Russia: Europe Imports ‘critical’ Metals In Sanctions Blindspot

Russia: Europe Imports ‘critical’ Metals In Sanctions Blindspot

Editor’s note: As we see in this article, published on 10/24/2023 by Investigate Europe you can find on their website www.investigate-europe.eu, the European Union abandons it’s own environmental standards when it comes to pursuing geopolitical interests in remote places.

In July of 2023 the European Parliament voted for the EU restoration law so that a part of the 80 percent of natural habitats already damaged can be rewilded. But the implementation of this law can only make an impact if Europe decreases it’s use of metals and minerals from mining, outside and inside of it’s borders.

With importing “critical” metals from Russia the EU supports a war that displaces millions of people and harms wild habitats. These double standards, imposing sanctions on Moscow yet at the same time profiting off of the rich “resources” Russia provides, shows how modern societies work: governments and industries must firstly attend upon their high energy demand, ethical and environmental standards are at the bottom of the list.

Could it be the reason for this is not in spite of a defence against the attacker but because of it: The land of the enemy should be used to the benefit of the one who is in the “right” until it is drained of it’s “resources”. Like an outlawed person bereaved of rights and dignity. This dangerous attitude unfolds in front of our eyes: a competition where the living planet can only loose.


By Pascal Hansens, Sigrid Melchior, Maxense Peigné, Harald Schumann / Investigate Europe

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the 27 EU countries have adopted 11 sanction packages, targeting raw materials including oil, coal, steel and timber. But minerals that the EU considers as “critical” raw materials – 34 in total – still flow freely from Russia to Europe in vast quantities, providing crucial funds to state enterprises and oligarch-owned businesses.

While some of its western allies have targeted Russia’s mining sector – the UK recently banned Russian copper, aluminium and nickel – the EU has continued its imports. Airbus and other European companies are still buying titanium, nickel, and other commodities from firms close to the Kremlin more than a year after the invasion, Investigate Europe can reveal.

Between March 2022 and July this year, Europe imported €13.7 billion worth of critical raw materials from Russia, data from Eurostat and the EU’s Joint Research Centre shows. More than €3.7 billion arrived between January and July 2023, including €1.2 billion of nickel. The European Policy Centre estimates that up to 90 per cent of some types of nickel used in Europe comes from Russian suppliers.

“Why are critical raw materials not banned? Because they are critical, right. Let’s be honest,” the EU’s special envoy for sanctions, David O’Sullivan, pithily said at a September conference.

The Union is desperate for critical raw materials to achieve its aim of climate neutrality by 2050. These commodities are crucial for electronics, solar panels and electric cars, but also for traditional industries like aerospace and defence. Yet they are all too often in scarce supply, unevenly available across the globe, and in high demand.

“The war in Ukraine has clearly shown the willingness of Russia to weaponise the supply of key resources. As Europeans, we cannot tolerate that,” says Henrike Hahn, a German Green MEP working on the new Critical Raw Materials Act.

Europe’s imports not only fund Russia’s war economy, but also benefit Kremlin-backed oligarchs and state companies. Although the EU has targeted some shareholders, Russia’s mining businesses have faced no restrictions. The loophole is even more glaring that the US and the UK sanctioned several firms directly, further isolating the EU in its double standards.

Analysis of Russian customs data shows that Vsmpo-Avisma, the world’s largest titanium producer, sold at least $308 million of titanium into the EU via its German and UK branches between February 2022 and July 2023. It is part-owned by Russia’s national defence conglomerate, Rostec. The two companies share the same chairman: Sergei Chemezov, a close Putin ally. The pair were KGB officers in East Germany in the 1980s.

Both Chemezov and Rostec are under EU sanctions and helped supply tanks and weapons to the Russian army. Brussels has not sanctioned Vsmpo-Avisma directly, but the US did ban exports to the firm on 27 September, saying it was “directly involved in producing and manufacturing titanium and metal products for the Russian military and security services.”

Among Vsmpo-Avisma’s largest European customers is Airbus, the aerospace giant partly owned by the French, German and Spanish states. Between the start of the war and March 2023, Airbus imported at least $22.8 million worth of titanium from Russia; a fourfold increase in value and tonnes compared to the previous 13 months.

From 14 March 2023, Vsmpo-Avisma stopped identifying buyers in customs filings but nothing indicates a significant change in trends. Titanium imports to France only slightly decreased between then and July 2023, and Airbus still listed the company as a supplier in July.

