Mining tied to climate goals fueling human rights abuses, report says

By Hannah Northey | 05/16/2024 01:34 PM EDT

The report looked at mines around the globe producing minerals like lithium, nickel, zinc and cobalt that are needed for the energy transition.

TOPSHOT - Aerial view of Bolivia's first state-owned lithium carbonate plant in the municipality of Colcha "K", south of the Salar de Uyuni, in the department of Potosi, Bolivia, on December 15, 2023. Bolivia inugurated the plant in the southwest region --where a large part of its enormous resources of this key metal is concentrated. With an investment of 110.2 million dollars, the plant began operating five years after construction began amid several delays. (Photo by JORGE BERNAL / AFP) (Photo by JORGE BERNAL/AFP via Getty Images)

Aerial view of a lithium production facility in Bolivia. Jorge Bernal/AFP/Getty Images

The global scramble for minerals such as lithium, nickel, zinc and cobalt needed to make EV batteries and renewable technologies is fueling human rights abuses at mines around the world, a new report says.

More than 90 claims of abuse were recorded across the world last year — from violations of environmental protections to the rights of Indigenous peoples — adding to hundreds of cases that have already emerged since 2010, according to a report that U.K.-based Business & Human Rights Resource Centre released on Thursday.

The report’s authors say the findings underscore the need for the U.S. and the European Union to ensure that any deals forged with mineral-rich countries uphold the highest social and environmental safeguards, and for companies to push those efforts internally.


Caroline Avan, a lead author of the report who heads the Centre’s natural resources and just energy transition program, said that even though policies aimed at curbing demand for new mines need to be considered, more minerals will be needed at scale. At the same time, the report shows how extraction of those materials is linked to a “damning number” of human rights abuses, she said, including violations of the right of local communities to a clean environment and threats to Indigenous peoples’ rights and livelihoods.