The following statement was drafted in solidarity with mining-affected communities by the Just Transition LMN Working Group, and approved by all LMN members (on 7 December 2020).
LMN, and its members, affirm that a rapid move away from a reliance on fossil fuels for energy is required in order to avert a growing climate crisis.
Such a transition needs to be a Just Transition, which takes into account the needs of those who are working in, or would otherwise be impacted by, a reduction in fossil fuel production, including locally affected communities.
However, it should also ensure that the minerals needed to produce this energy transition (be it to create devices to capture renewable energy, batteries for storing such energy or the transmission of electricity) are not extracted at the expense of impacted communities, mineworkers or the environment. An unchecked increase in the extraction of transition minerals (including, but not limited to, lithium, cobalt, nickel, copper, rare earth elements) will unleash widespread destruction and human rights abuses.
Many authorities are claiming that the energy transition requires a massive increase of so-called transition minerals. We assert that these estimates are based on assumptions and that concerted action as outlined below may avoid or mitigate this extractive expansion. The climate crisis is one of a number of intersecting crises, including loss of biodiversity, social crises in the global South and recently the COVID-19 health crisis, and an increase in large-scale extraction will exacerbate these other crises.
In order to be truly just we believe the energy transition will need to include the following elements:
- solidarity with the growing network of communities who could be adversely impacted by such extraction. We need to take our lead from them, ensuring safe spaces for these discussions to be worked out among their members. This is to guarantee that their calls for justice are truly taken into account within the wider debates on Just Transition, as well as accepting their right to say no to projects that will adversely affect them and their local environment;
- ensure there is meaningful, binding human rights due diligence applied to corporate supply chains, as well as adequate access to redress for human rights abuses associated with transition minerals; and
- explore alternatives to reduce the wasteful linear model of extraction, production and disposing, creating a closed loop for resources, with reduced consumption and increased re-use, repurposing and recycling. It will also need to re-consider concepts of economic growth and consumption, engaging with discourses on “degrowth” and the “circular economy”. Such principles, if put into practice, would require major shifts in personal, government and business prioritisation.
A global campaign is necessary to bring together those who are most affected by the problems at the heart of transition minerals. Such a campaign can focus on those three key areas; international solidarity with those impacted by transition minerals; developing a deeper understanding of the initiatives needed to ensure fair and just global supply chains for renewable energy technologies; and addressing the fundamental societal change needed to reduce our unsustainable material consumption. These three actions would be a key stepping stone towards the necessary transformation needed, both in the UK, Europe and globally.
Learn more about Just Transition & Transition Minerals
- Resisting Green Extractivism: The Unjust Cost of the Energy Transition – video from the COP26 Coalition’s “From The Ground Up” series of events.
- A Just(ice) Transition is a Post-Extractive Transition – joint report from LMN and War on Want
- Transitional Minerals Tracker – tracking the human rights implications of the mineral boom powering the transition to a low-carbon economy.
- FACT SHEET: Battery Minerals for the Clean Energy Transition – a useful digest of information from Earthworks.