Charities urge pensioners to challenge mining groups over human rights and environment

 Two charities are today urging people in the UK to call on their pension funds managers to stand up for communities in developing countries whose lives are blighted by irresponsible mining practices. Most pension funds hold shares in mining companies, and pension fund managers can have significant influence over mining companies they hold investments with. Poor mining practices may not only be damaging to local communities and the environment, but can also make for poor investments. The UK is a major centre for the global mining industry with over 130 mining companies listed on the London Stock Exchange including four of the six biggest in the world. The millions of shares held by pension funds give them a strong voice regarding the behaviour of companies - if they care to use it. CAFOD has seen communities forced to leave their villages and their land and water supplies polluted with arsenic and cyanide. Mining projects which put people and the environment at risk are more likely to be disrupted or shut down - a financial risk for i nvestments as well as causing untold damage. The agency has teamed-up with FairPensions, a charity which promotes responsible investment by pension funds and fund mangers, to urge supporters to write to their pension fund, asking what steps they are taking to make sure the mining companies in which they hold shares do not destroy the livelihoods, culture and environments of local people. It is a bitter paradox that mineral-rich developing countries have some of the highest economic growth rates in the world - and the highest poverty rates. CAFOD has seen first hand how mining can threaten the way of life of local communities, small-scale farmers and indigenous people. In the Democratic Republic of Congo riches from mining have been a cause of conflict between rival warring militias. In Honduras the government has found dangerous levels of cyanide in the drinking water of people living close to Goldcorp's San Martin mine. In the Philippines, there have been conflict between communities who have objected to mining on their land and security guards employed to protect the mines. Families have been forced from their homes to make way for mines without warning, including Anna-Gracia*a 51 year-old mother of three, she said "I collapsed when I saw the bulldozers pull my house down. We could not even get out things." CAFOD is calling on mining companies to: respect peoples' rights to have a say about whether, and how, a mine can operate on their land; and eliminate the harmful social and environmental impacts of their operations Rashmi Mistry, Head of Campaigns at CAFOD, said: "There is a growing awareness, through movements like Fairtrade, of how we can make a difference to the lives of people in developing countries through our everyday purchases, but very few people realise this is also true for our pensions. As pension fund members we own stakes in mining companies and we can use this power to speak up against human rights abuses and environmental damage." Duncan Exley, Director of Campaigns at FairPensions, said: "The vast majority of pension funds will have some mining investments, and we would urge them to use their shareholder power to make sure that neither peoples' lives and livelihoods nor their own investments are put at unnecessary risk". Pension fund members are being asked to contact their pension funds to get them to call mining companies to account where concerns exist. Members can send an email direct to their pension scheme by visiting So far 50,000 people have supported CAFOD's Unearth Justice campaign and persuaded high street jewellers to support the call for gold mining companies to raise their standards. * The launch of the new campaign action coincides with the start of CAFOD's Pure Gold? photography exhibition, in central London, at the Oxo Gallery. The exhibition displays powerful images from DRC, Honduras and Philippines about how mining affects communities living near to mines. Visitors will be able to join the campaign at the exhibition. Details: 21 May - 1 June 2008, 11am-6pm daily, Oxo Tower Wharf, Bargehouse Street, London SE1 9PH Admission free, Nearest train/tube: Blackfriars, Southwark, Waterloo. Information 020 7095 5561

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