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Press Release

4 May 2022

Mineral extraction necessary for net-zero at risk as human rights abuses slow energy transition

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Over two-thirds of the allegations involve 12 well-established extractive companies, including BHP, Grupo Mexico, Codelco, Anglo American and Glencore.

  • Almost 500 allegations of human rights abuse are linked to the extraction of transition minerals between 2010 – 2021, threatening the speed and scale of a successful transition to net-zero. 
  • Local communities, civil society organisations and their leaders were the targets of two in three abuse allegations (63%) as those at the heart of the climate movement face the greatest risks from irresponsible energy transition investments.
  • Companies and investors involved in sourcing transition minerals must be prepared for significant reputational, legal and financial losses if they fail to address these abuses. 

A fast and just transition to renewable energy is at risk of being derailed due to widespread human rights abuse allegations linked to the extraction of minerals essential to deliver the energy transition. The latest data from the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre’s Transition Minerals Tracker recorded 61 new human rights abuses in 2021 linked to companies extracting minerals essential for the energy transition, including cobalt, copper, lithium, manganese, nickel and zinc. 

As the richer countries race to control their own supply chains and localise energy production, greater exploration and licensing for transitional minerals has begun in Europe and North America. Although these regions have strong regulatory frameworks and clear licensing processes, effective community consultation is severely lacking in the exploration phases of mining projects -- leading to high numbers of human rights allegations linked to local communities. 

Jessie Cato, Natural Resources & Human Rights Programme Manager, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, said: “We are in a race against time to tackle the climate crisis. Transition minerals are a key component. These are the minerals needed for the development of green technologies, essential to achieving the goal of net-zero by mid-century. However, The Tracker highlights systemic failure by the industry that our planet can no longer afford. As attacks on human rights and environmental defenders and incidents of water pollution mount, the industry is provoking community action, losing public support and endangering urgent investment. Human rights defenders and civil society leaders are repeatedly left out of assessments and are silenced by threats and attacks. Companies involved in the extraction of transition minerals must urgently recognise the vital role local communities play – and switch to a human rights-focused business model to extraction. Unless they begin consulting with local communities, we run a real risk of failing to achieve the energy transition in the small window of time still available, putting people and the planet at risk.

“Not only does lack of consultation lead to increased conflict between communities and companies, often putting exploration projects on hold or delaying them, but these abuses also present significant reputational, legal and financial losses for companies. They must not repeat the abuse endemic to the old mining and fossil fuel industries. It’s still possible to create a future where the clean energy sector contributes to averting the climate crisis, but this must be built hand-in-hand with local communities on the ground. Until extractive companies introduce -- and implement -- human rights policies on their sites, meeting the aims of a just transition remains uncertain.”

Case studies from Serbia, Spain and the United States are available upon request.

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Notes to editors: 

  • Business & Human Rights Resource Centre is an international NGO that tracks the human rights impacts of companies across the globe.  
  • The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has been tracking human rights abuses in the transition minerals sector since 2010. 

Media contact: Priyanka Mogul (London-based), Media Officer, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, +44 (0) 7880 956239, [email protected]