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Human Rights Abuses in Congo's Mining Industry for EV Batteries

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Human Rights Abuses in Congo's Mining Industry for EV Batteries
A new report from Amnesty International and another rights group reveals the human rights abuses in Congo's mining industry, particularly in the production of minerals critical to electric vehicle batteries. The report highlights forced evictions, physical assault, and inadequate compensation faced by people affected by cobalt and copper mining. The exploitation of these minerals for green technologies has raised concerns about abusive labor and violence in the region. The report calls for stricter regulations and accountability to ensure a just transition to a greener economy.

In a stark expose of Congo's mining industry, Amnesty International and the Initiative for Good Governance and Human Rights have shed light on the human rights abuses plaguing the production of minerals critical to electric vehicle (EV) batteries and other green technologies.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is the world's largest producer of cobalt, a vital mineral used in the production of lithium-ion batteries for EVs and various other products. Additionally, it is Africa's top producer of copper, which finds application in EVs, renewable energy systems, and several other industries.

This report adds weight to the concerns previously raised by rights groups and U.S. officials regarding the trade of Congo's cobalt, copper, and other minerals. The labor exploitation and risk of violence in the impoverished African nation, where militant groups control significant territories, have drawn widespread criticism.

Highlighted in the report are numerous instances of human rights violations resulting from mining activities. Amnesty International and the Congo-based Initiative for Good Governance and Human Rights interviewed 133 people affected by evictions related to cobalt and copper mining in six locations near Kolwezi, within Lualaba Province. These interviews, conducted during separate visits in February and September of 2022, expose the forced uprooting of individuals and families from their homes and farmlands, often without compensation or adequate resettlement.

One shocking case detailed in the report details how Congolese soldiers burned down the Mukunbi settlement in Lualaba Province in November 2016 to make way for cobalt and copper mining. Residents who tried to resist were brutally beaten. Prior to the assault, company executives accompanied by police had warned villagers to vacate the area.

In response to protests in 2019, the mining company, Dubai-based Chemaf Resources, agreed to pay a total of $1.5 million through local authorities. Former residents of the Mukunbi settlement, however, received paltry sums ranging from $50 to $300, which local advocacy group "Coalition for Safeguarding of Human Rights" deemed an undervaluation of the properties.

Chemaf denies any complicity, responsibility, or involvement in the destruction of Mukunbi or the direction of military forces to carry out the arson. The company maintains that the copper and cobalt project is crucial to its growth and position as a leader in mineral production.

The report highlights another chilling example of a neighborhood in Kolwezi, home to 39,000 residents, that has been subjected to continuous demolitions since 2015. The demolitions are intended to make way for an open-pit copper and cobalt mine operated by the joint venture of Chinese company Zijin Mining and the Congolese state-owned Gecamines mining company.

Former residents of the neighborhood reported not being adequately consulted, while the mining company, known as Compagnie Minière de Musonoie Global, or COMMUS, pledged to improve their communication practices.

According to COMMUS, it has already made compensation payments, calculated by the provincial relocation committee, to ensure that residents' quality of life was minimally affected. However, the report challenges this claim, stating that none of the interviewed former residents of Cité Gécamines could afford substitute housing with similar amenities to the ones they were forced to leave behind.

Donat Kambola, president of the Initiative for Good Governance and Human Rights, expressed concern over the forced evictions, intimidation, and misinformation, saying that affected individuals had no access to grievance mechanisms, accountability, or justice.

Amnesty International criticizes companies involved in the mining industry for not doing enough to address human rights concerns. These companies are accused of disregarding international human rights laws and standards, as well as national legislation and the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

While the world demands more green technologies to reduce climate-changing emissions, the extraction of minerals for these products is causing severe social and environmental harm. Amnesty International warns that a just transition to a decarbonized global economy must not perpetuate or exacerbate human rights violations.

Author: John Smith

Source of content: OOO News 2023-09-12 News

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