THE PROJECT

OVERVIEW


The project “Time for change: Promoting sustainable production and consumption of raw materials in the context of EYD 2015 and beyond” builds up from the efforts by 13 partners internationally, with a special focus on new EU Member States. The project runs between 2015 and 2017 and targets EU citizens, companies and decision makers through a wide range of activities.

The “Stop Mad Mining” campaign running in 2015 within the framework of the European Year of Development 2015 aims at creating the link between (over-) consumption of raw materials in Europe on the one hand, and poverty, human right violations, and environmental destruction in resource rich countries on the other hand. Our goal is to sensitise and mobilise citizens, politicians and companies around the dramatic impact of our consumption patterns on the dwindling, non-renewable resources globally, and how this in turn is impacting the life of people affected by the extraction of raw materials and climate change.

In order to dig out the gold, miners must go down 15-20 foot narrow shafts that often collapse.

There are no health and safety standards for miners in eastern Congo.

This picture was taken in the Kaniola mine, South Kivu.

Photo: Enough Project (cc)

When it comes to resources: overconsumption and global inequality 

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The overconsumption of resources is a challenge from environmental and economic point of view, while the unequal access to resources and the fact that many of the poor cannot satisfy their basic needs raises the issues of equity and global solidarity.

Global resource consumption is steeply on the rise. We now extract eight times more raw materials that we did a hundred years ago. However this increasing resource extraction has not eliminated social inequalities, hunger or poverty in the world. Today we face growing global competition over resources, which tend to hurt the poorest, both in developing countries but also in Europe.

Policy efforts addressing resource use tend to only focus on achieving higher efficiency. However, economic growth will relentlessly outstrip those gains, leading to arise in overall consumption of resources, and a subsequent failure to address scarcity and the accompanying social and environmental problems. Political decisions must deal with this gross expansion of consumption, alongside resource efficiency, if they are to address resource depletion. Humanity needs to reduce consumption in order to fit our economy inside its ecological space. The use of fossil fuels should be drastically reduced in order to achieve zero CO2 emissions by 2070-2080, and limit climate change to under 2 degrees warming. A higher level of warming would severely impact the well-being of people all over the world, with the most severe impacts focussed on developing countries. This is because of their greater susceptibility to impacts such as heat waves, droughts or sea level rise, as well as limited capacities for climate change adaptation. Moreover, environmental justice and the ecological debt owing to centuries of social and economic exploitation should be fully considered in any attempt to limit resource use and phase out fossil fuels, so as not to further penalise the poor, vulnerable and marginalized in both developing and developed countries.

The global negotiations on Sustainable Development Goals and climate change are considering issues such as poverty, unsustainable production and consumption patterns, access to modern energy and climate change. Policy coherence in these fields should ensure that social justice, global solidarity and environmental considerations are fully taken into account, so that the future changes deliver benefits for all.

While the extraction of raw materials should contribute to the wellbeing of the people of the country which owns it, it is often not case.

The extraction of raw materials does mostly not contribute to the wellbeing of the people which owns the country.

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As the Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano wrote in 1971 raw materials exploitation often results in “the poverty of people as a result of the richness of the soil”. This phenomenon is still relevant today. The extraction of raw materials does not only result in poverty for many people, but also in corruption, modern slavery and the outbreak of violent conflicts. The ones who suffer are predominantly the most vulnerable people within society.

But the extraction of raw materials does not necessarily result in poverty for all. Instead, it fosters the concentration of wealth. Most of the time those in control of raw materials, are profiting from them. When transnational corporations, elites or armed groups are in control of the mines, they keep extracting profits from the soil without re-allocating or re-investing them in the local economny. In most Latin American, African and Asian countries the mining companies are paying relatively few taxes or royalties. Also, if they are also not taking responsibility for any ecological or social impacts, those costs are ‘externalised’ so that it is the local communities that bear the brunt of them. Because of insufficient possibilities to earn a living in some countries people can work in slave-like conditions in the mines. Frequent price fluctuations of raw materials on the world market also jeopardizes the safety of the income for workers or society as a whole.

