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Exploitation rife among firms mining minerals for renewables, electric vehicles: Report

(Eco Business, 5 Sep 2019) With demand for minerals such as cobalt and lithium set to skyrocket, firms, investors and governments must step up to ensure the clean energy sector does better than its fossil fuel counterpart.

The vast majority of companies that mine copper, lithium and other minerals used in solar panels, wind turbines and battery-powered cars are riddled with exploitation, a new study has found.

The analysis, by international non-governmental organisation Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, shows that efforts to power societies using non-polluting sources are mired in human rights violations and destructive environmental practices.

With explosive growth in demand expected for the minerals as the world ramps up its renewable energy capacity, firms and governments must step up to protect workers risking their lives in toxic and perilous working environments in countries such as Chile, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the centre said.

The demand for minerals could increase nine-fold by 2050, with the fastest rises projected for lithium (965 per cent) and cobalt (585 per cent), a mineral critical for electric vehicle batteries as well as solar and wind power.

Nearly nine in 10 of the top mineral mining companies have been linked to human rights violations since 2010, the centre’s analysis showed. Other misdeeds among the 167 allegations made against 37 companies include the denial of access to water, violation of environmental regulations and displacement of local communities.

The widespread disregard of indigenous people’s rights or labour rights is at odds with human rights policies published by the majority of companies analysed. This suggests that they are either insufficient or lack adequate enforcement in supply chains.

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Eco Business, 5 Sep 2019: Exploitation rife among firms mining minerals for renewables, electric vehicles: Report