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Briefing

Transition Minerals Tracker: Regional analysis of human rights policies and practices

Photo credit: amin5/ Flickr.

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre’s Transition Minerals Tracker is updated bi-annually to monitor the human rights policies and practices of companies mining six key commodities vital to the clean energy transition: cobalt, copper, lithium, manganese, nickel and zinc.

Extraction of these six minerals – core components for renewable energy technology – is expected to rise dramatically with the growing demand for these renewable energy technologies. Yet many of the companies producing these minerals are beset with allegations of human rights abuse.

Our regional analysis of tracker data explores the top producers for each of these six minerals across four regions. A full regional methodology can be read here. Explore our four regional deep dives below, which examine data and case studies on transition mineral producers in Southern Africa, South America, Mexico & Central America and the Pacific.

Deep Sea Mining

In the last decade, companies and governments have increasingly pursued exploration of the deep sea, where minerals essential to renewable technologies - lithium, copper, nickel, cobalt, manganese and rare earth elements - are found in large quantities. However, the practice comes with significant human rights risks including abuses of indigenous rights, impacts to culture and irreparable environmental damage.

Photo credit: Shutterstock.

Lithium Exploration in Mexico

Lithium is a critical component in the production of the lithium-ion batteries needed to produce electric vehicles. In 2018, some of the world’s largest lithium reserves were found in Sonora, Mexico. Abuses are already evident in the transition minerals sector of Mexico and our briefing highlights the potential human rights abuses associated with current lithium exploration activities.

Photo credit: OutletMinero.

Southern Africa Deep Dive

Nearly half of companies we profiled mining for key transition minerals in Southern Africa - cobalt, copper, lithium, manganese, nickel and zinc - have allegations of human rights abuses. The majority of allegations - 85% - are concentrated in just two commodities, copper and cobalt, and are related to poor governance, corruption, a lack of transparency and impacts on local communities.

Photo credit: Shutterstock.

South America Deep Dive

In South America, 14 of the top 19 companies we examined that are mining for key transition minerals in the region - cobalt, copper, lithium, manganese, nickel and zinc - had 90 allegations of human rights abuses. These allegations were concentrated in copper operations, accounting for 68% of all reported abuses, and relate to environmental impacts, violations of indigenous rights, and instances of conflict and violence.

Photo credit: Shutterstock.