Additionally land grabbing for mining can mean that neighbouring communities are not able to use their land for agricultural purposes anymore, which threatens their livelihood.

The extraction of raw materials can be also related to a range of conflicts, often violent ones.

The global negotiations on Sustainable Development Goals and climate change are considering issues such as poverty, unsustainable production and consumption patterns, access to modern energy and climate change. Policy coherence in these fields should ensure that social justice, global solidarity and environmental considerations are fully taken into account, so that the future changes deliver benefits for all.

While the extraction of raw materials should contribute to the wellbeing of the people of the country which owns it, it is often not case.

The extraction of raw materials can be also related to a range of conflicts, often violent ones.

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The extraction and trade of raw materials finance armed groups, rebels or corrupt army commanders in several countries. Sometimes, but not in all cases the control of these raw materials is the main reason for the conflict. Thus the revenue from these resources, most notably from tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold fuels violence and contributes to human right violations. Decision makers in both these countries and in major importers shall ensure through legislation that conflict minerals are phased out from the international trade.

The other type of conflict is where communities protest against their displacement and environmental destruction because of large-scale mining. The number of these disputes have increased rapidly in recent years. Implicated mining companies have a direct responsibility when they violate human rights within such conflicts. Often, they fund paramilitaries, or their armed security is directly involved in suppressing protests or displacing neighbouring communities. They also frequently cause inter-community conflicts, through – often false – promises of jobs and wealth. Governments are often complicit in supporting companies through the criminalisation of protest movements and providing support through state armed forces.

The “Las Observatorio de Conflictos Mineros de América Latina (OCMAL)“ has identified 206 current mining conflicts in Latin America on their website. The EU funded EJOLT project has produced a World Atlas on Environmental Justice, where almost 500 conflicts have been identified worldwide related to raw material extraction.

Another potential problem with large-scale mining is the devastating impacts on the environment.

Another potential problem with large-scale mining is the devastating impacts on the environment.

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Large tracts of land are necessary for open-pit mining and for that, forests are cut down and fertile land is destroyed. This destruction of ecosystems has a wide range of indirect impacts on ecosystem services, from food production through climate regulation to the provision of freshwater. While underground mining may appear to have less obvious problems, there are risks from subsidence. This may result in loss of farm land when mountains are collapsing because of cavities built under the surface or lowering of wide areas of mountains.

Water is used in huge quantities when extracting raw materials, and can lead to decreasing water tables or even the drying-outs of rivers. In arid areas this can have an especially severe impact. Pollution of rivers and lakes with toxic substances and heavy metals endanger the provision of fresh water for ecosystems and local communities. Mine wastes, such as tailings, waste rock, overburden, slags or water treatment sludge can all have the potential for devastating impacts on the environment.

Mining is an energy intensive industry, which has a significant indirect impact on the environment. Huge hydro-electric dams can be built for the generation of energy to mines or smelters, which have their own potential ecological and social impacts. The use of fossil fuels to provide energy for mines contributes to climate change when CO2 emissions are released into the atmosphere.

ETHICAL MINING


By ethical mining and resource consumption we, the consortium of the campaign STOP MAD MINING, mean the following:

“Ethical mining means that companies need to respect human rights, including labour rights as well as implement the highest environmental standards, when extracting raw materials. In addition companies and governments need to evaluate if the extraction of raw materials in a certain area is the right choice, taking into account economic, environmental and social aspects, and the wishes of affected communities. In addition to that companies and governments need to avoid fueling any sort of conflicts related to the extraction of raw materials, not only those raw materials that classically fall under the definition of conflict minerals (gold, tantalum, tin and tungsten), but all other raw materials as well.

When it comes to ethical resource consumption we mean, that consumption levels of all resources need to be reduced to a globally just level – in Europe and elsewhere – while respecting human rights and environmental standards in any consumption choices.”

 

SO WHY STOP MAD MINING?


The way large-scale mining is conducted in many parts of the world today seems mad for us. Mad in the sense of “extreme” or “excessive”, when it comes to the negative social and environmental impacts outlined above.