The Mutanda copper-cobalt mine, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Source: YouTube

Glencore Plc has the worst human rights record among miners of metals used in renewable energy, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre said in a report.

The alleged abuses attributed to all companies range from attacks on activists to violations of environmental laws to forced relocations. Complaints about Glencore’s mines accounted for 64 out of the 495 allegations tracked by the London-based group between 2010 and 2021.

“Globally, Glencore has the worst record,” the group said in its transition minerals tracker released on Wednesday. “It was the company linked to the highest number of allegations in Africa, the second-highest in Asia Pacific, and third-highest in South America.”

The group, which tracks miners of six metals – copper, cobalt, lithium, manganese, nickel and zinc – said that two thirds of recorded allegations were against just 12 companies including some of the world’s biggest miners such as Anglo American Plc, BHP Group Ltd. and Codelco.

“Our code of conduct and human rights policy set out our commitment to upholding respect for the human rights of our workforce and host communities and in our supply chains,” Glencore said in a response to queries. “Our assets are located in diverse contexts, some in highly developed countries with strong legal and political frameworks and others in more challenging socio-political circumstances with a history of conflict, limited basic services and weak rule of law.”

The company said it measures and monitors its impact on communities and strives to improve and “report transparently on the challenges and progress in this area.”

Production threat

The level of human rights infringements threatens to slow the extraction of metals needed in the world’s race to produce battery storage and electric vehicles, the center said.

“As attacks on human rights and environmental defenders and incidents of water pollution mount, the industry is provoking community action, losing public support and endangering urgent investment,” Jessie Cato, natural resources & human rights programme manager at the group, said in a statement.

Human rights abuses impacting local communities and civil society organizations accounted for 63% of the allegations, the group said. Allegations ranged from the killing of protesters to infringement of the land and forest rights of local communities. The bulk of environmental complaints related to water access of pollution.

In Africa, almost two thirds of the allegations were recorded in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the world’s biggest cobalt producer and Africa’s largest miner of copper. The allegations range from the use of child labor to the denial of freedom of association.

Peru had the most cases in South America while Indonesia led the ranking in Asia.

(By Antony Sguazzin)

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