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Oblates Give Miners A Voice

 Abril Villarreal-Medina
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The Missionary Oblates are expanding their role as advocates for the rights of miners around the world.

Father Seamus Finn, OMI of the U.S. Oblates’ Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Office, participated in a day of reflection on the mining industry sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Mining CEOs, representatives of the Pontifical Council and religious congregations from around the world examined ways mining companies can improve their record on human and environmental responsibilities while also achieving their business objectives.

Father Finn said the day of reflection showed mining executives that their success should not be judged only in monetary terms, but also by the impact their companies are having on the lives of people.

“I now understand better the meaning of a people-directed engagement approach,” said David Noko, Vice President of Sustainability for AngloGold Ashanti, one of the world’s largest gold mining companies.  “I am more empowered to include in my business strategy a new way of engagement founded on solid principles of social good and environmental sustainability.”

Father Finn also attended a dialogue in Lima, Peru on the impact of mining in local communities in Latin America.  He is helping to develop strategies and networks to address the destructive impacts of mining.

“Extractives, mining oil and gas exploration play an important role across the world while also imposing great disruption and damage in local communities and on the environment,” said Fr. Finn.  “The search for a way forward that addresses the most serious of these negative impacts has been taken up by a number of different initiatives.”

Father Gilbeto Pauwels, OMI Director of the Center of Ecology and Andean People in Oruro, Bolivia knows firsthand the devastating effects mining can have on communities.  The Oblates in Bolivia have been fighting against this injustice for more than 50 years.

In 1960 the Oblates started Radio Pio XII to broadcast support for Bolivian tin miners.  The station still broadcasts today despite strong opposition to its message. Father Roberto Durette, OMI has been the Director of Radio Pio XII for nearly 40 years.  Despite having survived several assassination attempts, Fr. Roberto is undeterred in his passionate fight for the rights of the miners.

Father Finn said the day of reflection deepened his awareness of the need to advocate on behalf of miners.  “The roundtable at the Vatican was not just a one-time event,” he said.  “This is an ongoing project.”


Original story & images provided by Mike Viola at Missionary Associates of Mary Immaculate.