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.