Critical Mining For Renewable Energy Linked To Hundreds Of Alleged Human Rights Violations – Inside Climate News

By | June 7, 2023

Over the past twelve years, hundreds of alleged human rights violations have been committed by more than 90 companies that mine minerals vital to the production of clean energy, a UK-based human rights organization said in a report released Wednesday.

The Business and Human Rights Resource Center said the alleged abuses involve global mining of copper, lithium, cobalt, manganese, nickel and zinc, all of which are used in critical renewable technologies such as solar panels, vehicle batteries and windmills.

The abuses, the report concluded, stem from the failure of the United States and other nations to develop adequate environmental and labor safeguards for resource extraction critical to the green energy transition, a key goal of the Inflation Reduction Act. of the Biden administration.

In addition to alleged assaults, child labor, arbitrary arrests and detentions, the database of reports of 510 alleged violations includes environmental crimes involving the pollution of drinking water and other natural resources, and violations of communities’ right to be consulted on projects that concern them.

The report includes allegations against 93 companies operating 172 large-scale mining sites between 2010 and 2022.

Richard Pearshouse, director of Human Rights Watch’s Environment and Human Rights Division, called the report’s findings incredibly worrying and said governments must act quickly before the expected acceleration in demand and need for clean-energy materials.

Pearshouse, which was not involved in the report’s creation but is familiar with its findings, said governments and businesses need to quickly address gaps in human rights and environmental regulations to prevent an escalation of abuses as the transition energy accelerates.

In particular, Pearshouse has targeted existing mining supply chain audit and certification schemes that are voluntary and sometimes led by the mining companies themselves. Human Rights Watch has documented problems with such schemes, whereby companies claim their raw material supplies have not misbehaved. In some cases, you said, auditors are paid by the audited firms.

Such self-control is problematic, Pearshouse said, especially in light of the incentives governments are pouring into sourcing more clean-energy materials.

Here’s where we were particularly concerned, he said. You are seeing an increase in the means to access these critical minerals, but not yet a corresponding increase in ensuring supply chains meet sustainability and human rights standards.

In the United States, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 directs more than $250 billion in new federal spending towards clean energy, including the supply of critical minerals and metals. The legislation is intended to help the United States meet its commitments under the Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius, and ideally less than 1.5 degrees Celsius. above pre-industrial levels.

Incentives from the Inflation Reduction Acts, along with similar legislation being developed in the European Union and elsewhere, are spurring a surge in demand that the International Energy Agency says will need to increase six-fold by 2040 for the world to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050 a key goal to herald the worst impacts of global warming.

On human rights and environmental safeguards, the Biden administration has taken some action, launching an interagency working group to suggest updates to 150-year-old US mining laws and issuing an executive order directing government agencies to review climate , environment, rights and risks of forced labour, among others, in supply chains.

But human rights experts, including Pearshosue, say binding, independent and transparent safeguards on the supply of minerals and metals need to be implemented significantly and expeditiously to cope with the moment.

Caroline Avan, one of the report’s authors, said she and her co-authors were not anti-mining. Responding to climate change is in itself a human rights imperative, she said.

We need to move away from fossil fuels, and that requires minerals to produce renewable technologies, Avan said. There’s no way around this, but that shouldn’t mean we have to mine everywhere without any sort of safeguards.

Avan and his co-authors recommend policy changes, including the enactment of mandatory human rights due diligence laws, which would require companies to identify, prevent and remedy human rights violations. While several non-binding frameworks exist, such as the 2011 United Nations Human Rights Council Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, transnational corporations have remained stubbornly opposed to mandatory legal requirements.

Keep environmental journalism alive

ICN provides free award-winning climate coverage and advertising. We rely on donations from readers like you to keep us going.

Donate now

Human rights defenders also need stronger legal protections, Avan said, citing the reported tally of 133 alleged attacks on people working to protect the rights of individuals and communities.

We’re seeing lawmakers adopt legislation to incentivize mining, but they should also work to reduce demand and promote recycling of minerals to reduce pressures on local communities and the environment, he said.

Some affected communities have offered their own solutions. The Huancuire indigenous community impacted by the China Minmetals Las Bambas copper mine in Peru has called for a community equity-based ownership model whereby local communities have a degree of co-ownership in the mines that affect them.

That model, they argue, would provide financial stability for local families and give affected communities a seat at the table when decisions about the mine are made. Avan said ideas such as the community equity model are about reimagining the mining industry and the broader extractive sector based on respect for human rights.

The data analyzed by the report, aggregated from public sources such as news and court records, also track incidents of corruption related to the extraction of net zero minerals and metals. Compared to the previous 11 years, incidents of corruption increased by almost 24% in 2022, with 10 cases that year compared to 42 cases from 2010 to 2021.

Human rights experts have long argued that relying on the justice systems of countries where resource extraction occurs is inadequate, as some of those countries have weak rule of law where corruption has worsened.

Berlin-based watchdog Transparency International has found that most of the materials critical to the energy transition are found in countries that perform poorly on indicators of corruption, including about 70% of the world’s cobalt, which is used in wind turbines.

The Business and Human Rights Resource Center report highlighted a $1.1 billion fine paid in 2022 by Glencore International AG and Glencore Ltd., both part of a Swiss mining company, following US, Brazilian and US investigations. which discovered that Glencore had engaged in bribery and corruption in Nigeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Brazil, Venezuela and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, including by making covert payments through intermediaries for the benefit of foreign officials.

Rising global demand for minerals may incentivize companies to reduce environmental regulations and effective public participation, suggesting that corruption may be closely linked to many human rights violations in the context of mining, the report said.

#Critical #Mining #Renewable #Energy #Linked #Hundreds #Alleged #Human #Rights #Violations #Climate #News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *