse the ombudsman process.

“A lot of what the bishops are calling for is now in place or close to being in place,” said Gratton.

But the new CSR Counsellor doesn’t have the power to mount an independent investigation, or impose the kinds of penalties a company might face in court, said Development and Peace deputy director of in-Canada programs Ryan Worms.

The solution won’t come until Latin American countries pass better mining, environmental and foreign investment laws and enforce them, said Gratton.

“The best solution is not looking to Canada to solve Guatemala’s challenges,” he said. “Guatemala has to solve its challenges.”

But the many issues with mining can’t overshadow the fact that civilization is not possible without mining and its products, said Worms.

“We see the Church saying yes to mining, but to mining operations that will first benefit the local communities, benefit the poor and respect their rights,” he said.


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