Amidst an ever more dangerous climate emergency, communities and their leaders continue to face smear campaigns, criminalization and physical attacks as they courageously defend land, air and water threatened by the imposition of mining projects without consultation or consent.
A recent emblematic example is the unjust jailing of 8 defenders of the Guapinol River, a vital source of water to farming communities in northern Honduras. The defenders and their families also faced threats and attacks as they sought to stop contamination from a mine project awarded a permit after controversial rezoning of a protected area.
One of the key measures that governments must take to tackle the climate crisis is to urgently drive the shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources and green technologies. Central to this shift is a massive increase in the use of rechargeable batteries which are already widely used to power phones, laptops, cameras, power tools, and even vehicles like cars and buses.
But this shift, which is already underway and gathering speed, carries its own risks of environmental harm and the abuse of human rights. The risks are especially imposed on people and communities already made vulnerable by structural inequalities, poverty, and discrimination. For decades, communities have sounded the alarm about longstanding human rights abuses and harms they have experienced from multinational mining companies, from threats and attacks to criminalization and murder. We must not allow investment in energy transition minerals to follow the same dangerous path.
Amnesty International has documented serious human rights abuses in countries with lucrative energy transition mineral deposits, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Argentina, and Canada. Communities are forcibly evicted to make way for expanding mines, young children are forced to dig for minerals, food security is threatened or lost, and low wages and dangerous conditions are the norm. Water resources and fragile ecosystems are also put at risk, even though they are of critical importance to peoples’ livelihoods, cultures, right to self-determination, and even their lives.
Amnesty International envisions an energy future in which minerals are sourced with the consent of all affected Indigenous Peoples, governments invest in mineral recycling on a massive scale to minimize sourcing new mineral deposits, and our seas are protected from deep sea mining. Where harms occur, Amnesty International calls on governments to provide effective and timely remedy that puts people and the planet before corporate profit.