“We have no comment on the details and evolution of our titanium sourcing volumes,” an Airbus spokesperson said. “Generally speaking, Airbus is currently ramping up commercial aircraft production and this is having a mechanical impact on its overall procurement volumes.” Even though it will take time, the group is reducing its dependency on Russia, the spokesperson said, adding that a ban on Russian titanium for civil aviation would “encourage the Russian industry to focus on defence needs.”

Unlike Vsmpo-Avisma, other Russian companies have avoided naming their buyers in customs filings altogether. Yet the data still gives a scale of their fruitful relationship with the west. Nornickel, the world leader in palladium and high-grade nickel, exported $7.6 billion worth of nickel and copper into the EU via Finnish and Swiss subsidiaries between the start of the war and July 2023. It also sent over $3 billion of palladium, platinum and rhodium into Zurich airport. In 2022, almost 50 per cent of Nornickel’s sales went to Europe. Brussels has not sanctioned the group nor its chairman and largest shareholder, Vladimir Potanin, an oligarch and former deputy prime minister under US and UK sanctions.

Aluminium giant Rusal also uses tax havens to funnel minerals to Europe, where it owns the EU’s largest alumina refinery in Ireland and a smelter in Sweden. Its Jersey and Swiss-based trading houses brought at least $2.6 billion of aluminium into the bloc in the 16 months following the invasion of Ukraine. In August 2023, Rusal said Europe still accounted for a third of its revenues. Rusal’s main shareholder is oligarch Oleg Deripaska, sanctioned by the EU and its western partners.

Anti-corruption NGO Transparency International says it does not make sense that the sector has avoided sanctions given the known links.

“They are part of the system and fueling Putin’s war,” says senior policy officer Roland Papp. “So it’s perfectly logical to ban those critical raw materials from Russia, as we did for other sectors and goods.”

Since the start of the war, other European buyers of Russian metals have included Germany’s GGP Metal Powder ($66 million of copper), French arms-maker Safran ($25 million of titanium) and Greece’s Elval Halcor ($13 million of aluminium). Dutch logistics firm C. Steinweg also handled at least $100 million of various critical metals on behalf of its customers.

Safran confirmed they are still buying titanium from Vsmpo-Avismo but are working to reduce their Russia purchases. GGP Metal Powder said “there is no real alternative to our supplier from Russia“. C. Steinweg said they follow all rules and sanctions. Elval Halcor, Vsmpo-Avisma, Rusal and Nornickel did not reply to requests for comment.

At the start of the war, Europe was relying on Russian producers for 30 per cent of its nickel, 35 per cent of its alumina and 15 per cent of its aluminium, according to an internal memo by trade body Eurometaux seen by IE. Russia accounted for 41 per cent of the world’s palladium production, and up to 25 per cent of its vanadium output.

“Russia occupies a large part of Eurasia – it possesses a big part of the strategic reserves of critical raw materials, on par with China,” says Oleg Savytskyi from Razom We Stand, a Ukrainian NGO. Moreover, “the low density of the population, authoritarian control and practical absence of environmental and human rights protections made investments in the mining of Russia’s resources terribly attractive,” he adds.

The EU’s crippling dependency should have been curbed earlier, argues Transparency International’s Papp. “We’ve had enough time to react. The annexation of Crimea dates back to 2014, the invasion of Georgia even dates back to 2008 15 years ago! And what have we done? We’ve increased our dependence on Russia. It was an absolute and serious mistake.”

A Polish diplomat said Poland has pressed the EU to “decouple completely” from Russia in several areas, “but for the sake of unity and efficiency in adopting new sanctions packages we have agreed to postpone particular measures until further discussion.”

As EU sanctions require unanimity among all member states, divergent national economic interests can often water down packages. When the ninth set of sanctions banned fresh investments in Russia’s mining sector in December 2022, it included an exemption to invest in some mining activities for some critical raw materials. As a result, European companies can still pour cash into Russian mines to extract nickel, titanium and other key metals.

The European Commission won’t publicly comment on whether or not it has proposed a ban on critical raw materials. One reason could be that  “sanctions are carefully designed to hit their targets while preserving EU interests,“ an EU source told IE.

Weaning the EU off Russia’s critical and strategic materials will be difficult. Replacing suppliers and forging new international partnerships is an arduous process. Finding a raw material, such as titanium or copper, with a similar quality and price of those from Russia is also a challenge.

Imposing tariffs or severing ties too quickly could lead to a global price surge which would harm European buyers while benefiting Moscow. A ban could also prompt India, Iran, and China to intensify purchases, further depleting critical raw material resources for EU industries.

