Francis: Mining industry in need of ‘a radical paradigm change’ – by Brian Roewe (National Catholic Reporter – July 17, 2015)

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The global mining sector is called to “a radical paradigm change” to make improvements in how the industry impacts the planet and the poor, said Pope Francis ahead of a Vatican meeting on the topic.

The pope’s message was sent Friday to representatives from Africa, Asia and the Americas gathering at the Vatican this weekend to discuss their experiences living within mining communities.

“You come from difficult situations and in various ways you experience the repercussions of mining activities, whether they be conducted by large industrial companies, small enterprises or informal operators,” he said.

Francis described minerals as “a precious gift from God” that humanity has used for thousands of years and that are fundamental to many aspects of human life and activity. He then repeated an appeal from his environmental encyclical, “Laudato Si’: on Care for Our Common Home,” that people collaboratively work toward “countering the dramatic consequences of environmental degradation in the life of the poorest and the excluded.”

“The entire mining sector is undoubtedly required to effect a radical paradigm change to improve the situation in many countries,” Francis said.

The three-day meeting (July 17-19), titled “A Day of Reflection: United to God We Hear a Cry,” was organized by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. The council, headed by Cardinal Peter Turkson, has been the site of numerous meetings on environmental issues in the lead-up and wake of the encyclical’s June 18 publication. In September 2013, the peace and justice council held a similar meeting of representatives of major mining companies, as well as experts in mining from the church, Caritas and Oxfam America.

Turkson told a press conference Friday that the purpose of the latest meeting was to give voice to the people impacted by mining activities and to examine current realities experienced by their communities. A second meeting, focused on “Reimagining the future of mining,” is set for September.

The Ghanaian cardinal said that some of the attendees faced “pressure and intimidation” to prevent their participation at the conference.

“The Pontifical Council has heard testimonies of threats, violence and murder; of retaliation, of compensation never received, and of unkept promises,” he said.

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