CCCB representatives participate in meeting of the Holy See – “In Union with God We Hear a Plea” on mining activities

Thursday, August 20 2015

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) was represented at a recent meeting organized by the Holy See on mining activities. The two CCCB representatives were Dr. Ernest Martin Kroeker from the Diocese of Kamloops, on behalf of the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation community near Williams Lake, B.C., and Mr. Kyle Ferguson, CCCB advisor for ecclesial and interfaith relations who also assists the Canadian Catholic Aboriginal Council. The meeting, held this past July 17-19 in Rome, concerned communities from across the globe which are affected by mining activities. It was organized by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Titled “In Union with God We Hear a Plea,” the meeting brought together representatives from Latin America, Africa, India, the Philippines, North America as well as Non-Governmental Organizations and Episcopal Conferences.

In preparation for the meeting, Pope Francis wrote to the gathering, “You come from difficult situations and in various ways you experience the repercussions of mining activities, whether they be conducted by large industrial companies, small enterprises or informal operators….” Pope Francis went on to remark that the presence of the participants at the meeting would “echo the cry of the many people, families and communities who suffer directly and indirectly as a result of the consequences, too often negative, of mining activities.”

The meeting was held at the Salesianum Congress Centre in Rome. Over the course of three days, community representatives provided compelling testimonies about human rights violations and the often disregarded principles of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) as guiding principles governing relationships between mining companies and the communities where they operate. Despite these challenges, representatives underscored the necessity for greater dialogue among state officials, local communities, Church organizations and mining corporations.

His Eminence Peter Cardinal Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council, told representatives, “We are aware of your isolation, through human rights violations, persecution, and an imbalance of power.” He said the objective for the meeting was “to acknowledge your human dignity”.

Pope Francis in his letter to the participants emphasized that “Minerals and, in general the wealth of the earth, of the soil and underground, constitute a precious gift from God that humanity has used for thousands of years.” But this gift, the Pope said, demands from us “collaboration in the care of our common home, countering the dramatic consequences of environmental degradation in the life of the poorest and the excluded, advancing towards an integral, inclusive and sustainable development.”

Ten days after the meeting in Rome, CIDSE, the Brussels-based network of Catholic development agencies, wrote an open letter to the Pontifical Council, following its own meeting with a number of Latin American communities impacted by mining operations. The letter noted “there are repeated practices among the companies at all latitudes, often in alliance with national and local governments and with the mining sector’s strong influence and lobby in all spaces of power, with which the companies, supported by the design of laws that are offensive to life, seek to protect their operational projects and profit interests.” In addition, the CIDSE letter expressed concern about “the strategy that the large mining corporations have employed to approach the institutional Church. We highlight the contradictions between the discussions held in Rome by these multinationals and their local practices, which continue in the majority of cases to violate human rights in the territories.”

Devpaix Philippines minesOn August 5, the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, which is a member both of CIDSE and of the Catholic worldwide aid network Caritas Internationalis, issued a news report on a similar international conference recently held in the Philippines on mining abuses.

A detailed examination on the impact of mining operations in the Global South, using as an example one Latin American country, Colombia, is provided in a 25-page 2012 report (in English only) titled Giving it away: the consequences of an unsustainable mining policy in Colombia. The report was created by five leading English-speaking development agencies: Christian Aid UKI, Oxfam GB, CAFOD, SCIAF, and Trócaire. The latter three are members of Caritas Internationalis, being respectively the English, Scottish, and Irish Catholic counterparts to Development and Peace.



The Philippines: People’s mining conference sheds light on mining abuses 

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