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Welcome to the first newsletter of the Governance of Natural and Mineral Resources (GNMR) Network. The GNMR Network is a Global Ignatian Advocacy Network, and aims to ensure that issues of equity and sustainability are addressed in mining activity throughout the world.

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GNMR Update

Communicating the GNMR Story
GNMR Update is designed to bring you up to date with the work of the GNMR network, and with relevant events and news concerning the governance of resources. GNMR Update will be issued 4 times a year. Contributions are welcome - please contact Carolyn Ryan at carolyn.ryan@jss.org.au.

 

What is the GNMR Network?
 

The GNMR Network is a network of Jesuit organisations and individuals working to address issues of equity and sustainability in the governance of natural and mineral resources. With a particular focus on supporting communities affected by mining, the Network is one of five global Ignatian advocacy networks that were established after the General Congregation held at the beginning of 2008 (GC35).

At GC35, an important addition to ‘faith doing justice’ was the focus on ‘reconciliation with creation.’  This has been referred to as being in right relationship with God (faith), with each other (justice), and with our environment (reconciliation with creation).  Also at GC35, the reality that the Society of Jesus is ‘one body with a universal mission’ was stressed.

Following this call of GC35, the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat convened an Ignatian Advocacy Workshop in El Escorial, Spain, in October 2008 to focus on international advocacy.  A paper outlining the nature of Ignatian advocacy was developed out of that meeting.  Also coming out of that forum was the naming of the five global advocacy priorities: Peace and Human Rights, Education, Migration, Ecology, and Governance of Natural and Mineral Resources.  All Conferences and Provinces were asked to commit to these priorities as appropriate.

Across the Jesuit world, compared with other priorities (such as education and migration), efforts by Jesuits to influence the governance of natural and mineral resources have been less consistently and systematically developed to date. However, there are pockets of excellent work and the GNMR Network is building upon expertise already existing in individual Conferences. This includes strong grass roots engagement with local people and communities and also deep knowledge of the pertinent issues in many countries across the world. This leaves the GNMR Network well-placed to expand Jesuit activities in this area, while the emergence of a more global commitment to the issues increases the likelihood of success in our efforts to influence.

Meeting of GIAN Leaders in Rome - May 2014
GNMR Network leader Julie Edwards attended a meeting of the leaders of the five Global Ignatian Advocacy Networks in May. The five GIAN Networks focus on Ecology, Right to Education, Governance of Natural and Mineral Resources (GNMR), Migration, and Peace and Human Rights. During the meeting, which was also attended by Social Co-ordinators from the Conferences, the GIAN leaders shared their progress and future plans, and considered opportunities to promote collaboration and communication amongst Jesuits. Julie is pictured below meeting with Father General Adolfo Nicolas, Superior General of the Society of Jesus.

 

One of the outcomes of the meeting was a commitment to more actively involve social apostolate coordinators in the development of the Network. Communication and networking is important as we seek to grow the Network membership. It is also essential in ensuring that cases of poor governance of resources that affect communities where there is a Jesuit presence are quickly brought to the attention of the Core Group.
The three current priorities of the GNMR Network are to:

1. build the network - identify, engage and communicate with key people and institutions and demonstrate the value of the network.

2. communicate with broader Jesuit networks making the issue relevant and accessible
3. secure resources to progress the goals of the Network.

GNMR Network: Call for Members

The GNMR Core Group is keen to hear from those within the Jesuit community who are actively involved in addressing issues of equity and sustainability in the exploitation of natural and mineral resources or have an interest in increasing their involvement through membership of the GNMR Network. It is anticipated that some Network members may be more active than others, depending on time capacity and expertise. What is important is that the Network has the broadest geographic coverage possible to best enable it to achieve its goals. It is envisaged that members will generally participate as representative of organisations, and it is hoped to engage as many organisations as possible.
 
Network members will play a key role in linking the Core Group with individuals and communities in need of support in relation to GNMR issues. Network members will:
 

  • share information with the Core Group on GNMR-related matters from their region (For example, a Network member may bring a particular case of inequity in a mining project to the attention of the Core Group, which will then work to assist the affected community);
and
 
  • disseminate relevant information from the Core Group amongst local communities and contacts.

