Alicia Aleman Arrastio
Justice in Mining is an international advocacy network inspired by Ignatian spirituality and works to protect human rights and the environment, seeking to ensure that mining only occurs where issues of equity and sustainability are addressed. In Bonn, we were asked to reflect on how to move beyond the current deadlock.
By deadlock we mean that the mining industry, governments, and lifestyles are not changing fast enough to ensure an effective transition that addresses the double ecological and social justice crisis emphasized by Pope Francis in Laudato Si’.
Justice in Mining believes there are two big avenues to move beyond this deadlock: i) change in structures, ii) change in cultures.
The two are intimately related and it will not be possible to change the laws, regulations, and practices of mining industries without a change in mentality, lifestyle, and political behavior of people and the wider public opinion. Political and social advocacy needs to take both avenues simultaneously.
The change sought is multidimensional. In changing structures, a careful consideration of political opportunities and an overall strategy to prioritize issues and processes in advocacy is necessary. In terms of changes sought in broader society, the aim is to overturn the mainstream throwaway culture and the technocratic paradigm and cultivate a more meaningful culture that is centered on deeper values.
The mining industry is complex and diverse. It is also powerful in terms of political influence and, increasingly, military and paramilitary influence. Throughout the years, existing great differences were learned when doing political advocacy around a big coal mining operation in Colombia, India, or Australia, or when confronting artisanal mining of gold, diamonds, or the 3Ts (tin, tungsten, tantalum).
There are mining sites where a long history of opposition, protest, and international solidarity has developed, whereas there are other sites where mining is just starting, and there is little knowledge regarding the operation and the possible impacts of extraction for local populations. Political advocacy needs to adjust to these different realities.
Advocacy in mining industries has accumulated a rather long trajectory in the last 20 years. Several non-government organizations, civil society organizations, social movements, and church-based groups are involved in advocacy projects regarding extractive industries. As a result of this trajectory, many lessons are learned, new alliances and networks are formed, and risks and opportunities detected.
Justice in Mining wants to address three major lessons to help in moving the deadlock.
The first is to understand the power dynamics involved in the extractive sector. For that, careful research and deep engagement with the local context is a must.
The second is the need for “customized” international support and deep accompaniment of those working on the ground. The needs of activists and grassroots groups as they engage in a mining project cannot be planned in advance and fit into a logical framework matrix. Deep accompaniment means being with the other for the good and the bad, in times of hope and despair.
Where democracy weakens and civil society space shrinks, it is expected that networks such as Justice in Mining and many churches become both a refuge of activists and a voice for peace and political participation, and this is happening in places like Honduras or the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The third lesson is the need to carefully select political advocacy processes that connect the local and the global, and contribute to build better conditions for a structural change in the mining governance.
As a result of previous experiences, two main paths were identified where a positive contribution can be made in the coming years: i) support for a UN treaty on Human Rights and Business, and ii) divestment and ethical investment initiatives.
As these lessons are put into practice and all our resorts and Magis activated for political advocacy, Justice in Mining is deeply conscious of the need to change the mainstream throwaway culture and overturn the democratic paradigm.
This translates into the simple and powerful message expressed in Laudato Si’: live wisely, think deeply and love with generosity.
Alicia Aleman Arrastio is a member of the core leadership group of Justice in Mining and serves as the representative in Europe. She joined the Ecojesuit gathering in Bonn.