Since 2010 the church has officially registered its ownership of 585,000 acres of underground resources. Thousands of people have received letters warning that they do not own potentially valuable deposits under their land.

In most cases, the church has laid claim to deposits beneath land that it used to own but is now held privately. It has also exploited ancient property laws allowing it to claim the minerals beneath land that it owned under the feudal system. This gives the church the right to cash in on any profits from the extraction of stone, metals and other minerals in the earth, though it may have to compensate the surface landowners for access.

Two months ago the church’s investment bodies produced a report that concluded that there was no Christian reason to object to the extraction of underground resources as long as the environment and local communities were protected. Last year the church said that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to remove shale gas “could be morally acceptable”.

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