Responsible Mining: A Call to Action

By Fr. Roberto Carrasco Rojas, OMI

Thanks to Laudato Si’ we have begun not only to dream but to give concrete answers. Thanks to Laudato Si’ we have started to articulate better our call to action as Church. Thanks to Laudato Si’ we have begun to rescue the practice of synodality in the Church. As a Samaritan Church, we have a mission to complete. As missionary congregations, we have a responsibility to assume.

The obvious and most important question we should ask ourselves is: what threatens our common home, but given the context where we live, we should also ask what threatens the Pan-Amazonian region? These threats end up degrading not only the environment, but also the people and the entire
social environment. Irresponsible mining represents one of the greatest threats in the entire Pan-Amazon region. When dealing with it, no government feels or pretends to be independent from it. Unfortunately, we have economies in the region that are based on the degradation of the territories and lives of the indigenous and coastal populations. The situation for these vulnerable populations is deteriorating with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recently a virtual event brought together laity and religious to dialogue and the theme chosen was «the Churches and the alternatives to economies of inequality.» This activity was organized by the Churches and Mining Network together with the Latin American Confederation of Religious Men and
Women (CLAR). The topics discussed continue to challenge us as believers of the Gospel, which places the poor at the center of Evangelization. We realize that inequities and injustices are increasing. The impoverishment of almost the
totality of the continent’s inhabitants and; the contamination of the waters (rivers, lakes, and streams) is appalling on a continent blessed with so many natural resources and raw materials that end up in the hands of a few families.

«In Guatemala, Marlin Mine uses 250,000 liters of water in one hour. This amount of water is equivalent to the amount of water that a peasant family in the area uses for 22 years. In Argentina, mothers lack access to clean water and bathe their children in water that is known to be poisoned with cyanide spilled during mining extraction by Barrick Gold mining. Their bodies have been poisoned, and extensions of their bodies amputated, wounded, or massacred. Incidents like these are experienced permanently in many territories of Latin America, where transnational companies put their interests and money above people, families, Mother Earth, and life. We concluded that mining is intimately linked to climate injustice and the deepening of an economy of inequalities.» These words were the witness of Daniela Andrade, a laywoman who is part of the mining divestment campaign.

Latin America is a region where its local leaders and environmental defenders continue to be murdered. Such was the case of a young Asháninka indigenous leader, Mario Marcos López Huanca. He was an ecological defender of the El Sira Communal Reserve and was shot in the head on Monday, May 28th, 2021 in Puerto Bermudez, Pasco region, Peru. He is the seventh environmental defender leader murdered since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in Peru.

Activists believe that the extractivist economic model is threatening the life and integrity of people in the region. Latin America is a continent of inequality and the discarded (not to say marginalized). Unfortunately, Latin America
is a continent where North American and European companies continue to accumulate large amounts of profits and many privileges.

«They took the gold from our lands, now our water springs are polluted, our houses are cracked, and we have skin diseases. After all they did, the company is leaving and has no accountability. They have made good profits with what they took from San Miguel, Guatemala and returned to Canada. And we are left with the damage that has been done». These words were the witness of Crisanta López, leader of the Marlin Mine resistance in Guatemala, who shared at the event her deep pain and a summary of what mining has meant for her community in Guatemala.

What are those who have these kinds of investment thinking? Let us remember the commitment made at the Synod for the Pan-Amazon Region of 2019: «We assume and support the campaigns of disinvestment of extractive companies
related to the socio-ecological damage of the Amazon» (Synod of Bishops. Special Assembly for the Pan-Amazonian Region, Final Document, 70). How, where, and by whom are decisions made concerning the exploitation and future of these territories?

Therefore we must ask, where are we as the Samaritan Church and as a missionary congregation, and how are we directing our analysis and advocacy? «The campaign seeks a coherent and ethical action for the management of its investments,» Daniela Andrade reminds us.

(Translated from Spanish by JPIC OMI USA)

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