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By Luis Manuel Claps
About thirty representatives of communities affected by mining from Africa, Asia and America presented their claims during the Meeting "A day of reflection - United with God we hear a cry" organized by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace between July 17 and 19 spent in Rome.
According to Vatican Radio, the objective was "to give greater visibility to situations of violence and intimidation, of illegality and corruption, of contamination and violation of human rights linked to mining activity" and to question political leaders, public administrations, to entrepreneurs and investors to listen to "the cry of the earth and act promptly and responsibly in the service of the common good, justice and human dignity."
The meeting was presented on Friday, July 17, by Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of that dicastery, and by some of the participants who offered their testimony.
As reported by the Zenit Catholic Agency, Turkson recalled that the Church, on more than one occasion and for years, "closely follows mining activities."
The cardinal also mentioned the documents of Episcopal Conferences that denounce human rights violations, illegalities, violence and exploitation of deposits in a polluting way or affecting local food security.
The Comboni missionary Dário Bossi gave testimony of the situation in the Amazon and recalled that "Only in our Carajás region in the north of Brazil, in the last three years we have had 26 open conflicts between the Vale mining company and the local communities." Zenit Agency.
Another of the participants in the meeting, Juan Guillermo Peñaloza Sierra, from the Diocese of Copiapó in Chile, affirmed that due to his experience "these mining companies deploy strategies that seek to divide indigenous communities and social movements and co-opt some leaders" .
"The effects that we see every day are: depletion and contamination of water sources, destruction of ecosystems and environmental contamination, which ultimately affects people's health, including the workers themselves," he explained.
"Consequences often too negative"
In his message to the participants of the meeting, Pope Francis warned that many communities "suffer directly or indirectly the consequences, often too negative, of mining."
“A cry for the lost land; a cry for the extraction of wealth from the soil that, paradoxically, has not produced wealth for the local populations who remain poor; a cry of pain in response to violence, threats and corruption; a cry of outrage and support for the violations of human rights, discreetly or blatantly trampled on in regard to the health of the populations, by the working conditions, sometimes by slavery and human trafficking that fuels the tragic phenomenon of prostitution; a cry of sadness and helplessness due to the contamination of water, air and soil ”.
“They come from different situations and experience the repercussions of mining in different ways, be it that of large industrial companies, or that of artisans and informal operators. They wanted to meet in Rome, in this day of reflection that is linked to a step of the Apostolic Exhortation 'Evangelii gaudium', so that the cry of so many people, families and communities who suffer directly or indirectly from the consequences, often too negative, from mining, ”Francisco wrote.
“The entire mining sector is undoubtedly called upon to carry out a radical paradigm shift to improve the situation in many countries. The governments of the countries of origin of multinational companies and those in which they operate can contribute to this, as well as entrepreneurs and investors, local authorities that supervise the execution of mining operations, workers and their representatives, international supply chains with their various intermediaries and those who work in the markets for these matters ”, Francisco assured in his message to the participants of the meeting.
Second day with mining companies
According to a note from Aleteia, Cardinal Turkson confirmed today that the leaders of the mining companies will be summoned to a second day of reflection at the Vatican, which will take place from September 17 to 19, 2015.
On September 7, 2013, the Pontifical Council had brought together 25 leaders of the mining industry to reflect on the human and environmental ravages of the activity, especially in countries "poor but rich in raw materials," reported Vatican Insider.
Anglo American, Areva, BHP Billiton, China Minmetals Corporation and Río Tinto participated on that occasion, as well as a delegate from the Secretary of State, the International Council for Mining and Metals (ICMM), Caritas International and Oxfam America.