Mining should be at the service of the entire human community. Mining should be at the service of the human person and not vice versa. Mining should go beyond social responsibility and lead to the integral human development of each and every person and of the entire community

Mining should be at the service of the entire human community. Mining should be at the service of the human person and not vice versa. Mining should go beyond social responsibility and lead to the integral human development of each and every person and of the entire community

A day of reflection starts the conversation

In September 2013, CEOs from some of the world’s leading mining companies, representatives from the Catholic Church, as well as representatives from a number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) congregated for a Day of Reflection in Rome.

The meeting was at the request of the mining industry as many inside the industry had realised that the Catholic Church played an extremely influential role – not only in shaping public opinion about the industry – but also in mobilising around it.

In many localities, particularly in the developing world, NGOs play a prominent and valuable role in representing and defending communities against injustices visited on those communities as a consequence of mining. And very often those NGOs are supported by the Church.

Under the guidance of Cardinal Turkson of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, mining executives could share their knowledge, explain the way they would like to see their industry evolve and also spend time on introspection.

Following on this Day of Reflection, the mining companies hosted visits from members of the Church and representatives from NGOs in Australia, Brazil, Chile, Ghana and South Africa during the course of 2014. In total, 31 people visited seven locations during this period.

A year after the first Day of Reflection, the mining industry also engaged with the Church of England and the Methodist Conference, as well as leadership from other faiths, including the Catholic Church. Representatives from NGOs and other interested parties joined in a second Day of Reflection and introspection.

Importantly, the day focussed on three areas of discussion:

  • The need for transformation. Natural resources are often associated with social, political, and economic strife – sometimes referred to as the ‘resource curse’. Questions revolved around whether there were values and perspectives the industry could draw on to assist in navigating the complexities of this industry in a way that makes it easier to promote the common good
  • Power and resilience, and the balance between the powers of government, industry and civil society
  • Moving towards a sustainable mining industry contributing to the common good. This was essentially a call to action, seeking to answer the question of what will be different in future as a result of these conversations, and how the pursuit of common good can help companies build businesses that are socially and financially sustainable

During a third Day of Reflection hosted at the Vatican in 2015, participants agreed that: “there was sufficient confidence to build something together that was more formal, planned and long term”. The concept of Mining for the Common Good was born out of this. This relationship between mining companies and the churches has been possible because all participants have committed to working for a world in which mining can better serve the common good.

Mining for the Common Good

Churches are often present in communities affected by mining and often provide the main structures in those societies. The MFRI was established to provide support and structure to these conversations. It includes the Church of England and the Methodist Church as members, and it works closely with the Catholic Church. The MFRI is open to engaging with leaders of other faiths.

The overall theme of the conversations has been how to ensure mining can help everyone flourish. The churches often talk about how mining can promote the ‘common good’. However, the concept of the common good resists a precise and comprehensive definition. There is no ‘common good toolkit’ which can be applied to mining or to any other industry. The three churches share an intellectual tradition that values the dignity of the individual, the welfare of communities and care for the environment of our common home.

This can be seen in the Bible, from the book of Genesis onwards. Each person is made in the image of God and should be recognised as such. We are created to be in fellowship, with God, and with each other where we support each other. We are stewards of God’s creation, the basis of our relationship with the earth. In a broad sense, the common good is promoted when these principles and relationships, which have been damaged by sin, are realised in practice.

The Christian worldview centres around the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christians look towards the new creation, the ultimate fulfilment of the common good. The churches can talk interchangeably about the common good and social justice, often depending on the churches’ specific traditions.

Social injustice, such as the harming of communities, is sin and, as with individuals, requires repentance (a change of behaviour) and (hopefully) forgiveness and restoration. Where the interests of individuals, families, society, and social institutions such as businesses, in this and future generations, are brought together, it can generally be said that we are acting in the common good.

When people talk about the common good, this is usually with a belief that benefits can accrue to a society which are more than the sum of their parts. Concepts closely related to the common good include justice (including human rights), inclusivity, participation, development and security, and care for the environment of our common home.

In his Address to participants of the Vatican meeting on ‘Mining and the Common Good’ in 2019, Pope Francis looked at what the common good implied for mining.

In essence the message was:

  • Mining should be at the service of the entire human community
  • Mining should be at the service of the human person and not vice versa
  • Mining should go beyond social responsibility and “lead to the integral human development of each and every person and of the entire community”
  • The implementation of a circular economy needs to be encouraged

The churches participate in and encourage dialogue; identify moral responsibilities, including the personal responsibilities of those involved in mining; and help identify the actions needed to promote development; to “do good and avoid evil”.

The churches are committed to listen and seek to better understand both people in local communities and in the mining industry and they are open to being challenged about their own role and statements about mining.

The churches will often want to exercise their ‘ministry of reconciliation’ to bring people together (and ultimately to encourage people to be reconciled to God), and to speak truth in charity, in the interests of the poorest in society. The language used by churches can sometimes seem very different to the language used in business or politics, even when talking about the same things. Any dialogue with the churches is likely to include elements of (indeed be based on) the message of the Christian gospel and spiritual reflection.

The churches and mining companies are expected to remain in dialogue, in different forums; globally, nationally and at a local level. The MFRI will continue to support faith and mining leaders entering into these conversations to increase understanding of how mining can further the common good through genuine, practical and sustainable change.

South Africa

The South African Day of Courageous Conversation (DoCC) national level programme, started in 2015 and is based on the journey for accomplishment model, in which we must first develop relationship, from which comes possibility, opportunity and finally action and results.

After the 2015 DoCC, mining CEOs committed to three pilot sites for localising some of the concepts discussed at the national level dialogue.

The pilot site around Mogalakwena (Limpopo) has seen great success, by establishing and following key principles of engaging with and through local people; ensuring conversations are honestly bilateral, not simply “information sharing”; avoiding undermining existing structures; establishing independence of the faith leaders; prioritising vulnerable transparency; and being values driven as a primary focus.

The independent faith leadership group have overseen several programmes in Limpopo, based on community led requests. These include the building of an office (ICT) centre and workshop, installation of solar lighting and a large-scale moral regeneration programme, which has seen some significant changes in several key metrics:

  • Low academic performance: improved from 35% to 68%
  • Teenage pregnancy: dropped from 26% to 7%
  • Gender-based violence and bullying: dropped from 38% to 5% and in some schools to zero
  • Absenteeism at schools: improved from 27% to 9%
  • Vandalism and theft: reduced from 71% to 15%
  • Dropout rates: declined from 30% to 7%


In February 2020, the MFRI organised a two-day workshop in Lima, Peru, which bought together faith representatives, representatives of civil society and mining companies. The purpose of the workshop was to create a safe space where faith groups and mining representatives were able to come together, enter into courageous dialogue and generate a collective understanding of the role of the church and the role of the mining industry in serving the common good, as well as sharing ideas on the establishment of an ongoing platform for dialogue in Peru. The MFRI also supports dialogue on the provision of chaplaincy at the mine site.

In 2019, mining company MMG encountered challenges within its resettled community of Fuerabamba (resettled between 2010-2014). During this time, the Catholic Church, through the Episcopal Conference, had a fundamental role as a facilitator and generator of trust between the community and the company.