Human rights
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Human Rights

Which aspects of the oil, mining and gas industries can affects peoples' human rights? The answer, of course, is almost all of them.

Human Rights Watch investigates potential and actual instances of human rights abuses and works to develop solutions. Follow the link to access details of current and recent investigations.

For example, this report explains that the Australian Government government needs to rapidly phase out the extraction, production and use of fossil fuels in order to meet international human rights obligations.

For a report that focuses specifically on renewable energy issues, this 2020 report from the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre outlines some of the key factors that need to be taken into account when recognising or setting standards for human rights and assessing adherence to them. The report looks specifically at a benchmark for human rights "best practice".

On this page I will look at some known instances of human rights abuses in relation to mining, extraction and manufacturing.

I do not subscribe to the opinion that any violation of human rights can be ignored if a worse example can be found.

Cobalt Mining in DR Congo

Cobalt is used in many products, including mobile phones, computers and most EV batteries. The main source of cobalt is DR Congo and this article is one that reveals the truth about the conditions in which much of that cobalt is obtained.

Another article from the Catholic News Agency describes how China is exploiting children in the Democratic Republic of Congo, forcing them to work under hazardous conditions to mine cobalt.

The practice was also condemned by Pope Francis during a visit to DR Congo in early 2023. He said “It is a tragedy that these lands, and more generally the whole African continent, continue to endure various forms of exploitation ...”

Although some batteries (e.g. LFP batteries) are now free from cobalt, or use very little of it, its use is still widespread and vast quantities are still mined in this way.

DR Congo child labour

Solar Panel Manufacturing and Human Rights

The use of slave labour in the Xinjiang region of China is highlighted in a UN report from July 2022.

This report by the Breakthrough Institute provides more detail.

And for a further update read this article by the same author.

Solar panels

Human Rights News

November 2022: US blocks more than 1,000 solar shipments over Chinese slave labor concerns

According to this report from Reuters more than 1,000 shipments of solar energy components worth hundreds of millions of dollars have piled up at U.S. ports since June under a new law banning imports from China's Xinjiang region over concerns about slave labour.