London Mining Network’s latest report, ‘Martial Mining’, highlights the links between mining, the international arms trade, and warfare. From the minerals needed to produce weapons to the military force needed to secure and police mines themselves, the report spotlights large-scale mining as a militarised process.
At an inline event, hosted by the London Mining Network on 6 November, researcher and author of the report Daniel Selwyn presented the key findings. There was also a panel talk with other campaigners working on the arms trade and environment. Around 50 people joined in, some of them Catholic religious – including the Columbans – who are members of the London Mining Network and who have had experience of the destruction of large-scale mining in countries such as Philippines and Indonesia. The date was the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict.
The destruction of the large-scale extractive industries has long been a key issue for Columban Justice, Peace and Ecology work. For several decades from 1987, Columban priests and sisters supported peaceful anti-mining protests on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. In fact, the whole Catholic Church in Zamboanga Del Sur province declared its full support of picketing to prevent mineral exploration as a prelude to mining. The priests, sisters and laity of the diocese of Pagadian, which covers the entire mineral-rich Zamboanga del Sur region, described the effort to prevent the possible wide-scale destruction of the Pinukis mountain range as “a laudable display of stewardship of God’s creation”. They regularly experienced intimidation and violence, and several protestors were murdered.
Though humanity has always counted its war casualties in terms of dead and wounded soldiers and civilians, destroyed cities and livelihoods, the environment has often remained the unpublicised victim of war. Water wells have been polluted, crops torched, forests cut down, soils poisoned, and animals killed to gain military advantage. Furthermore, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has found that over the last 60 years, at least 40 percent of all internal conflicts have been linked to the exploitation of natural resources, whether timber, diamonds, gold and oil, or fertile land and water.
Selwyn reported that huge mining corporations are big consumers of raw materials. All the world’s nuclear weapons are rooted in mining, with Rio Tinto, for example, producing raw materials from Africa linked to Britain developing nuclear weapons. BHP Billiton led a coalition to produce Australian weapons for WW1. Anglo American is another corporation rooted in the colonial past.
Destruction of land, water and life has been resisted from the start by local communities, such as Glencore’s plunder of Congo’s cobalt, and Rio Tinto titanium mining in Madagascar. Profits come back to London-based or London-financed mining companies, with little benefit to local peoples.