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At the recent World Social Forum, ecumenical voices warned about the grave consequences of extraction of natural resources and mining, which they say generate a tremendous amount of social and ecological debt.

These concerns emerged in a World Council of Churches (WCC) workshop at the World Social Forum held in Tunis, Tunisia, from 26 to 30 March.

The workshop titled “From eco-debt to eco-justice: mining, reparations and defending the global commons” engaged representatives of ecumenical organizations and civil society.

At the event, Nicolas Sersiron from the Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt in France explored links between financial debt and extractivism.

“The debt is forcing countries in the South, and more recently and increasingly in the North, to pursue an ecologically destructive development path based on the extraction and exploitation of natural resources,” said Sersiron.

Brazilian activist Fr. Dario Bossi pointed out that people in resource rich communities are made to believe that mining is the only way to survive.

Bossi who works for Justiça nos Trilhos (Justice on the Rails) and the International Network of People Affected by Vale Mining, highlighted the impact of mining. “Despite that mining brings about terrible ecological costs such as deforestation, contamination of water sources, air pollution and climate change, it continues to take place,” he said.

He noted that states have increasingly failed to protect the rights of people and nature.

The participants also called on churches to deepen community organization, research and engage in advocacy on issues related to mining in their countries and regions.

Carmencita Karagdag, coordinator of the Peace for Life highlighted the criminalization of people’s movements protecting ecology in the Philippines.

“In the last two years alone, nine ecological defenders, including indigenous leaders and church workers, have been killed for their resistance against large-scale mining,” said Karagdag.

The discussions stressed that reparations for ecological debt for mining cannot be reduced to monetary compensation, as it often involves human right violations.

An assembly of civil society organizations and peoples’ movements focusing on the issues related to mining and extractivism was held at the forum. The WCC’s consultant Athena Peralta of the Poverty, Wealth and Ecology project was one of the speakers at the assembly. In her presentation, she addressed the issues related to socio-economic inequalities and militarisation of mining zones.

“Both mining and extractive activities, accompanied by heightened militarism and myriad ecological consequences have a disproportionately heavy cost on people, especially on women in the communities,” Peralta pointed out.

As a joint action, the assembly agreed to hold a Global Day of Action against mining and extractivism, tentatively set on 19 October.

Website of the World Social Forum 2013

WCC’s work on Poverty, Wealth and Ecology