Tuesday 23 november 2021
Mining provides society with a range of essential materials, such as nickel, copper and cobalt. Yet the extractives sector causes large-scale loss of nature and biological diversity, and is linked to human rights violations. In October, over 300 individuals from civil society organisations and community groups from the Asia-Pacific region gathered to discuss a joint strategy for regional advocacy, especially in the light of impacts of COVID to current work on resisting destructive mining operations or threats.
Header image: © Erwin Mascarinas, NTFP-EP Philippines / IUCN NL
The demand for metals and minerals is explosively increasing, partly in relation to the global energy transition. The World Bank © 2020 International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank, Minerals for Climate Action: The Mineral Intensity of the Clean Energy Transition found that the production of minerals, such as nickel, copper, lithium and cobalt, could increase by nearly 500% by 2050, to meet the growing demand for clean energy technologies. It estimates that over 3 billion tons of minerals and metals will be needed to deploy wind, solar and geothermal power, as well as energy storage, required for achieving a below 2°C future.
In many cases, the extraction of these minerals goes hand in hand with major losses of biodiversity, especially as a result of deforestation, road construction, pollution and influx of people. It thus also affects the right to a long term safe and clean environment. In addition, the sector is often linked to violence against environmental human rights and land defenders. It even was the deadliest sector for environmental defenders worldwide in 2018 (Global Witness, 2019).
Increased mining will affect already-vulnerable communities
The World Bank idem warns that, while the growing demand for minerals and metals provides economic opportunities for resource-rich developing countries and private sector entities alike, significant challenges will likely emerge if the climate-driven clean energy transition is not managed responsibly and sustainably. It states that “without Climate-Smart Mining practices, negative impacts from mining activities will increase, affecting already-vulnerable communities in developing countries, as well as the environment in which they operate.”
Action agenda on Extractives and Human Rights
Our partner organisations across the globe indeed experience the negative side-effects of mineral extraction. In 2018, Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) therefore convened the first Asia-Pacific Gathering on Extractives and Human Rights. The “Gathering” is in fact an alliance of civil society groups, who produced a joint action agenda and coordinate advocacy work among national campaigns focused on the impact of the extractive sector on human rights. However, the COVID 19 pandemic has severely affected the plans and capacities of the Asia-Pacific Gathering.
Environmental defenders constrained by COVID 19 pandemic
‘Most significant is the impact to affected communities and environmental rights defenders who got
COVID or were constrained with the strict and inadequate health protocols set by governments,’ says Jaybee Garganeera, National Coordinator of ATM.
At the same time, mining, agro and logging industries take advantage of the situation. While the work of environmental defenders is being obstructed, the economic crisis caused by the pandemic leads to an influx of destructive industries as countries try to boost their economies. In the Philippines, for example, in June 2020, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources announced mining and river dredging as part of the country’s economic recovery response. More recently, in April 2021, Executive Order (EO) 130 was issued that effectively reverses protective guidelines from the mining policy of the previous administration. The EO lifts the moratorium on new mining applications, reduces the role of local government units in accepting or rejecting mining projects, and reverses the administrative orders to suspend or cancel mining contracts that violated environmental laws.
ATM states the shrinking space for activism in the Philippines is the direct result of the repressive laws and policies ushered in by the current administration, which has used the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to justify the return and expansion of extractive projects like mining, large hydro dams and reclamation projects.
Joint strategy for regional advocacy
To align with other civil society organisations and community groups in the Asia-Pacific region, on October 21 and 22, ATM hosted the second Asia-Pacific Gathering on Extractives & Human Rights. Civil society organisations and community groups from India, Mongolia, Myanmar, Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and nine other countries discussed the impacts of COVID to current work on resisting extractives, the response of affected communities, and a joint strategy for regional advocacy.
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