In Richard Llewellyn’s novel How Green Was My Valley (1939), the narrator laments the fate of a Victorian Welsh mining community: “How green was my valley that day, too, green and bright in the sun.”
John Ford’s film version is set against the backdrop of an idyllic valley landscape slowly becoming an ugly slag heap that is eventually abandoned. The story chronicles the story of the Morgan family, who lose a son and a father in disasters perpetrated by the neglect of rapacious, absentee mine owners.
Concerns about mining practices have not abated since the novel’s publication.
This week the Church of England’s National Investing Bodies — the Church Commissioners, Church of England Pensions Board, and CBF Church of England Funds — announced a new policy on investing in extractive industries.
The policy sets out what it calls “a distinctively Christian approach to investment in the extractives industries.” It represents two years of theological reflection, site visits, and public consultations.
The key ethical concerns with mining, it says, are not the methods of extraction “but in business conduct including management of risk, the effects of operation on communities and national economies, and operating standards.”
The policy acknowledges contributions mining can make to modern life. But this often comes at a cost: “extractives companies are particularly vulnerable to poor governance and ethical controversy, and harmful, long-lasting impacts on communities and the environment.”
The policy calls on mining companies to pay more attention to human rights, health and safety, concerns about corruption and taxation, and care for the environment.
“This policy provides a clear ethical framework to encourage extractive industries to benefit society and the common good,” said Loretta Minghella, First Church Estates commissioner. “As responsible investors, the Church’s National Investing Bodies are committed to robust engagement with companies in the extractives sector.”
The Rt. Rev. David Walker, Bishop of Manchester and acting chairman of the Church of England Ethical Investment Advisory Group, sounded a similar theme: “Strong returns to support our beneficiaries can go hand in hand with robust and transparent ethical investment policies.”