Tymofiy Mylovanov, president of the Kyiv School of Economics, says a ban would be difficult to implement given global demand challenges and Europe’s reliance on Russia. “Overall, with these specific materials, the monetary value of what Russia would lose from the EU import ban, might be smaller than the effect on the EU production,” says Ukraine’s former trade and economic development minister.

UN trading data shows that while EU imports of Russian copper, nickel and aluminium imports have declined in the past two years, nickel and aluminium revenues remained stable. Russia’s nickel sales to the EU were worth $1 billion in the first half of 2021 and were $1.1 billion two years later.

The Union is now trying to reduce its dependency. In March, the European Commission presented its Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA), a new legislation aimed at reducing EU dependency on third countries for critical raw materials.

“War in Europe is a risk which was not present in the last decades and Russia was known as a reliable supplier,” says German MEP Hildegard Bentele, shadow rapporteur on the CRMA at the European Parliament. “The EU should take immediate action to support European companies to decrease and replace their CRM deliveries from Russia as soon as possible.”

The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy is expected to propose a 12th package of sanctions in the coming weeks, which will be then discussed by member states. Brussels hopes the package will renew pressure on the Russian economy and sap its fighting strength on the battlefields of Ukraine. Restrictions on critical raw materials does not seem to be on the table.

Editor at IE: Chris Matthews

Featured image: Leonid Andronov via Canva.com

 

Growing Distrust In US About Offshore Oil Drilling

Growing Distrust In US About Offshore Oil Drilling

Editor’s Note: We bring to you a combination of two posts. The first is about a mass arrest of activists during climate protests on September 18. The protests were part of a global coordinated climate action. The second is about the new permits issued in the US for offshore oil drilling. For a president who ran his election on not allowing any more drillings, the move is a shift from his electoral promises. Though reflecting a lack of integrity, it still does not come as a surprise. Both the Democratic and Republican parties have shown, time and again, to favor corporations over nature, people, justice and freedom. This crackdown on protestors and permission for new drilling projects are just a reflection of that. As much as we oppose fossil fuels and oil drilling, DGR does not believe a renewable transition to be a solution to it. And calling a climate emergency to pursue that purpose would be folly.


114 Climate Defenders Arrested While Blocking Entry to NY Federal Reserve

By Brett Wilkins/Common Dreams

A day after tens of thousands of climate activists marched through Manhattan’s Upper East Side demanding an end to oil, gas, and coal production, thousands more demonstrators hit the streets of Lower Manhattan Monday, where more than 100 people were arrested while surrounding the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to protest fossil fuel financing.

Protesters chanted slogans like “No oil, no gas, fossil fuels can kiss my ass” and “We need clean air, not another billionaire” as they marched from Zuccotti Park—ground zero of the 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement—to pre-selected sites in the Financial District. Witnesses said many of the activists attempted to reach the New York Stock Exchange but were blocked by police.

“We’re here to wake up the regulators who are asleep at the wheel as they continue to let Wall Street lead us into ANOTHER financial crash with their fossil fuel financing,” the Stop the Money Pipeline coalition explained on social media.

Protests against 300-mile-long oil pipeline through the Appalachians

Local and national media reported New York Police Department (NYPD) officers arrested 114 protesters and charged them with civil disobedience Monday after they blocked entrances to the Fed building. Most of those arrested were expected to be booked and released.

“I’m being arrested for exercising my First Amendment right to protest because Joe Manchin is putting a 300-mile-long pipeline through my home state of West Virginia and President [Joe] Biden allowed him to do it for nothing in return,” explained Climate Defiance organizer Rylee Haught on social media, referring to the right-wing Democratic senator and the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

As she was led away by an NYPD officer, a tearful Haught said Biden “sold us out.”

“He promised to end drilling on federal lands, and he’s selling out Appalachia’s future for profit,” she added.

The demand is: declare a climate emergency

Responding to the “block-long” line of arrestees, Climate Defiance asked: “Why are we getting handcuffed while people who literally torch the planet get celebrated for their ‘civility’ and their ‘moderation’?”

Alicé Nascimento of New York Communities for Change told WABC that the protests—which are part of Climate Week and are timed to coincide with this week’s United Nations Climate Ambition Summit—are “our last resort.”

“We’re bringing the crisis to their doorstep and this is what it looks like,” said Nascimento.

As they have at similar demonstrations, protesters called on Biden to stop approving new fossil fuel projects and declare a climate emergency. Some had a message for the president and his administration.