 
If you are aware of anyone who may be interested in joining the Network, please share this newsletter and ask them to contact Julie Edwards at julie.edwards@jss.org.au, or a Core Group member in their region. Current Core Group members are:  Asia Pacific: Julie Edwards; Europe: Alicia Alemán (a.aleman@alboan.org); Canada: Kirsti Tasala (ktasala@jesuits.ca); Latin America and Caribbean: Sergio Coronado (sergioandrescoronado@gmail.com); US: Fernando Serrano (serranof@slu.edu); Africa: Ferdinand Muhigirwa (muhigirwafsj@gmail.com); South Asia: TBA (there is currently no Conference representative, but Xavier Jeyeraj’s involvement (sjes-ast@sjcuria.org) provides a perspective from this region until a Conference representative is appointed).
 
 

The GNMR Core Group (pictured above) met last December in Loyola to consider future steps for the GNMR Network. The group developed a Global Action Plan based on the following goals:
 
 

  1. Raise awareness among Jesuits, partners and the communities we serve, of the importance of good governance and management of natural and mineral resources and sustainable lifestyles
     
  2. Build capacity among Jesuits, partners and the communities we serve, to enable them to understand, address and provide leadership in matters regarding the governance of natural and mineral resources.
     
  3. Support and advocate with and for people and communities affected by mining.

Initially, the GNMR Network will focus on the extractive industries (ie mining rather than, for example, timber logging), and a number of specific advocacy projects have already been identified. For example, the Environmental Justice for Central America project aims to build local capacity to undertake environmental health monitoring, community education, and effective advocacy in the Caribbean, especially Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic. The Conflict Minerals project focuses on advocacy regarding conflict minerals, as well as research and education.
 
Funding is currently being sought to support implementation of the Global Action Plan.

 
 

In keeping with its goal to raise awareness amongst Jesuits of the importance of good governance of resources, the GNMR Network is collaborating with www.ecojesuit.com. A number of GNMR-related articles will be published on the ecojes site over the coming months to highlight particular issues. The following article about the impact of mining in Honduras is written by GNMR core group member Kirsti Tasala and also appears on www.ecojesuit.com.

Understanding the impact of mining in La Nueva Esperanza, Honduras

June 15, 2014
Tropical forest in Honduras. Photo credit: worldlandtrust.org

Tropical forest in Honduras. Photo credit: worldlandtrust.org

Kirsti Tasala

Honduras in Central America is a country of rich history, breathtaking geography, and generous people. But it is also a country struggling to deal with violence and where death threats are often carried out with impunity. The reasons for the violence are incredibly complex, but one issue that is increasingly connected to conflicts is mineral resource extraction. Honduras has substantial deposits of gold, silver, zinc, lead, iron, ore, and antimony, and in 2011, mining exports generated US$ 206.5 million according to the National Metals Mining Association of Honduras.

In September 2013, a small group representing Jesuit apostolates in Canada and the US visited Honduras. The delegation was organized by the US Jesuit Conference and hosted by Fr Ismael “Melo” Moreno Coto, SJ, director of Radio Progreso and Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación, a Jesuit-run community radio station and social research centre in Honduras. The visiting group included Jesuits and lay collaborators, including two members of the Governance of Natural and Mineral Resources (GNMR) network, one of the Global Ignatian Advocacy Network’s (GIAN) priority areas.

Fr Ismael “Melo” Moreno Coto, SJ, director of Radio Progreso who hosted the delegation

Fr Ismael “Melo” Moreno Coto, SJ, director of Radio Progreso who hosted the delegation

The visit lasted nine days, and what we heard and saw during this time was unsettling, confusing, and tragic. The purpose of the visit was to learn more about the social and political reality of Honduras, the response of the Church to current challenges, the role of international relationships, and how we can be in solidarity with the Jesuits in Honduras and the people they serve.

As a representative of Canadian Jesuits International, a Canadian apostolate, I was particularly interested in the impact of the new mining law, passed and ratified by the Honduran Congress in early 2013, and developed with the support of the Canadian International Development Agency.

Referred to as the General Mining Law, this new mining law was passed and ratified on 26 January 2013, ending the moratorium on mining permits since 2006 that former President Manuel Zelaya signed and who canceled all future mining concessions at that time. Zelaya proposed a bill to the Honduran Congress on May 2009 that included a ban on open-pit mining, the use of cyanide and mercury, and requiring community consent for any mining license or concession, among others. The coup in June 2009 stopped the legislative process for this proposed bill.

