Countries struggling with debt are increasingly looking to the extraction of natural resources to balance their books at the risk of damaging the environment, a church-run gathering has heard.
Concerns were raised about the negative consequences of mining and extraction at a World Council of Churches (WCC) workshop held at the World Social Forum held in Tunis, Tunisia, at the end of last month.
Nicolas Sersiron from the Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt in France said: "The [financial] debt is forcing countries in the South, and more recently and increasingly in the North, to pursue an ecologically destructive development path based on the extraction and exploitation of natural resources."
The workshop heard how mining and extraction are also generating social and ecological debt.
Brazilian activist Fr Dario Bossi said people in resource rich communities were led to believe mining is the only way to survive, despite the "terrible" ecological costs like deforestation, contamination of water sources, air pollution and climate change.
The workshop heard about human rights violations in communities where mining takes place and among those who oppose it.
Carmencita Karagdag, coordinator of Peace for Life, said nine environmental campaigners, including indigenous leaders and church workers, had been killed in the Philippines in the last two years for speaking out against large-scale mining.
The WCC's consultant, Athena Peralta of the Poverty, Wealth and Ecology project, gave a presentation in which she shed further light on the human cost of mining.
"Both mining and extractive activities, accompanied by heightened militarism and myriad ecological consequences have a disproportionately heavy cost on people, especially on women in the communities," she said.
Churches were challenged to work together on research and advocacy against unethical mining practices.
A Global Day of Action against mining and extractivism was tentatively set by those present for 19 October.