HomeMarket NewsMiningBattery metal miners lack serious policies on informed consent - report

Battery metal miners lack serious policies on informed consent – report

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In a recent study conducted by Oxfam, it was found that the lack of informed consent in the battery metal mining industry is a pressing concern. Research has shown that approximately 50-80% of the minerals needed for the transition to greener economies are located on or near the lands of indigenous communities. Hence, it is crucial to ensure that the risks and well-being of these communities are taken into account and respected.

Oxfam’s policy lead for human rights and extractives, Scott A. Sellwood, emphasizes the importance of learning from past mistakes and ensuring that mining companies break free from a history of violence and abuse that has adversely affected indigenous communities. Rechargeable batteries have the potential to drive the much-needed energy transformation, powering electric vehicles and renewable energy storage. However, it is essential to prioritize the rights and consent of impacted communities.

Battery metal miners

Free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) is a principle that stresses the need for indigenous peoples and local communities to be fully informed in a timely manner, free from coercion and manipulation, about projects that might affect their lands. They should also have the opportunity to approve or reject these projects through a collective decision-making process of their choosing.

While more than half of the evaluated companies in the report have policy commitments to respect the rights of indigenous peoples, only 13 explicitly mention FPIC. The report raises concerns about the qualified nature of these commitments, as many companies state that they β€œaim to achieve” or β€œseek to achieve” FPIC, leaving room for moving forward without consent. Only two companies have made clear and unequivocal public commitments to respect FPIC.

The report also highlights the disparity in the quality of policy commitments among different companies, especially regarding smaller or junior companies operating in the cobalt and graphite sectors. The findings suggest that FPIC is not considered a priority by these companies’ boards, CEOs, or investors, despite societal expectations and international norms. It advocates for community consent to be a primary focus from the beginning of project development, with exploration companies playing a crucial role in ensuring rights-respecting mining for clean energy infrastructure.

Oxfam emphasizes the financial risks that companies and investors face when consent is absent during the early stages of project development. It suggests that without prioritizing and adequately supporting community consent, all actors involved tend to prioritize completion and production over trust-building and land rights concerns.

The report acknowledges that some major lithium producers have taken steps to assure their social and environmental performance, including FPIC, through third-party verification. However, there is significant variation in the quality of policy commitments among nickel producers.

The paper concludes that there is a need for greater focus from investors and regulators to encourage mining companies to go beyond minimum legal requirements and commit to responsible sourcing. Trade-offs between respecting indigenous rights and addressing the climate emergency should not be made.

Human Rights

While half of the companies surveyed have human rights policies, there is a need for more transparency regarding their due diligence processes and regular disclosure of their performance. Only eight companies publically recognize the legitimacy of human rights defenders and have zero tolerance for any form of retaliation against them.

Oxfam calls for an increase in ambition and commitment from companies supplying raw minerals for clean energy projects. They stress the importance of not proceeding with mining projects without community consent. The urgency of climate action should not be used as a justification for further harm and human rights abuses against indigenous and rural communities affected by battery metal mining.

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