This new law was met with continued opposition as new mining concessions and exploration of mining areas for development were undertaken under a new legislative framework. We also heard that those who oppose encroachment on their land are often threatened and criminalized.

During our visit we met with people from various sectors of society, those struggling directly to defend their land against infringement, and others accompanying and supporting them in their fight.

We met with community members from La Nueva Esperanza, a village in Tela municipality, department of La Atlántida, who have been fighting to protect their land from mining development for over 12 years. They fear the same environmental destruction and health problems that have affected other communities.

One community member told us, “Life is hard now, kids can’t go to class and the teacher is harassed. No one can live peacefully because when employees of the mining company enter the community, people run into the hills away from their homes due to fear. The community is also divided.” Enrique, an older community member, said he was shot at during a community meeting about the proposed mine. He doesn’t want the mine and is concerned about negative environmental consequences. “There have already been dead fish found in the river, and it is flowing in three different colours. The deforestation (trees were cut in preparation for the mine) has already caused problems.” Enrique fears more fish will die and the water will become polluted if the mine is built. For generations the community has depended on the nearby Leon River and the surrounding land, and they want to protect it.

The presence of authorities recently increased in La Nueva Esperanza, but rather than assuring protection, community members feel terrorized. Those who tried to accompany and support the community were also threatened. Two international observers were abducted for several hours because they were accompanying a woman in the community who does not want to sell her land. In addition, a local priest and lay person supporting the community received death threats.

One person who is speaking out against the onslaught of new mining projects is Bishop Michael Lenihan, OFM of La Ceiba, Honduras. The delegation met with Bishop Lenihan one afternoon and he shared their group’s activities. On 1 June 2013, the La Ceiba diocesan assembly met and agreed that the mining industry presents serious problems to the whole region.

The Statement by the Diocese of La Ceiba was released on 26 June 2013 expressing their concerns on the mining activities in the department of La Atlántida. In a conversation with Luke Hansen, SJ, editor of America magazine and a delegation member, Bishop Michael Lenihan, OFM of the Diocese of La Ceiba and one of the signatories to the statement, shared his thoughts.

Following are excerpts from the conversation that appeared in the 10 February 2014 issue of America in the article titled Mining justice: Defending the environment and stopping violence in Honduras :

Luke Hansen: What can you tell us about the expansion of mining interests in Honduras?

Bishop Michael Lenihan: The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace recently published a document on the love of creation and the need to protect mother earth and not to abuse and exploit it. There has to be dialogue and respect for the people. In this region there has not been any respect or dialogue with the people. Armed people pressure the landowners to sell their land. That is the big problem here.

We entered into dialogue with some of the miners in La Atlántida. We brought the community together and had two meetings, but we did not succeed in stopping a prominent miner in the region. At one stage, he told us that if he could not win peacefully, he would bring people to help him enter by force. He said that to us privately at the meeting, but I think it is publicly known now. There is a lot of tension in the area. It is a very difficult situation. We have spoken with the people and tried to show solidarity with them. At times, in the face of the machinery of the state, it is hard to succeed and convince them not to exploit the land.

Luke Hansen: How did the diocesan statement about mining come about? Have you had any positive response from the average Catholic about this?

Bishop Michael Lenihan: The letter [statement] came after a lot of debate. We let the ideas mature. We took out certain things, added certain things, and in the end we felt it was the right moment to publish something. We decided that we will do something to support Father César [Espinoza] and denounce what we believe is unjust and support the people and be a sign of solidarity to the people who are suffering in the midst of that.

Overall, the response was quite positive and a lot of people congratulated us on the letter. One of the bishops down in Choluteca said he had a meeting with antimining groups, and he used some of our thoughts and reflections to speak to the people. The politicians, however, would be negative because they do not want the church getting involved on that level. There have not been threats to our lives or anything because I believe it was very balanced, very much based in the Gospel, church teaching and the Franciscan charism of love for creation.”

A related article by Luke Hansen, Down to Earth: A struggle over land and power in Honduras, was published last February 2014.

