Honduran cardinal onside with D&P mining campaign

  • June 23, 2008

{mosimage}QUEBEC CITY - Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga urged Catholics to support a campaign to get the Canadian government to appoint an ombudsperson that would scrutinize domestic mining operations overseas.

At a press conference held at the 49th International Eucharistic Congress June 20, the cardinal/archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, thanked the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace for conducting the campaign.

In May, Development and Peace delivered 190,000 signatures to the Canadian government calling for creation of the ombudsman. To signal his support, the cardinal signed one of the postcards used in the campaign at the press conference.

“I have to thank Development and Peace for its mining campaign,” he said.

Rodriguez described problems in his Central America country of Honduras caused by abusive mining practices. He explained that the country was economically developed through mining efforts by foreign companies, and little was done to prevent environmental degradation.

In recent years, because of the skyrocketing price of gold, Canadian and American mining companies have been developing open pit mines. In one case, cyanide, used in the mining process, got into the local water supply and sickened nearby residents.

Another problem lies in the weakness of the Honduran government when it comes to passing effective laws to control the mining companies. Rodriguez described how the national legislature weakened mining legislation so much that mining companies now only pay a one-per-cent tax to local governments.

“We are for the development of our country, but in a fair way,” he said. It was important to raise this issue in the context of an international congress focusing on the Eucharist because true faith must be lived out by exercising the “preferential option for the poor.”

“We can't just look up toward heaven without considering the poverty around us or the social conditions of the poor,” he added.

The recommendation of the creation of an ombudsman was part of a report by a national roundtable on mining that reported recently. So far Prime Minister Stephen Harper has taken no action on the report's recommendations.

Michael Casey, executive director of Development and Peace, said he expects the government to address the issue in the next session of Parliament.

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