Religion and Mining in the News

Tuesday, 17 December, 2013

A bit of chatter on the wires today and yesterday about the crossover of religion and mining - interesting content, providing in one case an overview of the views of (mostly Catholic) churches and clergy, and their various followers, on mining in Latin America (largely but not exclusively anti); and in another case an short news piece on an ecumenical churches’ body in Zambia calling on the government to lay down the law about CSR.

This first piece on, an ‘environmental justice’ site, talks about faith and large-scale mining and what they have in common (i.e. they both move mountains). It’s written from the perspective of an anti-mining activist and contains discussion of a number of recent ways in which the worlds of various organised religions and affiliated organisations gave touched on the mining sphere, including:

- Pope Francis posing with a sloganned t-shirt after meeting with Argentine environmental activists in the Vatican to discuss large-scale mining and ‘other controversial extractive industry practices’; “He reportedly told the group he is preparing an encyclical about nature, society, and environmental pollution”

- A recent blog post by the Global Programme Manager of Oxfam America’s Extractive Industries Campaign, discussing the “Day of Reflection” convened in September by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace to provide “an opportunity for constructive review of key mining-related issues and to identify concrete actions that would make a positive difference in the future.” Industry leaders were among the gathering’s participants, including CEOs of Newmont, Anglo American, and Rio Tinto. As the author points out, “the issue is not new: Mineweb editor Dorothy Kosich raised a provocative question back in April 2005: will mining survive a Latin American Pope? From the outcome of the Vatican’s “Day of Reflection,” the answer seems to be “yes.”” 

- The history of catholic resistance to mining in Argentina (“Pope Francis, when he was still archbishop of Buenos Aires in 2006, signed a document that described the large-scale mining projects in Patagonia as “affecting the survival of indigenous communities”… [and] helped to establish the Equipo Nacional de Pastoral Aborigen (Pastoral Team for Ministry with Indigenous Peoples, ENDEPA), which supports indigenous peoples in their struggle to obtain legal land titles and forms part of opposition groups that fight mining projects”).

- A working group on mining and spirituality at the latest meeting of the Latin American Observatory of Mining Conflicts, which addressed the social and environmental impacts of large-scale mining.

Meanwhile, in Zambia, according to this piece on the ecumenical Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ) has urged their Government to oblige mining companies to engage in CSR programmes. In this of course they’re in perfect accord with your correspondents at CSR21, but possibly with more solid credentials given they’re backed up directly by God. During  a stakeholders’ meeting on the impact of the extractive industries at Kankoyo Township in Mufulira on Frida, CCZ Head of Programmes Abraham Chikasa has pointed out publicly that many investors are providing no benefits to local people because they’re not obliged to do so.

Meanwhile, residents in Mufulira District have continued to cry foul over the emissions of sulphur dioxide at Mopani Copper Mines that we reported early last month. High time, perhaps, for all interested parties, earthly and otherwise, to work together to resolve tensions that have a clear potential to undermine the value of the mine for everybody. It seems industry and community are by no means in sync in Zambia.


IMAGE: Catedral de Sal (Salt Cathedral) in Zipaquirá, Colombia, via Flickr