MAC/20: Mines and Communities

A Material Transition – new report on energy transition minerals

Published by MAC on 2021-04-02
Source: War on Want, LMN

The environmental destruction and human rights abuses that mining for renewables could unleash.

War on Want’s new report 'A Material Transition' exposes the environmental destruction and human rights abuses that mining for renewable energy could unleash. The climate crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic and rampant global inequality all have their roots in our resource-intense society. The report highlights what can be done to avert this devastation and sets out a pathway for a globally just energy future: respect for the rights of affected communities.

The official launch coincides with UK co-hosting of the International Energy Agency’s COP26 Net Zero Summit. War on Want members are being asked to lobby the UK's COP26 co-president, Alok Sharma, to ensure that promises to mobilise huge investments in ‘clean energy’ is indeed people-centred.

See full report here: https://waronwant.org/resources/a-material-transition

 

War on Want report exposes potential destruction and human rights abuse unleashed by ‘green’ energy mineral mining – and calls on UK government to act

War on Want and London Mining Network press release

31 March 2021

War on Want has launched a new report exposing the potential widespread environmental destruction and human rights abuses unleashed by the extraction of transition minerals – the raw materials needed for the production of renewable energy technologies.

The report, A Material Transition: Exploring supply and demand solutions for renewable energy minerals, highlights what can be done to avert this devastation and sets out a pathway for a globally just energy future.

'A Material Transition' calls on the UK government to critically question resource use in any green recovery plans. Human rights abuses must be abolished from mineral supply chains and issues of over-consumption urgently addressed. Our high-intensity, wasteful and growth-oriented economy must be transformed so that humanity can thrive within ecological limits.

The report author, Andy Whitmore, said: “Although we must rapidly transition away from fossil fuels to tackle the climate crisis, we cannot do this by expanding our reliance on minerals. Any increase in the extraction of energy transition minerals, threatens to create new 'sacrifice zones', in the Global South, North America and Europe – destroying communities and causing untold environmental destruction. The transition to green energy must respect human rights.”

Asad Rehman, Executive Director of War on Want, said: “Kicking the can down the road is not an option. Our call to the UK government is to join the dots between tackling the climate crisis and the critical question of unsustainable resource use. The goal must be to transform our energy-intensive, wasteful and growth orientated economy to one that can meet everyone’s needs within ecological limits. The first steps are ending human rights abuses from mineral supply chains and urgently addressing issues of over-consumption.”

Regarding the supply of minerals, investors and the end-users of transition minerals– such as battery or electric vehicle manufacturers – are increasingly recognising the need to eradicate human rights abuses from their supply chains. However, the number of new laws and different assurance initiatives means that consolidation and coordination are desperately required.

On the demand side, there are a number of practical solutions which could be initiated or accelerated to enable better-informed choices about our energy and resource consumption. Andy Whitmore notes that “a focus on more efficient, or green, growth is not enough, a radical reduction of unsustainable consumption is the most effective solution, based on a fundamental change to Global North economies and lifestyles. Such a change could be considered the creation of 'a circular society' based non-resource-intensive solutions for people and planet.”

The report contains in-depth case studies from communities in the Philippines and Indonesia on the frontlines of conflicts arising from transition minerals mining.

Press Contacts

Tom Barns, War on Want Director of Income and Engagement: media@waronwant.org | 079 8355 0728
Andy Whitmore, Report Author: whit@gn.apc.org | 077 5439 5597
Saul Jones, London Mining Network Communications Co-ordinator: saul@londonminingnetwork.org | 07928 443248


Rethinking the new minerals boom

Consumption and production patterns need to change in the energy transition.

Andy Whitmore

25 March 2021

https://www.ft.com/content/59cb407c-bf19-4e2e-8fed-bb3f140e5800

The mining industry is currently alight with talk of a new commodity “supercycle”. The last one coincided with China’s rapid industrialisation growth spurt, and whether it is a supercycle or not, a major boom looks likely because of infrastructure-led spending to speed recovery from the pandemic coupled with the energy transition. Indeed, the talk of Green New Deals seeks to wed this energy transformation with that economic stimulus.

Mining companies, and their investors, are obviously enthusiastic about such an expansion. Mining entrepreneur Robert Friedland gloated that “if we get a Green New Deal where bankers just hit the zero keys . . . it would make our day”.

However, miners are also taking advantage of their role supplying metals to renewables, batteries and electrical infrastructure to create a new green narrative for mining — the “black-to-green revolution”.

In this new world, mining companies are the climate heroes saving the world, although it also conveniently downplays overall demand for critical metal end-uses, in the likes of construction, aviation, electronics and the arms industry. For example, even in the highest demand scenarios, under no circumstances will the renewable energy sector consume the majority of the annual production of copper.

The new demand supporting the energy transition does not change the act of mining. Extracting minerals, such as lithium, cobalt or copper, is still a dirty business with significant environmental and human impact.

This new boom threatens to open new extractive frontiers, in the global south but also in North America and Europe. There is an urgent need to deal with the potential widespread destruction and human rights abuses that could be unleashed.

Although it is crucial to tackle the climate crisis, and rapidly transition away from fossil fuels, this cannot be achieved by just expanding our reliance on other materials. The energy crisis is fundamentally a resource-usage crisis.

Our use of natural resources has more than tripled since 1970 and is on a continued growth path. According to the International Resource Panel, 90 per cent of biodiversity loss and water stress are caused by resource extraction and processing and these same activities contribute to about half of global greenhouse gas emissions.

A new War on Want report, called “A Material Transition”, seeks to explore these dilemmas. It looks first to those communities affected by the resource extraction. The concept of a “just transition”, currently applied to energy use, must be extended to those who would otherwise inhabit “sacrifice zones”.

On the supply side, the focus on supply-chain due diligence brings hope that investors and the end users of transition minerals — such as electric vehicle manufacturers — will be able to eradicate human rights abuses from their supply chains.

An example is an addition of mandatory human rights due diligence in the proposed EU regulation on batteries. Civil society and affected communities can work directly with suppliers and manufacturers to ensure the effectiveness and legitimacy of key initiatives.

On the demand side, there are a number of practical solutions that should be initiated or accelerated to enable better-informed choices about our energy and consumption, and to reduce the need for new resource extraction. However, it is not enough to switch to green growth, such as simply increasing the production of new electric vehicles.

Recently the European parliament has demanded the first-ever EU targets to reduce overconsumption. MEPs have voted to push for legally binding targets to reduce resource use by 2030 and bring EU consumption within planetary boundaries by 2050. Such thinking is necessary to moderate any new minerals boom.

As Sir Partha Dasgupta notes in his government review on biodiversity, "we need to change our production and consumption patterns. The human economy is bounded, and it would be entirely counterproductive to seek growth that damages nature".

 

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