The Transition Minerals Tracker (Tracker) captures publicly reported allegations of environmental and human rights abuses against companies mining one or more of the following six minerals: cobalt, copper, lithium, manganese, nickel, and zinc. The Tracker includes allegations arising from 2010 to present and is updated on an annual basis.
Allegations are primarily collected through a filtered search by company on the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre website. This includes allegations appearing in articles from international and local media outlets in all 10 languages of the Resource Centre website, as well as NGO reports and lawsuits filed against the companies. It is complemented by desktop research. The Tracker is predominantly based on materials available in English, Spanish and French, mainly due to the regional focus in our company selection process and organizational resource capacity.
What do we include?
Only publicly-reported allegations of specific incidents or civil society action against companies are captured and not information on general trends of abuse that cannot be tied specifically to one of the tracked companies’ operations. For example, reports on general trends within the mining sector that do not provide specific instances of abuse against a named company are not included. Allegations related to projects that are or have been in production and does not include allegations related to other parts of the mine life cycle i.e. exploration or closure. For each allegation, we identify the parent company involved in the alleged abuse and, when the information is available, the responsible subsidiary and/or project name. One allegation may include multiple human rights impacts.
The main categories of data we capture are:
- the location of the incident;
- the company against which the allegation is raised (including parent company, subsidiary and project-specific information);
- the types of abuses being alleged;
- the identity of affected stakeholders;
- the forms of activism used to bring the alleged abuse to light;
- the timeframe of allegations.
We analyze each allegation against a set of 51 indicators of environmental & human rights abuses, which are sorted into 6 broad categories:
- Environmental impacts
- Access to water
- Water pollution
- Soil pollution
- Localized air pollution
- GHG emissions
- Impacts on wildlife and species habitat
- Operations in or impacting protected areas
- Absence of or insufficient environmental impact assessment and monitoring
- Violation of environmental safety standards (incl. tailings dams)
- Impacts on local community & attacks against civil society organisations
- Land rights
- Insufficient/inadequate consultation
- Free, prior and informed consent
- Indigenous rights
- Impact to ancestral, cultural, spiritual, and religious resources/sites
- Forced relocation
- Impacts on livelihoods (incl. harm to food sources)
- Gendered impacts on human rights & livelihoods
- Sexual violence or exploitation
- Beatings & violence
- Health impacts
- Intimidation & threats
- Arrests and arbitrary detention
- Right to peaceful protest (inc road blockades)
- Denial of freedom of expression & judicial harassment (incl. Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation or SLAPP)
- Attack on HRDs – Indirect
- Attack on HRDs - Direct
- Impacts on workers
- Child labour
- Underpaid wages
- Labour hiring/ firing practices
- Occupational health & safety (incl. violations of international/national standards & injuries)
- Work-related deaths
- Freedom of association and bargaining (incl. unions)
- Discrimination against groups (gender, LGBTQI +, ethnic, racial, caste, religious)
- Governance and transparency
- Tax avoidance
- Access to information (incl. misreporting & difficulty in accessing basic company information)
- Disclosure/use of payments to governments
- Corruption & use of influence on public actors
- Security issues & conflict zones
- Cooperation/complicity with armed or out of the law groups
- Cooperation/complicity with repressive state forces (police, militias, military)
- Abuses by private security
- COVID-19: the allegation is linked to the company’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic
- Worker health (incl. provision of PPE & access to medical care)
- Public health (incl. impacts on community health)
- Violation of containment measures
- Corruption & use of influence on government response
Identity of affected stakeholders
In order to protect personal information of affected parties, and avoid revictimization in the process of reporting, tracking and analyzing allegations of human rights abuse, we identify for each allegation the affected parties according to general, impersonal qualifiers, namely:
- Local community
- Human rights defenders (HRDs)
- Indigenous Peoples
- Journalist, press or media
- Public entity (state prosecutorial services, regulatory authority acting on behalf of the public interest)
- Ecosystem (for purely environmental abuses)
Attacks on HRDs and the extraction of transition minerals
In 2021, we decided to explore the prevalence of attacks on HRDs, related to extraction of transition minerals. To this end, we researched the overlap between the Resource Centre’s Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) database and the Transition Minerals Tracker complementing this data with additional desk research.
In our HRDs database, and in this research, we used the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’ definition of human rights defenders as “people who, individually or with others, act to promote or protect human rights… The actions taken by human rights defenders must be peaceful in order to comply with the Declaration on human rights defenders.” Applying this definition for our purposes, we document threats and attacks against people taking peaceful action to protect their labour, land, environmental, cultural or other rights, whether in their own personal capacity or professionally, that they perceive as being under threat by a business activity.
We used our HRDs database dataset - which systematically documents attacks on HRDs, focused on business-related human rights abuses globally, from 2015-2021 – as a starting point. We first checked if companies or operations, covered in the Transition Minerals Tracker, appeared in the database. We then recorded cases of attacks on defenders which were clearly acts of retaliation against defenders that raised human rights or environmental concerns about a specific private entity, already tracked in the Transition Minerals Tracker.
