Aid groups criticise mining industry

Swiss aid organisations have called on the government to ensure that internationally-active companies respect the needs of miners in poor countries.

This content was published on March 10, 2011 minutes and agencies

The demand for buried treasures like gold, diamonds and copper has created a new form of colonialism, as the charities Bread for All, the Swiss Catholic Lenten Fund and Partners pointed out at a media conference in Bern on Thursday.

One in four mobile phones in Switzerland is made with raw materials from Congo, for example.

While mining can be a lucrative business for the operators, the workers often live in severe poverty.

“Ruthless exploitation of natural resources increases the number of hungry people,” said Beat Dietschy, general secretary of Bread for All. He said that this was especially true in a country like Congo, where most of the population lives from agriculture.

Many people stop farming and go to the mines in order to earn quick money, he explained.

The aid groups also criticised the impact on the environment, citing deforestation as well as air and water pollution as consequences of scrupulous mining practices. This in turn leads to hunger.

They have petitioned the Swiss government to demand social responsibility from Swiss firms that are active abroad.

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