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Press Release

28 Mar 2023

Human rights abuses linked to transition mining companies in Andean region

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New research published by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre today (Wednesday 29 March 2023) highlights the human rights challenges posed by the extraction of transition minerals in South America’s Andean region. With a focus on Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, the report uncovers the harms caused by mining companies and how transition mineral extraction, which is essential for the green energy movement, is causing harm to the environment and territories which have been inhabited by peasant farmers and Indigenous Peoples.

South America’s Andes region is at the crosshairs of the global energy transition as it is a rich source of both fossil fuels and minerals essential for green energy technology. As the mining and renewable energy industries rapidly expand to facilitate a swift transition to clean energy, the Andes region will play an ever more crucial role in renewable technology value chains. However, we have identified multiple warning signs that indicate not enough attention is being placed on the human rights effects of these activities. Local and Indigenous communities, as well as human and environmental rights defenders, have already suffered due to lax state regulation and poor/non-existent company due diligence in these industries. 

The report looked at small or medium-sized mining projects operating in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru which supply minerals essential for the energy transition to the global market. All companies mentioned are headquartered abroad, in countries including Canada, Chile, China and South Africa. It linked these companies’ activities to alleged human rights abuses and environmental degradation. Lack of corporate transparency is also a concern, with limited publicly available information about the companies and their governance bodies, sustainability reports and plans for future operations, making it difficult to hold companies accountable for alleged abuses in their supply chains. 

Amanda Romero, Senior Researcher for South America, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, said: “Achieving a just transition has become an urgent priority for our planet and its people, and South America will play a crucial role in this movement. The Andes region is not only a rich source of fossil fuels, but also home to minerals essential for the transition to “green” energy. Increasing numbers of foreign mining companies have already been granted permits to operate in the region, strengthening economic reliance on the extractive industry and setting the scene for its expansion. 

"This mineral extraction in the Andes is already causing significant problems, with business interests being consistently favoured over the rights of local communities. Those who have preserved the land for generations are now being harmed by irresponsible business practices. Companies working in the energy sector have failed to consider how their business models are causing human and environmental rights harms to local communities and Indigenous Peoples. Local communities have borne the brunt of environmental issues caused by mining activities and those who have participated in peaceful resistance and demonstrations have faced attacks, intimidation and legal threats. All the while, labour opportunities promised to them through the mining activities do not always materialise. 

“The transition to clean energy must be both fast and fair and grounded on communities’ needs. If companies get serious about addressing human rights abuses and environmental harm linked to the extraction of minerals, there is no reason why this cannot happen. Embedding respect for human rights must happen if we are to achieve our climate goals.” 


Note to editors:

  • The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre is an international, independent NGO that tracks the human rights impacts (positive and negative) of more than 10,000 companies across nearly 200 countries. We seek responses from companies when concerns are raised by civil society.