What’s going on here?

Indigenous leaders are putting pressure on clean energy mining projects to consult them before they extract minerals on their lands. At the 22nd session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, they are calling for binding policies. Mining projects should have to obtain their ‘free, prior, and informed consent’ (FPIC) before breaking ground.

What does this mean? 

Delegates at the world’s biggest gathering of Indigenous peoples say FPIC should be required for all projects affecting Indigenous communities.

As the world moves to clean energy, demand for minerals like lithium, copper, and nickel could quadruple by 2040, reports Mongabay. In 2021, consultancy Wood Mackenzie said the shift to a low-carbon world needs $1.7 trillion in mining investment.

More than half of active mining projects are extracting clean energy minerals on or near lands where Indigenous or peasant peoples live, says Nature.

Joan Carling, executive director of a non-profit that defends Indigenous rights, said communities are being excluded from the discussion. “That’s why I call it green colonialism – the [energy] transition without the respect of Indigenous rights is another form of colonialism,” he told Mongabay.

Why should we care? 

The potential consequences of mining projects on Indigenous land can include eviction, loss of livelihoods, and the deforestation and degradation of local ecosystems.

Delegates at the session, happening from 17 to 28 April, emphasise that FPIC is an important part of the sustainability of energy projects. They say it can pave the way for agreements on collaboration or conservation.

There are signs that the private sector is listening. In 2021, asset manager heavy-weight BlackRock said it expected companies to “obtain (and maintain)” Indigenous peoples’ FPIC for activity that clashes with their rights.

Be Curious!

Header image: A copper mine in Utah, USA. Credit: David Knudsen on Unsplash