Since returning to our respective homes, the delegation members stayed connected to the work of the Jesuits and their partners in Honduras. One outcome is the development of an advocacy project on Mining & Environmental Justice for Central America. This advocacy project addresses the goals of the GNMR network, “to support and advocate with and for people and communities affected by mining.” The project will specifically aim to raise awareness and build local capacity to undertake environmental health monitoring, community education, and effective advocacy in Central America and the Caribbean, especially in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic. The project will be led by the US Conference and carried out over the coming years.

Kirsti Tasala

Kirsti Tasala

Kirsti Tasala is the Youth and Outreach Coordinator at Canadian Jesuits International. Previously, Kirsti worked with non-profit organizations in community development and education in Canada and other countries. Kirsti also lived and worked as a volunteer in Costa Rica, Kenya, England, and Japan.


 

RESEARCH GRANT - MINING, DEVELOPMENT AND JUSTICE IN HONDURAS
A Community-based Initiative for Education and Advocacy
 
Core Group member Dr Fernando Serrano says the receipt of a $10,000 research grant towards a community-based initiative for education and advocacy will assist many in Honduras who are directly affected by mining activities. The project, funded by a social analysis and action research grant from the US Conference, will work to generate rigorous and reliable evidence on the impact of mining and extractive activities. This in turn will inform and support organizational, educational and advocacy initiatives in Honduras, the US, and Canada.

A Saint Louis University research team led by Dr Serrano will work with the ERIC (Equipo de Reflexion, Investigation y Comunicacion), a Jesuit research, education and advocacy organization in Honduras, to develop community-based tools for water quality assessment, and will collect data on environmental health impacts and human rights issues related to extractive industries especially mining.

The target areas include three communities in northern Honduras: Valle del Aguán in the Colón Department, Arizona in the Atlántida Department, and the Tolupán indigenous area of Locomapa in the Yoro Department.
 
A report for the community and local organizations, and a policy brief for advocacy purposes will be completed at the end of the project.

 

 

Community Rallies Against Coal Project in Karanpura Valley

The Karanpura Valley in India is home to over 200 villages. It is also rich in coal. The following article is sourced from spokespersons of Janum Bhumi Raksha Samiti and Karanpura Bachao Samiti community groups in the valley:



It is easy to feel overwhelmed when standing up to large corporations in opposition to their activities. The stark power imbalance, the anonymous corporate facade and the financial might of companies focussed firmly on profit can all work to discourage local community members from objecting to inequities flowing from an entity’s operations.

Despite the challenges, residents of India’s Karanpura Valley have consistently rallied against a coal mining project that threatened their livelihoods and their traditional connection with the land.

In May this year they reacted with delight to news of the collapse of the project, after leaseholder and power generation company NTPC announced it was terminating a contract with construction group Thiess Minecs because of a lack of progress at the site. Thiess Minecs was awarded the contract in 2010 to build and operate an open-cast coal mine at Pakri Barwadih in the valley.

“It is good” said one local. “They make promises of development, but nobody believes them.  What development? They give us money and tell us go away. Go where?”

The Karanpura Valley is rich in coal, accounting for more than a quarter of India’s reserves. As highlighted in a previous Ecojesuit article, more than 100,000 hectares of land have been allocated for mines and supporting infrastructure. That land is home to over 200 villages, including Pakri Barwadih, and includes vast tracts of rich agricultural land that face disastrous degradation if coal mining proceeds.

Stung by the fallout from past exploitation of coal resources, community opposition to the Pakri Barwadih project was strong. Locals claim their dissent was met with intimidation and violence, and that company efforts to purchase their land were tainted by misinformation and a failure to meaningfully take concerns into account. They also believe proposed rehabilitation plans were wholly inadequate to cover loss of livelihood, particularly for indigenous farmers.

The companies may reject some of these claims, but it is clear there has been a lack of successful community engagement on the project, and that the protests of the local people made it difficult for contractors to make progress on the mine.
The battle is not over yet, with the prospect that another company may later enter the picture where Thiess has exited. But companies would do well to heed the lessons in corporate social responsibility that flow from this example, as the local people are unlikely to stand aside should there be future efforts to uproot them from their homeland.


 

GNMR MAILBOX:
Feedback, Suggestions and Contributions


We would love to hear from you if you have any feedback, suggestions or contributions for the GNMR Update. Please contact Carolyn.ryan@jss.org.au or one of the Core Group members listed elsewhere in this newsletter. Please also share this newsletter with your colleagues and contacts with an interest in this subject.

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