22/03/2022.- The cry of the earth and the cry of the poor in the face of the devastation caused by mining will be heard from this week onwards in Europe through the Latin American Caravan for integral ecology in times of extractivism. It is an initiative organised by the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (CNBB), through the Special Commission for Integral Ecology and Mining (CEEM), and the communities accompanied by the Churches and Mining Network (IyM). The delegation made up of religious leaders, pastoral agents, researchers and activists from Honduras, Colombia, Brazil and Ecuador arrived on 20 March in Frankfurt, Germany, and in the coming days will travel to Austria, Belgium, Italy and Spain until 6 April.
The aim is to raise awareness of the realities affected by large-scale mining projects in Latin America and to promote North-South solidarity and co-responsibility. As the participants in this delegation remind us, the global demand for minerals is leading to the creation of new “sacrifice zones” in which nature’s goods are stripped from the land and local communities see their territories and often their ways of life endangered.
Therefore, in line with the call of Pope Francis in his encyclicals Laudato Si’ and Fratelli Tutti, the purpose of the tour is not only to denounce the realities martyred by mining, but also to seek the fraternal union of European Churches, congregations and Christian communities with the affected communities in the search for peace, justice and care for creation.
On the occasion of the tour, and in the framework of the Mining Divestment Campaign, the Report: Latin American Caravan for Integral Ecology in Times of Extractivism has been published, in which four case studies are addressed:
- The case of Piquiá de Baixo, a neighbourhood in Açailândia, in the State of Maranhão in the northwest of the Brazilian Amazon, where the local community lives surrounded by five large mineral smelters and has been bearing the environmental costs of mining and its damage to community health for more than 30 years.
- The case of Brumadinho, in the state of Minas Gerais, southern Brazil, which recounts the consequences of the VALE S.A. tailings dam breach and the struggle of the families of the 272 fatalities and two missing persons, together with local communities, to gain access to real reparations.
- The threat of mega-mining in southwest Antioquia in Colombia, where the state has formalised important land concessions to mining companies in a territory of the tropical Andes, and these companies are beginning to manoeuvre to divide the communities and begin mining operations.
- Finally, the incursion of mining in the department of Putumayo, in the Colombian Amazon, where mining concessions to exploit gold, copper and silver are endangering the local livelihoods of the indigenous population and generating conflict in ancestral territories between locals and outsiders.
Upcoming events of the caravan:
From 20-22 March, the delegation will travel to several German cities accompanied by MISEREOR and other allied organisations to raise awareness of the Mining Divestment Campaign among investor groups and meet with parliamentarians and Latin American-European solidarity groups.
On 23 March they will arrive in Brussels where, together with CIDSE, they will meet with leaders of the Catholic Church, such as Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, President of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE). Together with CIDSE, COMECE and members of Churches and Mining on 24 March (4:30-6:00pm CET) they will hold a public event with European policy makers to discuss the future European Directive on Sustainable Corporate Governance and Due Diligence. Registration is open at this link.
From 25-29 March, the delegation will pass through Rome to participate in working sessions with the Dicastery for the Service of Integral Human Development and share meetings with the Commission for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (JPIC), which brings together the main Catholic congregations.
They will arrive in Austria on 29 March, and accompanied by DKA, will hold meetings with the Austrian Foreign Ministry, the Austrian Bishops’ Conference and local religious groups to discuss care for creation and integral ecology.
Finally, between 3 and 6 April, they will visit Spain accompanied by the Enlázate for Justice campaign which includes Caritas, Manos Unidas, Justice and Peace, REDES, CONFER and the Spanish Conference of Secular Institutes. Together with the Legal Clinic of the University of Salamanca and the Platform for Responsible Business they will organise a public event on Monday 4 April (10:15-13:30h CET) entitled “Towards a law for the protection of human rights, sustainability and due diligence in transnational business activities”. You can watch the programme here and the online webcast here.
We wish them every success on their tour and a safe journey home.