Congo cobalt, copper mining linked to serious human rights abuses
Multinational companies seeking to expand mining operations have displaced communities from their homes and land.
The expansion of large cobalt and copper mines in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has resulted in serious human rights violations, including forced evictions, sexual assault, arson, and beatings, according to a report by Amnesty International and the DRC-based organization Initiative pour la Bonne Gouvernance et les Droits Humains (IBGDH).
Multinational companies seeking to expand mining operations have displaced communities from their homes and land, the report found.
"The forced evictions taking place as companies seek to expand industrial-scale copper and cobalt mining projects are wrecking lives and must stop now," said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.
"Amnesty International recognizes the vital function of rechargeable batteries in the energy transition from fossil fuels. But climate justice demands a just transition. Decarbonizing the global economy must not lead to further human rights violations," she said, adding, "The people of the DRC experienced significant exploitation and abuse during the colonial and post-colonial era, and their rights are still being sacrificed as the wealth around them is stripped away."
The increasing need for materials used in clean energy technologies, such as copper and cobalt, has risen due to their essential roles in manufacturing lithium-ion batteries, which power various devices like electric cars and mobile phones. The DRC possesses the world's largest cobalt reserves and the seventh-largest copper reserves.
To illustrate the demand, an average electric vehicle battery utilizes over 13 kilograms of cobalt, while a typical mobile phone battery requires around 7 grams. Cobalt demand is projected to reach 222,000 tonnes by 2025, having tripled since 2010.
Donat Kambala, president of IBGDH, said: "People are being forcibly evicted, or threatened or intimidated into leaving their homes, or misled into consenting to derisory settlements. Often there was no grievance mechanism, accountability, or access to justice."
Candy Ofime and Jean-Mobert Senga, Amnesty International researchers, and co-authors of the report, said: "We found repeated breaches of legal safeguards prescribed in international human rights law and standards, and national legislation, as well as blatant disregard for the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights."
In the making of "Powering Change or Business as Usual?" Amnesty International and IBGDH conducted interviews with over 130 individuals across six distinct mining projects located in and around Kolwezi, a city in the southern province of Lualaba, during two separate visits in 2022.
Researchers examined various materials, including documents, correspondence, photographs, videos, satellite images, and company responses. The report includes findings from four of these sites, with accounts of human rights abuses related to forced evictions documented at three of them. In the case of the fourth site, Kamoa-Kakula, the report identified evidence of inadequate resettlement practices.