2024 Transition Minerals Tracker

Anna Triponel

May 24, 2024
Our key takeaway: Transition minerals (like bauxite, cobalt, copper, lithium, manganese, nickel and zinc) are critical to the just transition (which centres human rights and people in the energy transition) as we seek to tackle climate change. Why? Put simply, transition minerals are key components to many of the clean energy technologies - like wind turbines, solar panels, and batteries - we use, and need to urgently scale, today. At the same time, the mining of transition minerals are associated with severe adverse impacts on people and planet. The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) records 631 allegations of abuse between 2010 and 2023, with 91 of these reported in 2023 alone. And these allegations are highly concentrated among a few companies, with two-thirds associated with just 20 companies. Indigenous Peoples, and human rights, environmental and land defenders are at the forefront of these attacks. Not to mention the gendered impacts of mining, which includes egregious accusations of rape and sexual abuses. The report issues a call to action: “Climate breakdown is upon on” and a “fast transition will only be one that is also fair.” Moreover, “[r]espect for all human rights and recognition of local communities and Indigenous Peoples as equal partners needs to be the north star guiding corporate and government actions.”

The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) published its Transition Minerals Tracker: 2024 Analysis (May 2024):

  • Indigenous Peoples, human rights defenders and other marginalised groups disproportionately impacted: The tracker reports 631 allegations of abuse from 2010 to 2023 in relation to the mining of several key energy transition minerals. These minerals are bauxite, cobalt, copper, lithium, manganese, nickel and zinc. 91 allegations of abuse were reported in 2023 alone, with a marked increase in labour rights violations and worker deaths. The tracker also finds that: 1) “Indigenous Peoples disproportionately bear the brunt of the harmful impacts of transition mineral mining – with 61 allegations (10%) across all years impacting their rights, including 36 alleged violations of their right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC)”; 2) “[p]eople defending human and environmental rights continue to be attacked, with 14 new allegations of attacks recorded in 2023”; 3) “[l]abour rights abuses, including risks of severe hazards and occupational health issues, remain a stark reality in the sector, with 163 allegations impacting workers across the whole period (25%)”; 4) “[n]ew analysis on the gendered impacts of mining operations reveals 17 allegations across all years, including lack of respect for women’s social, political and economic participation, livelihoods, health, access to jobs, as well as egregious accusations of rape and sexual abuses”; 5) “[i]mpacts of mining operations on local environment and resources continue to stand out, with 309 allegations (or 1 in 2) associated with at least one harm to the environment. Water resources are most at risk with 125 allegations (or 1 in 5) associated with either/or impacts on access to water and pollution.”
  • A just transition is key to a speedy and sustainable energy transition: The report emphasises the importance of respecting human rights and centring people in the energy transition. To ensure a just transition, the following three core principles should be observed, at a minimum: 1) “[s]hared prosperity that builds the rights of Indigenous Peoples, workers and other communities’ rights in operations and supply chains through new models of business – powerfully articulated by Indigenous Peoples in a recent Declaration by Indigenous Peoples for a Just Transition”; 2) “[c]orporate gender-sensitive human rights due diligence that identifies salient human rights risks and develops robust risk-mitigation plans”; and 3) “[f]air negotiation between business, workers and communities, redressing power inequalities by recognising core rights, such as FPIC and freedom of association, and displaying zero tolerance for attempts to silence environmental and human rights defenders.” In short, failure to centre human rights poses “too great a risk to deliver the energy transition with sufficient speed and sustainability.”
  • Recommendations for companies: The report recommends that companies take key actions, which can be grouped into three broad themes: 1) Shared prosperity. Companies can “[b]ring workers, their unions and communities into upstream project conception and design to support models of shared prosperity through decent work, living wages and new models of co-management, ownership and cooperation”; 2) Corporate due diligence. Companies can: a) “[a]ssign clear Board responsibility for, and oversight of, respect for human and environmental rights, including through variable executive remuneration and integration across all departments”; b) “[i]mplement gender-sensitive human rights and environmental due diligence in operations and supply chains – going beyond regulatory requirements where absent or insufficient – alongside access to remedy, through effective grievance mechanisms, built on safe and inclusive worker and community engagement”; c) “[a]dopt policies to guarantee safety at work, ensure decent work in line with ILO Fundamental Rights at Work, including through fair living wages for all workers and guarantee workers’ freedom of association and right to collective bargaining with trade unions or equivalent”; d) “[e]nd user companies to insist on the responsibility of their upstream minerals suppliers to ensure full respect for human rights and the environment”; and 3) Fair negotiations. Companies can: a) “[r]espect and publicly report on good faith consultation and engagement with local communities, prior to investment decisions and during operations”; b) “[a]dopt non equivocal policies for respect of FPIC principles for Indigenous Peoples, including their right to define the process by which it is achieved and to withhold consent – regardless of any opposing claims by governments – through fair negotiations and implementation of equitable benefit-sharing mechanisms, including co-ownership and co-equity models”; and c) “[a]dopt a company-wide policy commitment to not tolerate or contribute to attacks on human rights and environmental defenders and to work with HRDs to create safe and enabling environments for engagement. This should include an expectation for suppliers and business partners to do the same.”

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