Vatican Hosts Mining CEO’s in a “Day of Reflection”
September 11th, 2013
The CEOs of some of the world’s top mining companies went to the Vatican for a day-long meeting last Saturday to discuss better ways to operate in communities that are increasingly protesting the destructive impacts of mining. Communities are fearful – with good reason – of the impacts of mining on their water, land and air.
Saturday’s “day of reflection with the mining industry,” was organized, at the request of leaders in the mining sector, by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. It included the CEOs of Anglo American, Rio Tinto and Newmont Mining, who alone represented companies with well more than $100-billion (U.S.) in market value. The chairmen, presidents or senior executives of dozens of other companies, ranging from AngloGold Ashanti to African Rainbow Minerals, were also present. Fr. Seamus Finn OMI, from the USP JPIC team in Washington DC, was invited to be a part of the team that prepared the day of reflection and offered input during the day. Pope Francis offered a message of greeting and challenge to the group and offered his prayers and blessings on the event.
The companies were interested “to open a dialogue where mining interfaces with the community … to hear other views with the promise of all of us making a difference.”
The Vatican is not opposed to mining, acknowledging that mining can bring wealth and employment to poor countries. Yet, it also knows that what is good for the mining company and its shareholders does not necessarily translate into “the common good.”
In a written message to the mining executives, Pope Francis said he hoped the meeting would lead to “a process guided by moral principles which seeks the good of all parties involved in the sector” and which can provide answers “to the many challenges which confront the mining executives in their decision-making.”
Indeed, communities everywhere are weighing the pros and cons of large-scale mining developments and some are taking the view that the benefits are lacking. Protests in northern Greece, Peru, Guatemala and Romania have stalled projects and led to the deaths of protesters in some cases.
Mark Cutifani, as Anglo American’s CEO, said mining companies sometimes make the mistake of assuming it knows a mining community’s needs before listening to them. A number of fruitful conversations and discussions were reported to have taken place, and the activities initiated by the participants will be reported on in the coming weeks.