PBI-Canada attentive to concerns raised about the COP28 final text and the mining of critical minerals in the Ring of Fire

Published by Brent Patterson on

Photo: Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation Head Councillor Cecilia Begg speaks at the rally in front of the Ministry of Mines in Toronto in July 2023. Jessica Smith Cross/The Trillium.

The final text from the UN COP28 climate summit, issued on December 13, commits to “tripling renewable energy capacity globally”.

Global Witness, however, cautions, with respect to “strategic minerals and the transition to ‘clean’ energy”, “there wasn’t a single commitment [in the text] to mitigate the destructive impact of extracting minerals on affected communities.”

The Ring of Fire in northern Ontario, Canada

On December 7, CBC reported: “Mining claims staked in northern Ontario’s Ring of Fire area have risen by 30 per cent since last year, according to provincial data analyzed by the Wildlands League. The crescent-shaped mineral deposit in the James Bay lowlands has been eyed as a critical source for Ontario’s burgeoning electric vehicle battery industry for years.”

That article highlights: “Surrounding First Nations say there hasn’t been proper consultation about mining projects on their territories. A number of rallies have been held at Queen’s Park in Toronto this year by members of the First Nations Land Defence Alliance, calling out the province’s free-entry mining system and demanding a meeting with Premier Doug Ford.”

PBI signs letter on just transition and critical minerals

On November 28, Peace Brigades International, along with 101 other organizations, signed this open letter to the State parties at the COP28 climate summit.

Key excerpts from that letter include:

We are also told that the only way to cut carbon emissions is through an explosion in transition minerals mining. We undoubtedly need minerals to support a burgeoning renewable energy sector. But we also know there is no ‘just energy transition’ if the goal is replacing conventional vehicles with electric vehicles (EVs) one for one. The number of new mines that will need to open in this scenario is at best simply unrealistic, at worst poised to lead to severe environmental and human rights harms.

Mining always comes with risks of human rights and environmental abuses. Over 510 allegations of abuses associated with top-producing mining operations of cobalt, copper, nickel, manganese, lithium, and zinc have been documented in the past decade – with one in four associated with attacks against human rights defenders. The extractive industry is the most dangerous sector for those voicing concerns – with little progress in bringing the drivers of these attacks to justice recorded to date.

Indigenous Peoples are disproportionately affected, with more than 50% of the world reserves for transition minerals on or near Indigenous or peasants lands, while in 2022 they counted for 34% of all the environmental defenders killed in the world.

Among the demands in the letter, it states: “We call on world leaders to commit to climate action [that includes] clear protection mechanisms for human rights and environmental defenders.”

EU invites Canada to join “critical raw materials club”

This past November 23-24, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated at the European Union-Canada summit held in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador:

“I want to extend a warm invitation to Canada to join our critical raw materials club, which we will launch at COP28. Canada is indeed in pole position for what critical raw materials are concerned. You are today the only country in the Western hemisphere with all the raw materials required for lithium batteries. Canada exports 90% of its mineral products. And the European Union is Canada’s second largest export market. So I would say that this is a perfect match, let us work on that.”

On December 2 at COP28, President von der Leyen launched the Global Pledge on Renewables and Energy Efficiency.

UN Special Rapporteur on the Ring of Fire

And this past August, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, José Francisco Calí Tzay, released his report on his Visit to Canada that took place in March. On page 20, he said Canada should “suspend large-scale mining and other business activities in the Ring of Fire region … until the free, prior and informed consent of the Indigenous Peoples affected is secured.”

COP28 and environmental defenders

In its assessment of the COP28 final text, Global Witness also notes:

“Since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015, we documented the killings of at least 1,390 land and environmental defenders… In the run-up to COP, we joined 150 organizations to call on the UNFCCC to recognize and protect Defenders. And yet, there is not a single reference to land and environmental defenders in the final text.”

We continue to follow this situation closely.


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