Chief executives from some of the leading mining companies in the world including Rio Tinto and Anglo American will be in Rome to meet with Vatican officials to further the Vatican’s understanding of mining.
The need to earn a social license to operate has become a crucial component of mining in the modern world and the Vatican could potentially hold the key the mining industry needs to operate in more areas of the world.
Pope Francis released an encyclical this year that had harsh words for multinational companies, including some in the mining industry which is why the companies want to have a conversation with the Vatican.
The Financial Times reported that Mark Cutifani, chief executive of Anglo American, said: “The Catholic Church is very heavily involved with a number of NGOs that are engaged with the mining industry. This is all about being able to tell our story and getting a fair hearing for the industry.”
Cutifani is the co-chair of KIN Catalyst: Mining Company of the Future, an effort to bring together leaders from the from mining companies, contractors, suppliers, researchers, academics, nonprofits and representatives from indigenous communities including faith-based organizations (ME, Jan. 2015, pp 26.
Resource companies are facing mounting public hostility amid concerns about climate change and the potential environmental damage caused by mining.
This can make it riskier and more expensive for the industry to develop projects, particularly as the global quest for new mineral deposits takes it into previously unexplored regions.
The meeting with the Vatican comes ahead of a key UN conference to try to hammer out agreement on global sustainable development goals. Pope Francis, who starts a high-profile US tour next week, will address the gathering.
It also precedes global climate talks in Paris in December when miners and other fossil fuel producers are likely to come under renewed fire.
The pontiff, who is travelling to Cuba, will not meet miners this weekend. The meeting will instead be hosted by Cardinal Peter Turkson, a Ghanaian cleric who was the lead author of this year’s encyclical.
Contacts between the Vatican and the mining industry developed two years ago into a “day of reflection” with the industry, including many of the chief executives attending this weekend.
A booklet produced for that meeting contained a quotation from the Old Testament Book of Job referring to the Earth’s treasures: “Surely there is a mine for silver, and a place for gold which they refine. Iron is taken out of the earth, and copper is smelted from the ore.”
Anglo and other miners have also taken Catholic leaders to visit mines in South Africa and elsewhere.
Cutifani said: “It is really encouraging. In quite a few places we have members of the clergy coming to us and asking about investment. These are people who are important in their communities and so we need to get them interested in what mining is about.”