Global Jesuit effort to promote just mining practices
The Jesuits of Africa, Europe and North America are promoting corporate social responsibility in the mining sector of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) through an effective advocacy triangle. The Relational Peace Advocacy Network (RPAN) was born in 2007, comprising the Jesuit Centre of Studies for Social Action (CEPAS) in Kinshasa, the office of Social and International Ministries of the US Jesuit Conference in Washington, and the Jesuit European Social Centre (JESC, formerly the Jesuit European Office –OCIPE) in Brussels. The focus is peace and economic development in the DRC, and specifically the role of extractive industries, which hold significant development potential but paradoxically cause much suffering and death.
Canada is the largest non-African investor in the mining industry of the DRC with an estimated 15 conglomerates operating there. Some Canadian companies, like other multinationals, have been accused of taking the mineral resources of the DRC and of complicity in its civil conflict, often described as a scramble for those resources. In one case, Anvil Mining Ltd is facing legal action in a Montreal court, filed in late 2010 by an association representing Congolese citizens. More than 70 civilians were allegedly killed by Congolese troops when they recaptured the town of Kilwa in 2004; Anvil Mining is accused of providing logistical support to the military, but “denies culpability”.
Chris Albin-Lackey of Human Rights Watch has written about the failure of the Canadian government to regulate the conduct of its “corporate citizens abroad”. In early 2011, he said: “Companies, especially in the extractives sector, need help to operate responsibly in troubled and poorly-governed countries.” Each in their way, the RPAN partners promote corporate social responsibility in the mining industry of the DRC. CEPAS focuses on research, publications and seminars. Fr Ferdinand Muhigirwa SJ, CEPAS Director, participated as observer in an important government review of previously negotiated mining contracts. The advocacy of CEPAS includes: explaining the country’s 2002 Mining Code in simple terms to the public, calling for a standard contract for all mining transactions and the publication of contracts.
There is progress: the Congolese government has announced it will publish natural resource contracts within 60 days of their coming into effect.
The US Jesuit Conference and OCIPE build on the work of CEPAS by conducting research and raising awareness; lobbying for just laws at home; linking Jesuits from the DRC with NGOs, with international agencies such as the World Bank, with the US State Department, with European politicians, and with multinationals trying to secure “clean” minerals for their products. They also advocate for the wellbeing of communities near mining areas in the DRC.
One such area in Lubumbashi houses the world’s largest cobalt smelter, mostly owned by OM Group, one of two publicly owned US-based companies that have operations in the DRC. “US Jesuit provinces purchased shares in OM Group and we’ve been trying to work with the company to develop a human rights policy,” said John Kleiderer, who until recently was Policy Director of the US Jesuit Conference. The other US-based company, Freeport McMoRan, controls Tenke Fungurume Mining (TFM), the world’s largest copper concession just outside Lubumbashi. “The company has had to relocate some people but they are making a good-faith effort to act responsibly,” continued John. “Together with other faith-based investors, we met this company regularly to discuss community development initiatives, security concerns and related issues.” The Toronto-based Lundin Mining Corp. has a stake in TFM.
At European Union (EU) level, RPAN advocates with others for corporate social responsibility; transparency in Member States’ access to and management of natural resources; coherence between EU trade and development policies. The RPAN project manager, Emmanuelle Devuyst, is based at OCIPE. She visits the DRC regularly, conducting field research on mining companies in the mineral-rich Katanga Province.
John described RPAN as a “great partnership, the Society of Jesus really making use of its presence and resources across the world.” Emmanuelle agreed: “RPAN reflects the good side of globalisation. We can make things better by working together.”