Fr Herbert Fadriquela, Anglican Chaplain to the Filipino Community in the Diocese of Leicester, reports from the International People’s Conference on Mining, held in the Philippines (posted 2017).
The conference looked at how large-scale mining operations around the world are destroying communities and poisoning the environment, and explored what can be done to stop or limit operations.
Fr Herbert writes:
The Philippines is the fifth most mineralised country in the world in terms. It is next South Africa in terms of gold production, ranks third in copper production, fifth in nickel production, and sixth in chromite deposits.
The Philippines is indeed a very rich country, yet majority of its 100 million population remain economically poor.
The International People’s Conference on Mining drew representatives of mining-affected communities, human rights organisations and other concerned groups and individuals from 29 countries, including a diversity of cultures, faith perspectives, social contexts and political identities.
The aim was to share experiences and lessons learned in the people’s struggle and desire for a better future.
We heard stories from people in six continents about the destructive impact of large-scale metallic and non-metallic mining on the lives of ordinary people, as well as the adverse impacts on national economies, resource bases and ecology.
Self-regenerating capacity of the earth compromised
The week-long gathering affirmed the fact that: ‘The extractive mining industry is the ugly face of our current rapacious global material and energy consumption, which has reached the point where the self-regenerating capacity of the earth’s biosphere is seriously compromised.’
The conference noted that these mining activities are driven by the interests of large capital investors and a greed for profit.
As mining operations expand, the more it creates damages to communities and to the sources of life and livelihoods.
Mining operations also open the doors to discrimination and degrade human dignity.
A participant from Canada said: ‘Inuit women working at the mine site have reported a high incidence of racism from non-Inuit employees and sexual harassment, including rape. The rotational work schedules of concentrated time at the mine site, usually two weeks, has contributed to family breakdown as close knit families are forced to spent long periods apart and children frequently go unsupervised while their parents are working at the mine.’
It’s a myth that mining benefits rural communities
The hype that mining has a beneficial, progressive, economic impact on host countries is not true.
In the Philippines, for example, the direct job creation of the mining industry was only at 197,000 in 2010, which was 0.5 per cent of the county’s total, and the amount of tax collected from mining was only 11 per cent of the theoretical maximum that could be collected.
The contribution of mining to gross domestic product was only 1 per cent and the contribution to exports was 4 per cent. By contrast, the Philippine agriculture’s contribution to gross domestic product was 16.5 per cent, yet the plight of the Philippines’ farmers is often ignored in national policies in preference for mining.
Mining is a bitter pill to sick and worsening Philippine economy.
In the Philippines, community leaders that oppose mining operations are intimidated and harassed or, worse, they become the victims of extra-judicial killings perpetrated by armed groups, allegedly organised, funded and maintained by government security forces.
The conference offered hope
The conference was an opportunity for delegates to learn creative new approaches for addressing the issues of mining.
One report highlighted the significant role of women. It read: ‘Many women have taken leadership roles in defending their lands and communities. They are building and strengthening their organisations and communities, creating spaces for development of their capacities, leading protests and direct actions; asserting women’s voices on negotiations platforms, political and governance processes and are building solidarity across communities and national borders to resist transgressions on their rights.’
The conference offered a chance for delegates to establish new connections and strengthen collective efforts.
To this end, a statement issued by the conference affirmed: ‘Our coming together has brought us hope. Hope that in working separately in our own particular contexts and countries, and together through co-ordinated international actions and solidarity, our collective resistance for the defence of rights, the environment and a common future will bring forth triumph for people over profit, nature over neo-liberal mining policies, and social justice over death and destruction.’
The role of the church
The plunder of God’s Creation for selfish interest in the name of development, defined by profit-driven corporations and the violations of the rights of the communities and people whose life and livelihood depends mainly on the flourishing and fruits of God-given environment, is a reality that the church should be aware of.
The presence of earth-moving equipment and the role of government security forces to ensure unhampered operations in mining communities are signs of war against environment and humanity.
The efforts of the church in the Philippines to help and address the needs of those affected and displaced by mining operations are indicators of a church working with the poor, deprived and oppressed.
These efforts include prayer, participation in mercy missions, the provision of shelter and food to those affected, and support for the right to self-determined development.
‘Let us listen and become their voice’
There are innumerable stories of people and communities affected by mining operations around the world.
These are stories of families losing a father, a mother, a brother, a sister, a child; someone losing a husband, a wife, a loved one, a friend, a pet.
These are stories of someone losing a farm; a community losing a source of water for drinking or farming or for farm-animals.
These are stories of family losing a house; children losing schools and playgrounds; communities losing schools, churches and graveyards.
Those affected by mining operations need people from around the world to hear their sorrow and pain, their cry and their longing for justice and peace.
Let us listen to them and become their voice.