The EU Commission is on a mining bonanza. It wants to give way to big, industrial mining across Europe and beyond. It created a plan to produce more cars so that Europe’s carmakers and big mining can pocket fat profits. It labelled its plan “green,” hoping that no one would see through it.
Together with the mining lobby,[i] The EU drew up a list of 34 critical raw materials needed for the so-called energy transition and labelled 16 of them “strategic.” [ii] [iii] Then it produced a law to make their extraction happen fast. Called the Critical Raw Materials Act [iv], the European parliament and Europe’s ministers for industry are slated to green-light it at any moment before the end of the year. .
Modern mines are very different from what many think. They are large-scale industrial operations that increasingly displace entire communities, destroy large surfaces like forests or agricultural lands and pollute water and air, creating gigantic toxic waste deposits. They rely on the use of enormous amounts of toxic chemicals for processing which can, and have, escaped into the environment causing long lasting damage. [v] Mining for the 'green' transition is no different. If anything it's more dangerous because climate disruptions such as flash floods and droughts accentuate accidents, making them more frequent and less controllable.
Being aware that new modern mines will cause resistance from affected communities and citizens, the EU and big mining planned for this. Their proposed law imposes a process to fast-track permitting and limits public participation and the right to a fair trial. [vi] If this becomes law, new mines can be declared of “strategic importance” which means violating human rights, local laws and expropriating communities seeking to protect their environments. [vii] Projects could also be labelled with non binding certification schemes that directly violate international agreements. [viii] And if f that is not already enough, the EU Commission can also add new materials to the list, as it deems necessary.
Rights of local populations and Indigenous communities and Rights of Nature threatened by mining are paramount to a just energy transition. Communities and people must have their say; including their Right to say No! [ix] A transition that does not address Europe’s unsustainable consumption and prioritise reduction in output [x], caps on wealth and other non-mining solutions can not seriously call itself green [xi] or pass for environmental policy.
So what about the natural places we cherish? The law does not exclude protected areas such as Natura2000 sites or the deep sea and the Arctic from becoming new mine sites. Mining should never happen in areas that are protected, common or sacred. [xii] When essential Nature such as water stands to be jeopardised for the sake of corporate profits, we should all be worried!
But all is far from lost. Communities and citizens from across Europe and Latin America who are already faced with murky mine proposals dressed in “green” are standing up to stop the new mining bonanza! They are holding out firmly but if we want to stop this Regulation, then we need to be many and we need to be loud.
We have a plan. Next spring Europe’s citizens will head to the polls to elect a new European Parliament. This means that parliamentarians are in listening mode. This is our chance. If we tell them today that we want them to reject the Critical Raw Materials Act, we are sending a clear message that we want them to ensure human and environmental rights will not be violated in favour of big mining.
They have a chance to reject the law or risk being voted out.
Sign the petition and let them know you want to see a truly fair transition where people and nature come before profits and mining. The time is now.
[i] The CRM Alliance is composed of trade associations and companies representing substances that are defined as "critical" by the European Commission
[ii] Spreading “green” infrastructural harm. A.Dunlap.
[iii] European Critical Raw Materials Act
[iv] https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A52023PC0160 https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/A-9-2023-0260_EN.html#_section1
[v] World Mine Tailings Failures - from 1915
[vi] BBC: CEO of LKAB mining Jan Mostrom, asking the EU to speed up licensing laws.
[vii] Yes to Life no to Mining “10 Reasons Certification Schemes are not a Solution”
[viii] This includes the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean.
[ix] European Environmental Bureau: The Right to Say No, a legal toolkit.
[x] Chile: The colonial shadow of green electromobility // The ‘Alterlives’ of Green Extractivism.
[xi] A.Dunlap: End the “Green” Delusions: Industrial-scale Renewable Energy is Fossil Fuel+
[xii] Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) is a specific right granted to Indigenous Peoples recognised in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which aligns with their universal right to self-determination.