Mining chiefs seek the Pope’s blessing – by James Wilson (Financial Times – September 18, 2015)

If the mining industry wants to try to get something done these days, there is a new door to knock on: the Pope’s.

A clutch of mining leaders, including the chief executives of Rio Tinto and Anglo American, will hold talks in Rome with Vatican officials this weekend in an attempt to spread more understanding of their often controversial industry.

As well as being under severe financial pressure as commodity prices slide, resource companies are also facing mounting public hostility amid concerns about climate change and the potential environmental damage caused by mining.

This can make it riskier and more expensive for the industry to develop projects, particularly as the global quest for new mineral deposits takes it into previously unexplored regions.

The Vatican may seem an unlikely potential ally, given Pope Francis’s sharply worded encyclical this year, which attacked multinational companies including producers of fossil fuels for damaging the planet.

However, miners hope that forging better links to the Catholic Church, with its substantial influence in many resource-rich countries, could help to assuage concerns over industry practices and reduce the risk of a hostile reception.

Mark Cutifani, chief executive of Anglo American, said: “The Catholic Church is very heavily involved with a number of NGOs that are engaged with the mining industry. This is all about being able to tell our story and getting a fair hearing for the industry.”

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