Monday, July 14, 2014

Choluteca bishop on mining disaster

14 July 2014
Communiqué of the bishop of Choluteca

In the wake of the tragedy which occurred on July 2 in an artesanal mine in San Juan Arriba in the municipality of El Corpus, I wish to communicate the following:

I thank God for the miners who managed to emerge healthy and safe from this accident. I also grieve deeply for the disappearance of 8 miners and extend my sincere sympathy to the grieving families. All the People of God pray for them, is in solidarity with them, and wishes them peace and Christian  forbearance in these moments of sorrow in which it has not been possible to find the mortal remains of their beloved and give them a Christian burial.

In my opinion, I believe that these deeds merit a more profound reflection.
It came to public light that between 4,000 and 5,000 people in the zone have work related with mining; thus they seek to sustain their families. Apart from mining, there are very few sources of work there. Since it is a mountainous zone, agriculture is not very profitable. The people feel obliged to risk their lives in the mine, for a salary which varies between 200 and 300 lempiras a day ($10-$15) Instead of emigrating or going into crime, these mine workers are humble people who earn their livelihood in an honest manner and for this they deserve our respect. It is urgent that the government and the private business sector promote other sources of work in this zone.

Last year, two miners lost their lives, buried in the same mine. At that time the authorities suspended the permit for the mine to function. Nevertheless, it continued operating illegally, with the consequences that we now see.  From this day forward, the mining authority has to keep watch for compliance with the measures it orders.  In addition, it has to watch for the protection and security of workers in the mine, exercising a better control over artisanal mines.

The new Mining Law does not have a prevision for the case of artisanal mines. The national Congress has to modify that law to assure above all the protection and security of the mine workers.

For the Catholic Church, the human person is the image of God. The person is worth more than all the gold in the world. The dignity of every person ought to be protected and defended. Therefore, the Church also promotes and defends human life in all its forms. Human life is worth more than money. Jesus said, “What is it worth for a human person to gain the whole world is he loses his life? What price will be paid for life? (Matthew 16:26)

It is urgent to have a deep reflection on open pit mines which bring many dire consequences for the communities that live near theses mines, for the health of people and animals, for the water sources and for the environment. God gave us the earth to care for and cultivate (Genesis 2:15), not to destroy it. Before handing over a concession for operating a mine, I ask the mayors of the municipalities in my diocese to carry out the Mining Law, providing for a full and transparent consultation with all the communities which will be affected by this mine.

Finally, I ask God to illumine all of us so that we c]may seek the best manner of developing out country, benefiting all the people and all the communities. We ask this with the intercession of our Mother the Virgin of Suyapa.

+Bishop Guido Charbonneau

Choluteca, Honduras

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The original Spanish can be found here.

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