Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 27, 2006
Canadian mining firms should be socially responsible, says cardinal
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
A Central American cardinal is asking for greater regulation of Canadian mining companies operating abroad so they protect the environment and show greater social responsibility.
"Can we consider ethical the extraction and exploitation of mineral resources, at the expense of other resources, such as fresh water and forests?" wrote Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, in an open letter.
"In short, should political and commercial ends be at the centre of and the driving force of human relations?"
Rodriguez sent the letter to the Montreal Roundtable on the corporate social responsibility of Canadian mining companies.
The Montreal Roundtable Nov. 14-16 is the fourth in a series of discussions on the Canadian mining industry called for by the House of Commons standing committee on foreign affairs and international trade.
Rodriguez wrote that the effort to extract non-renewable resources as cheaply as possible can lead to significant environmental impacts. He called for the development of new technologies that will aid conservation and ecological preservation.
There must be an evaluation of whether the exploitation of natural resources justifies the economic, environmental and social costs that result, he said. Those costs are generally borne by the communities that extract the resources.
Those communities "nearly always live in conditions of greater poverty and vulnerability than those communities and nations for whom they are produced," the cardinal wrote.
Rodriguez also criticized some companies for taking advantage of weak legislation in developing countries and fuelling corruption, social divisions and environmental degradation.
Conflicts are growing between mining companies and the affected communities in various parts of the world, he said. Local communities want stricter regulation and monitoring of the mining companies while the companies want to increase profits and minimize costs.
Such conflicts "are a sign that we can no longer continue to adhere solely to the logic of the business market," he said.
Canadian mining companies operate presently under a voluntary code and under the codes of lending institutions such as the World Bank. But Rodriguez urged a vision of corporate social responsibility that would move beyond volunteerism to regulation by national and international organizations.