Indigenous Rights
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Indigenous Rights

A study in December 2022 estimated that more than half of the ETMs (energy transition minerals and metals) required to transition the global energy system to renewables are located on or near the lands of indigenous and peasant peoples.

For some of the ETMs the proportion is considerably higher than 50%, and for many of the materials the impacts of mining and extraction are already having devastating effects.

On this page I look at some of the factors involved and at some examples.

The "30x30" Target

Without the political and financial resources that others can call on appeals, reports and analyses by organisations such as Amnesty International and Minority Rights Group International are generally relegated to inconspicuous locations. However, this document is very important.

It explains how the designation of 30% of the planet as "Protected Areas" will actually devastate the lives of indigenous people and be hugely destructive for the livelihoods of other subsistence land-users.

Whilst the expansion of Protected Areas seems to be a good step, the conseuqnces have previously included evictions, hunger, ill-health and human rights violations.

Thacker Pass, USA

The Thacker Pass Lithium Mine is a proposed mine in Northwestern Nevada, USA. You can read more about it here.

It is expected to destroy critical wildlife habitat, cause groundwater contamination anticipated to persist in excess of 300 years if not actively treated indefinitely, draw roughly 9% of the available water in a basin with no water to spare, disrupt the nearby agricultural community's ability to carry out their livelihoods, and destroy a significant cultural area/sacred site of the Paiute.

You can find out more about these impacts from the Environmental Justice Atlas.

Thacker Pass protest

Bedouin Traditions in Morocco

The Xlinks Morocco-UK Power Project is a proposal to create 10.5 GW of renewable generation, 20 GWh of battery storage and a 3.6 GW high-voltage direct current (HVDC) interconnector to carry solar and wind-generated electricity from Morocco to the UK. You can find out more about the project here.

However, the location of the project is in the region of Guelmim-Oued Noun, one of the twelve regions of Morocco. The southeastern part of the region is located in the disputed territory of Western Sahara and a small strip of land in this area is administered by the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.

The Moussem of Tan-Tan is an annual gathering of nomadic peoples of the Sahara that brings together more than thirty tribes from southern Morocco and other parts of northwest Africa.

Nomadic populations are particularly concerned to protect their way of life. Economic and technical upheavals in the region have profoundly altered the lifestyle of the nomadic Bedouin communities. Many of them have been forced to settle. Urbanization and rural exodus have contributed to the loss of many aspects of their traditional culture, such as crafts and poetry. Bedouin communities rely strongly on the Moussem of Tan-Tan to assist them in ensuring the survival of their know-how and traditions.

For a detailed discussion of issues raised by this proposal, see this article.

Tourism is also an important part of the local economy. Take a look at this article.

Tan-Tan Moussem

Indigenous Rights News

December 2023: Osage Nation victory

After a long dispute a federal judge orders removal of wind turbines from Osage Nation land.

As reported here the order marks the end of a decade long dispute.

It’s only the third time nationally a judge has ordered the teardown and removal of wind turbines and a first for Oklahoma. The Osage Minerals Council said in a statement they were more than pleased with the outcome.

March 2023: Norway wind farms at heart of Sami protest violate human rights, minister says

As reported in this article Norway's government apologises to Indigenous Sami groups for "human rights violation".

March 2023: Klamath dam removals and habitat restoration

There has been good news from California and Oregon where work has begun on removing four dams on the Klamath River which tribes and other groups have lobbied to take down for decades.

One goal was to restore salmon populations, and together with many years of campaigning by tribal groups this has led to agreement between PacifiCorp, California, Oregon, the Yurok Tribe, the Karuk Tribe and a multitude of environmental organizations.

As quoted here "restoring the Klamath River and removing the dams is unspeakably important to local tribes because it represents a step toward greater environmental stewardship in accordance with tribal practices".

Find out more - including the background to the decision to remove the dams, discussions of the pros and cons and issues surrounding this work - in this article.