Secondly, because the HRDs database covers cases from 2015 onwards, while the Transition Minerals Tracker covers additional 5 years’ worth of data (allegations from 2010 to 2021), we did additional desk research on all companies and operations covered in the tracker, to see if any defenders were intimidated, harassed, attacked and/or killed due to them raising human rights or environmental concerns about those private actors. We made sure we only captured attacks on those defenders that were raising concerns about extraction of one of the 6 transition minerals covered in the tracker, and not another type of activity by any of the companies. In this second part of the research, we again relied on the information on the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre's website, which catalogues allegations in articles from international and local media outlets in all 10 languages of the Resource Centre website from 2006 onwards, but we also did additional desk research using media and NGO reports, including websites specialized in capturing attacks on human rights defenders.
Even though in the HRDs database we do include cases of attacks on defenders that stem from them raising concerns about the mining sector in general, in this research, we only included instances of incidents related to specific companies. Information on attacks on defenders, related to general trends of abuse within the mining sector, which could not be tied specifically to one of the tracked companies’ operations were not included.
About the HRDs Database
Our searchable HRDs database compiles cases of attacks on human rights defenders (HRDs) and civil society organizations (CSOs) working on business-related human rights issues who have been intimidated, attacked, harassed and/or killed due to their work since 2015. Our vision is that civic freedoms are protected, and that human rights organisations, defenders, and other civil society actors in the field of business and human rights are able to work in a safe and enabling environment free from restriction or attack. By tracking the threats and violence that HRDs face for protecting their rights and our shared environment, we aim to increase awareness about the scale and nature of this global problem and inform protection and policy responses designed to respond to and prevent future attacks.
Definitions and scope
We use the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’ definition of human rights defenders as “people who, individually or with others, act to promote or protect human rights… The actions taken by human rights defenders must be peaceful in order to comply with the Declaration on human rights defenders.” Applying this definition for our purposes, we document threats and attacks against people taking peaceful action to protect their labour, land, environmental, cultural or other rights, whether in their own personal capacity or professionally, that they perceive as being under threat by a business activity.
The HRDs in the database were/ are defenders focusing on business-related human rights issues, including:
- Human rights defenders working in or volunteering for Civil Society Organizations, focused on business-related human rights issues;
- Leaders of rural communities or community-based groups (e.g. indigenous peoples)
- Leaders and members of unions (e.g. trade unions, professional associations such as journalists’ associations, judges’ and lawyers’ and bar associations) and their organizations;
- Leaders of social movements or professionals contributing directly to the enjoyment of human rights (e.g. humanitarian workers, lawyers, doctors and medical workers);
- Relatives or friends of victims of human rights violations, if:
- They appear to have been attacked or killed as a reprisal for the defender’s work that they are friends with or related to;
- They appear to have been intimidated, attacked or killed in order to intimidate the defender that they are friends with or related to; or
- If they were killed in the same attack as the defender.
- Journalists covering corporate accountability topics; and
- Leaders of faith-based groups focusing on corporate accountability.
We include cases in which:
- A HRD or CSO was directly attacked by a company, or a government in collusion with that company, allegedly due to their human rights defense in relation to that company (for example, through the use of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs))
- A HRD or CSO was raising human rights concerns related to a particular business and was allegedly attacked because of their human rights defense, by an actor other than the company (i.e. indirect attacks)
The following criteria need to be met for a case to be included in our database:
- Publicly available information from at least two sources: Cases we include are based on publicly available information and must be covered in at least two online sources that are trusted by our global team (in exceptional circumstances when the information is coming from a very reputable source, we include a case based on one source).
- Name of the defender: Name and additional information about the HRD needs to be available, such as information about their human rights work and organisational affiliations (if any). This helps us determine whether there is sufficient information available to show that the person is a defender, as per the OHCHR definition.
- Information about the type of attack, and the link of the attack to human rights work: This includes the method of violence, date, and location. In addition, there needs to be enough publicly available information to be able to show that the attack was allegedly related to defenders’ human rights work.
- Link of defender’s work to business-related human rights issue: This database specifically tracks the range of attacks experienced by HRDs and CSOs focused on business-related issues.
Timeframe of allegations
Many allegations in nature are a compilation of incremental impacts and can therefore be difficult to restrict to a specific timeframe. For each allegation we indicate the date when it was added (registered) to the Resource Centre website, reflecting the timeframe the alleged abuse was originally reported.
Seeking company responses
In line with the Resource Centre’s broader strategy and libel policy, we make every effort to reach out to companies accused of abuse and ask them to respond to allegations made using our Company Response Mechanism, unless the company has already publicly commented on the case or if the abuse is the basis of a lawsuit or regulatory action.
Scope and limitations
The Tracker captures publicly reported information on alleged abuses committed by mining companies. Business & Human Rights Resource Centre does not independently verify the accuracy of the allegations. When relevant and possible, Business and Human Rights Resource Centre uses the Company Response Mechanism (see above) to seek responses from companies implicated in the commission of the alleged abuses. Similarly, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre does not verify the accuracy of corporate statements on actions taken to respond.
The Tracker does not purport to provide comprehensive information on all allegations of abuses against mining companies. It only captures information specific to certain companies and to specific minerals (cobalt, copper, lithium, manganese, nickel and zinc). Furthermore, it only includes publicly available information which the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has captured through the years. Restrictions on civil society activism in certain parts of the world coupled with limited means of action for affected parties and fears of reprisals can translate into under-reporting of abuses.
Each link is counted as one source of allegations unless it references different companies, or one company operating in multiple countries where the allegation is specific to different operations.
Only allegations against mining operations are included. Allegations relating to refining or smelting activities are not currently included, although Business & Human Rights Resource Centre acknowledges that there are numerous serious allegations of environmental and human rights abuses linked to those operations.