CAFOD purporting to speak on behalf of gold-mining communities

CAFOD, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, has a new campaign called Unearth Justice, which is aimed at the gold mining industry.
The slogans of the campaign are:

  • “Gold mining is one of the world’s dirtiest industries”
  • “It can damage communities and the environment”
  • “Join our call to stop undermining the poor”
    The campaign has petitions that can be signed and handed in at jewellery shops, “calling on them as a major gold retailer, to act to ensure the highest social and environmental standards in sourcing their gold.”
    My concerns about this campaign:

  • It will convince a good portion of ‘ethically minded’ buyers not to buy gold at all. After all, how could they possibly follow up on whether the gold mining industries worldwide have cleaned up their acts?
  • It seems that CAFOD did not have any dialogue with those who actually represent ‘the poor’ involved in gold mining in the developing world (such as mine workers’ unions). There is no evidence to this effect on their web site, but if they answer me, I will publish it here.
  • If CAFOD did not have any such dialogue, it looks like they are only pretending to act on behalf of the poor in gold mining communities, and in fact have no such mandate.
  • It is unlikely that gold miners’ unions would agree with CAFOD’s campaign.
  • CAFOD’s mandate is development, not environment. Bringing the environmental issue into this shows they know their claim to act for development and on behalf of the poor on this issue needs supplementing.

    The environmental concerns are valid, but it seems questionable that a British NGO should target a polluting industry in the developing world when so much more pollution are caused by industry in rich Western countries such as Britain.
    In fact, the wealth created by industry since the Industrial Revolution is what enabled Britain to be rich enough to to have people whose full-time concern is the environment..
    Environmental concerns were not a primary issue during the time Britain became wealthy, and while developing countries should take every reasonable measure to limit pollution, ultimately Western countries cannot expect the developing world to remain poor for the sake of Western environmentalists whose wealthy countries were built on centuries of pollution.

    This seems to be another example of a self-serving Western NGO, whose main concern are their own jobs. They only seem to need the next narrative that will release funds from ‘ethically minded’ British people, and don’t seem to care about how many jobs in developing countries they might destroy in the process.

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