GSR Today - In a scenario that plays out across the globe, Sr. Kathleen Melia was attacked outside her convent — violence some suspect was related to Columban sister's work with the Subaanen people in their battle against large-scale mining.
Global Sisters Report is focusing a special series on mining and extractive industries and the women religious who work to limit damage and impact on people and the environment, through advocacy, action and policy. Pope Francis called for the entire mining sector to undergo "a radical paradigm change." Sisters are on the front lines to help effect that change.
When Notre Dame de Namur Sr. Kathleen O'Hagan and St. Joseph Sr. Gretchen Shaffer arrived in Mingo County in 1976, nearly everyone was economically poor. Though four decades have passed since the pastoral letter by the Appalachian bishops, the region's underlying problem has not changed. Standards of living are higher, regulations have made coal mining cleaner, and unions have turned coal mining into safer, well-paying jobs, but the people still have little voice.
Mount Tabor Benedictine Sr. Mary Going is an attorney at the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund of Kentucky in Prestonsburg. These days, she is handling loads of disability cases, which are indicative of an ongoing crisis in eastern Kentucky.
After arriving in West Virginia in 1976, St. Joseph Sr. Gretchen Shaffer co-founded a school for a town that didn't have one. Though retired now, she is still a constant presence in the area, continuing to minister to the powerless.
Sr. Valsa John Malamel, a member of the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary who lived far from her original home and her congregation among the indigenous people in eastern India, was killed five years ago. She was the sole educator in the remote village and a well-known advocate for the people against encroaching coal mining interests.
Loma Miranda is one of the most biodiverse mountains in the Dominican Republic and is known as a "green curtain" that collects humidity from the Caribbean clouds to provide 80 percent of the region's water. It acts as a natural barrier, protecting surrounding communities from cyclones and other natural disasters but is also rich in nickel ore and owned in part by a Canadian mining company. Locals want Loma Miranda to become a national park.
Abraham Núñez avoided dying by just a few steps. "I went in the mine Monday morning and came out later for coffee," Núñez, 36, recalled. "I went back in a half hour later. I heard a hellish noise. I was just going in, and I turned around and ran out." The noise he heard was a landslide that trapped 11 men in a mine in this mountainous area in July 2014. Eight of the miners died. The mine closed, but Núñez went back to work at another mine the next day.
Read also: Legacy of mining operation lingers in Honduras long after closure
The San Martin mine in the Valle de Siria region of south central Honduras, 90 miles north of the capital city of Tegucigalpa, has been closed since 2009. But its impact on local communities, people living in the area say, continues to this day. "The San Martin mine is a clear example of the environmental damage and the consequences for human health from mining," said anti-mining activist Pedro Landa.
Environmental activist Pedro Landa knew fellow activist Berta Isabel Cáceres for 20 years. They had walked together for so many years and were like family. The assassination of Cáceres on March 2 shocked all of Honduras, but it sent a specific message to environmental activists: Even internationally renowned environmental activists are unsafe in Honduras.
Community opposition succeeded in shutting down mines in Nueva Esperanza in northern Honduras and El Tránsito far to the south near the border of Nicaragua. But to many people in these two small towns the closings serve only as a pyrrhic victory. For now, the armed guards that circled the mines are gone. But gone, too, are the jobs the mines provided. In their place is a lingering loss of trust among residents in these agricultural communities and a continuing fear that this is just a temporary respite before the mines in both towns reopen.
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