“We hold the power of the people, the power you need to win this election,” 17-year-old Brooklynite Emma Buretta of the youth-led protest group Fridays for Future told WABC. “If you want to win in 2024, if you do not want the blood of my generation to be on your hands, end fossil fuels.”


‘Gross Denial of Reality’: Biden Infuriates With Approval of More Offshore Drilling

By Julia Conley/Common Dreams

Rejecting the corporate media’s narrative that U.S. President Joe Biden’s newly-released offshore drilling plan includes the “fewest-ever” drilling leases, dozens of climate action and marine conservation groups on Friday said the president had “missed an easy opportunity to do the right thing” and follow through on his campaign promise to end all lease sales for oil and gas extraction in the nation’s waters.

The U.S. Interior Department announced Friday its five-year plan for the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program, including three new areas in the Gulf of Mexico where fossil fuel companies will be permitted to drill.

Government won’t reach it’s climate goals whith new drilling leases

Biden promised “no new oil drilling, period” as a presidential candidate, but he announced the plan six months after the administration’s approval of the Willow oil drilling project in Alaska incensed climate advocates.

The industries have already bought 9,000 drilling leases – to which the new leases will be added. This is “incompatible with reaching President Biden’s goal of cutting emissions by 50-52% by 2030,” said the Protect All Our Coasts Coalition, citing the findings of Biden’s own Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its Office of Atmospheric Protection earlier this year.

Texan citizens suffer under pollution in the Gulf region

While the final plan scales back from the eleven sales that were originally proposed, said the coalition, “the plan is a step backwards from the climate goals the administration has set and for environmental justice communities across the Gulf South, who are already experiencing the disproportionate impact of fossil fuel extraction across the region.”

The coalition includes the Port Arthur Community Action Network, which has called attention to the risks posed to public health in the Gulf region by continued fossil fuel extraction.

“Folks in Port Arthur, Texas die daily from cancer, respiratory, heart, and kidney disease from the very pollution that would come from more leases and drilling,” said John Beard, the founder, president, and executive director of the group. “If Biden is to truly be the environmental president, he should stop any further leasing and all forms of the petrochemical build-out, call for a climate emergency, and jumpstart the transition to clean green, renewable energy, and lift the toxic pollution from overburdened communities.”

Our fossil fuel-lifestyle incompatible with the survival of the earth

Kendall Dix, national policy director of Taproot Earth, dismissed political think tanks that applauded the “historically few lease sales” on Friday.

“The earth does not recognize political ‘victories,'” said Dix, pointing to an intrusion of saltwater in South Louisiana’s drinking water in recent weeks, which has been exacerbated by the fossil fuel-driven climate crisis.

“As the head of the United Nations [António Guterres] has said, continued fossils fuel development is incompatible with human survival,” he added. “We need to transition to justly sourced renewable energy that’s democratically managed and accountable to frontline communities as quickly as possible.”

Biden’s drilling plans break his campaign promises

Along with groups in the Gulf region, national organizations on Friday condemned a plan that they said blatantly ignores the repeated warnings of international energy experts and the world’s top climate scientists who say no new fossil fuel expansion is compatible with a pathway to limiting planetary heating to 1.5°C.

“Sacrificing millions of acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas extraction when scientists are clear that we must end fossil fuel expansion immediately is a gross denial of reality by Joe Biden in the face of climate catastrophe,” said Collin Rees, United States program manager at Oil Change International. “Doubling down on oil drilling is a direct violation of President Biden’s prior commitments and continues a concerning trend.”

Rees noted that 75,000 people marched in New York City last week to demand that Biden declare a climate emergency and end support for any new fossil fuel extraction projects.

Protesters fear the destruction of land based communities and wildlife

“End Fossil Fuels is pretty clear,” said Rees, referring to campaigners’ rallying cry. “Not ‘hold slightly fewer lease sales,’ not ‘talk about climate action’—End. Fossil. Fuels.”

Despite Biden’s campaign promises, Rees noted, the U.S. is currently “on track to expand fossil fuel production more than any other country by 2050.”

“I feel disgusted and incredibly let down by Biden’s offshore oil drilling plan. It piles more harm on already-struggling ecosystems, endangered species and the global climate,” said Brady Bradshaw, senior oceans campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity, another member of the Protect All Our Coasts Coalition. “We need Biden to commit to a fossil fuel phaseout, but actions like this condemn us to oil spills, climate disasters, and decades of toxic harm to communities and wildlife.”

