🌱 What human rights issues arise from transition mining?
Close to all mining causes a degree of damage to communities and ecosystems. The mining of transition minerals has already caused issues regarding – for example – water and land rights, and Indigenous People’s rights.
🌱 How are water and land rights linked to transition mining?
The contamination and scarcity of freshwater, along with changes in land use, are areas of major concern. Large amounts of water are needed for mining and mineral processing. Yet, a good half of all copper and lithium production sites worldwide are in areas facing “high water stress”. The inadequate management of water in mines (incl. high water use, low water reuse, and contaminated water discharges) can adversely impact water resources, and surrounding ecosystems and communities. Similarly, changes in land use and land cover can lead to communities being displaced and habitats being lost. Water and land contamination have occurred – for example – from a lithium mine in Jadar, Serbia and from an open-cast copper mine in Galicia, Spain.
🌱 What is the impact of transition mining on Indigenous Peoples?
Indigenous Peoples are particularly strongly affected by transition mining. A 2021 report from MSCI Inc. found that “97% of nickel, 89% of copper, 79% of lithium and 68% of cobalt reserves and resources in the U.S. are located within 35 miles of Native American reservations”. Violations of Indigenous Peoples’ rights have already occurred – for example – through the operation of an open-cast lithium mine near the Indigenous community lands of Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone in Nevada, USA.
🌱 How can we ensure responsible supply chains in the transition over to low-carbon energy?
As our societies transition over to renewable energies, our policymakers and judicial systems should not overlook the new human rights and environmental issues that this transition brings with it. Moreover, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has suggested that: “A more responsible and sustainable mining industry is urgently needed […] This can only happen if corporate and investor due diligence regarding human rights and environmental risks includes robust and effective participation of key stakeholders, including communities, to identify, monitor and mitigate risks that would undermine a fast and fair transition. It also requires community voices to be heard and considered, and the prioritisation of recycling and reuse of existing minerals to ease the demand for new minerals, including through incentivising and strengthening the circular economy.”
Read more about the (business) human rights impacts of transition minerals here: