Extractive Industries – Quest for Sustainable and Responsible Mining
Our faith tradition calls us to respect and defend all God’s Creation and to stand in solidarity with the poor and vulnerable. Global appetite for fossil fuel and other minerals is increasing exponentially. However, mining and energy extraction are intensely intrusive, can be heavily polluting and adversely affect surrounding communities and the environment. These activities are attractive to poor country governments desperate for foreign exchange and under pressure to increase services to their people. This is a process fraught with opportunities for abuse, corruption and misuse of natural resources that could uplift all citizens. Done right and responsibly, extractive industries have the potential to be engines for economic and social development in resource-rich countries.
Challenges in the Extractive Sector
New and expanded exploration by the extractive sector – especially in Latin America, Africa and Asia – have led to protests and requests for help from adversely affected local communities, many of whom are indigenous people. Many of these projects are negotiated between country governments and private corporations without local community consent.
What We Are Doing
Our work with corporations is in collaboration with other investors and non-governmental organizations. This work is grounded in solidarity with the struggles of local communities and employs tools like “Free Prior and Informed Consent” and the “Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative”. These tools move corporations to actively engage and address the concerns of indigenous communities before launching exploration and extraction activities. As a faith community, we believe there is “business case” for companies to maintain good relationships with local communities and respect the environment while operating a mine.
Mine Site Visits and Ongoing Dialogues
An important objective of our work is encouraging transparency in relationships between corporations, governments and other partners. Missionary Oblates JPIC has actively participated in dialogues between members of the mining industry and leaders in the faith community. The motivation for this engagement emerges from a need identified by industry leaders to reposition the mining sector as one that can be a partner for the long term sustainable development with host communities and local governments.
Since 2014 Missionary Oblates JPIC has collaborated with investors to tour mining sites. Some of the mining operations visited have included the following companies: MMG, Newmont, Anglo Gold Ashanti, Anglo American, and Rio Tinto. These visits allow miners to share
on-the-ground insights with those involved in dialogue and engagement. These site visits have also informed theological understanding and foster good relationships between mining companies and faith participants.
Visits also provide an opportunity to understand local community characteristic, the positive and negative impacts of mining in a particular community, region, and country, and more broadly how the host company responds to these issues. Missionary Oblate Fr. Seamus Finn, OMI, leads the Mine Sites initiative and Oblates continue to engage in corporate dialogue with several mining companies.
What You Can Do
Local communities affected by mining especially already vulnerable groups like indigenous people need to be empowered. Support actions that challenge extractive industries to advance the common good and be evaluated in the light of their impact on the environment and support to vulnerable, impoverished and indigenous people.