Inflation Reduction Act serves industrial extension

The lease sales, said Sarah Winter Whelan of the Healthy Ocean Coalition, also represent a missed opportunity by the administration to treat the world’s oceans “as a climate solution, not a source for further climate disaster.”

Under the Inflation Reduction Act, negotiated by the White House last year, the government is required to offer at least 60 million acres of offshore gas and oil drilling leases before developing new wind power projects of similar scope.

“A single new lease sale for offshore oil and gas exploration is one too many,” said Whelan. “Communities around the country are already dealing with exacerbating impacts from climate disruption caused by our reliance on fossil fuels. Any increase in our dependence on fossil fuels just bakes in greater impacts to humanity.”

Gulf communities, added Beard, “refuse to be sacrificed” for fossil fuel profits.

“We say enough is enough,” he said.

Environmental Groups Protest Manila Bay Reclamation Project

Environmental Groups Protest Manila Bay Reclamation Project

The following is a press release by Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) about a protest action against seabed quarrying in Manila Bay. DGR Asia Pacific is also a collaborator of the protest.


Press release

Alyansa Tigil Mina together with Deep Green Resistance and Local Autonomous Network trooped to the Senate during the joint hearing on seabed quarrying today for a peaceful protest action dubbed “Food Not Quarry” as they asked the Senate to urge President Bongbong Marcos, Jr. to issue an Executive Order suspending all Manila Bay reclamation projects.

ATM submitted its Position Paper on Seabed Quarrying during the joint hearing of the Senate Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Climate Change and the Senate Committee on Urban Planning, Housing and Resettlement.

“ATM respectfully calls on the distinguished members of the Philippine Senate to urge President Marcos Jr. to issue an executive order formalizing his August 9 announcement that reclamation projects in Manila Bay are suspended,” said the group in their position paper.

“Despite President Marcos’ announcement suspending the Manila Bay reclamation projects, we still observe an increase in sand mining, river dredging and seabed quarrying in Cagayan, Zambales, Bataan, and Cavite. These activities appear to provide filling materials for Manila Bay reclamation projects,” said Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coordinator.

ATM’s position paper further notes that interviews with Cavite fishing communities revealed: the absence or lack of consultations before seabed quarrying activities were permitted; frequent incidents of dredging ships damaging fishing nets; and, sharp decline in fish catch since the dredging started.

The group called for the inclusion of people’s organizations, coastal communities, and civil society groups in the on-going cumulative assessment by the DENR.

“We also call on the Senate to hold accountable concerned government officials and private actors for the environmental damage and human rights violations caused by the seabed quarrying projects,” Garganera said.

“We likewise demand the rehabilitation of marine resources and compensation of coastal families whose rights and livelihood were adversely affected.”

Outside the Senate building, the protestors demanded the “eventual halt or cancellation of seabed quarrying projects that destroy fishing grounds and municipal waters, and bring about hunger and poverty to nearby communities.”

“Our direct action aims to surface the discontent surrounding seabed quarrying in San Nicholas Shoal Cavite as well as other areas.

We would also like to bring attention to the need for sustainable projects that ensure food security, especially in the midst of the climate crisis,” said Garganera.


Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano resurfaced

Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano (two activists abducted on September 2) have resurfaced. There are two versions of what happened to them.

In the official version (published September 16), the governmental law enforcement agencies claim that the two women were not abducted but left on their free will. They also claimed that they wanted to leave the group against Manila Bay Reclamation Project but were afraid to do so. As a result they fled from their homes and surrendered to the military. This news story highlights the official statement of the story.

The military presented the two women in a press conference on September 20. The aim of the press conference was to “debunk the abduction propaganda.” The two women were supposed to support the official version of the event. However, when Castro took the floor, she boldly claimed that she was abducted and forced to sign affidavit in military camps. Tamano supported Castro’s claim, after which the press conference was halted abruptly. Thankfully, the women were released hours after the conference in the presence of their families and human rights activists. A report of the press conference can be found here.

As a movement becomes more effective, the repression against it becomes stronger. The powerful will do anything in their power to destroy the movement. DGR commends the bravery of Castro and Tamano, for maintaining their courage and commitment to the natural world despite the hardships.


DGR is now selling a campaign shirt to support the operation cost of our ongoing campaign in the Philippines. We strongly opposed the Seabed Quarrying in San Nicolas Shoal in Cavite and Manila Bay Reclamation Projects which cause a wide ecological marine destruction and kill the livelihood of thousands of small fisherfolks around Manila Bay.

Price: P500.00

For every shirt that you purchase, DGR Asia Pacific will get P200 pesos that we will use in our activity and actions about Seabed Quarrying and Reclamations.

To order a shirt, please send us a message on our FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/dgrasiapacific/

Mining Reform in Mexico: Will It Protect Nature and Indigenous People?

Mining Reform in Mexico: Will It Protect Nature and Indigenous People?

Editor’s Note; It is important to understand the difference between a reform and a revolution in any political movement. A reform aims to tweak some aspects of the system to make it more equitable, fair and just. A revolution, on the other hand, changes the overall structure of the system. DGR, as a radical environmental and a radical feminist organization, believes that reforms are not enough in a system that is inherently rooted in oppression and injustice. We believe that a revolution is necessary to remove that deep rooted structural violence. However, we also understand that a revolution requires political organizing at a much larger scale. While we are working on building that political movement, the natural world is being destroyed. Till then, something needs to be done to protect the pieces of natural world that we have left, no matter how small. That is where reforms contribute. We understand the perseverance and diligence it takes to bring about any reform and appreciate those who are working on it. Below is the story of such a movement. Though originally designed to be much more protective of nature and indigenous people, the mining laws in Mexico were modified to be much less than that by the time they were passed. The US is still ruled by the Mining Law of 1872.


By Maxwell Radwin/Mongabay

  • Reforms to Mexico’s mining law limit harmful practices by extractive industries and improve protections for the environment and Indigenous peoples. But they’re also a far cry from the change activists had been hoping for.
  • Under the new reform, Indigenous communities will receive 5% of a mining operation’s profits. The maximum lifespan of mining concessions is also reduced from 100 years to 80.
  • Concessions will no longer be granted in areas with water shortages or in protected areas. Currently, there are 1,671 mining concessions in 70 protected areas in Mexico, spreading across 1.5 million hectares (3.7 million acres) of preserved land.

MEXICO CITY — A major reform approved by congress last week is supposed to limit harmful practices by the mining industry and improve protections for the environment and Indigenous peoples. But some parts of the reform faced strong resistance from pro-business interests, resulting in a watered-down version that some environmentalists said doesn’t go far enough.

The reform, originally introduced by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador at the end of March, was designed to make it harder for private companies to obtain mining concessions without accounting for impacts on surrounding ecosystems and local communities.

It establishes free and prior consent as a requirement for mining concessions, meaning that companies must meet with residents to discuss the impacts of their projects before receiving permits. It also requires companies to restore the land once a mine closes.

But some of the most impactful components of the proposal were negotiated down. Payment to Indigenous communities living near mining operations was originally supposed to be 10% of mining profits but lawmakers reduced it to 5%.

There was also debate about the length of mining concessions, which the previous version of the law set at up to 100 years. Although the original reform proposal wanted to limit it to just 30 years, effectively preventing the companies from shaping entire regions for the long term, lawmakers ultimately settled on 80 years.

“These topics were suppressed or modified without justification and under pressure from the business interests that are responsible for social and environmental devastation,” Colectiva Cambiémosla Ya and Alliance for Free Determination and Autonomy, two mining activist groups, said in a statement ahead of the senate vote.

Deputy Ignacio Mier Velazco, from the state of Puebla — who explained that the reforms were changed to avoid risking investment and economic development — said he was confident the version that was passed would still improve oversight of the industry. Many activists in the region agreed, telling Mongabay the reforms were a victory that allowed for some positive change and a way forward for the continued fight against mining.

Mexico’s mining industry has experienced rapid growth since 1992, when the original mining law was passed. The country has become a top exporter of silver, zinc and other important minerals. In the 1980s, less than 1% of Mexican territory was under a mining concession. Now, it’s a little more than 8%, according to the president’s reform proposal.

The private sector made a push to stall the vote when the initiative was introduced last month, accusing the president’s party, Morena, of fast-tracking the process before the end of legislative sessions in April. The Confederation of Industrial Chambers of Mexico (Concamin) and Association of Mining Engineers, Metallurgists and Geologists of Mexico (AIMMGM) called for additional dialogue with lawmakers. Credit rating agency Moody’s argued that limitations on the length of concessions could hinder growth in the sector. Officials in Canada expressed concern about whether the reforms would impact investments and Mexico’s commitment to international trade agreements. A senate commission that needed to approve the proposal even declared a recess in order to delay voting just days before the end of the legislative session. But the proposal was eventually approved on the final day with a vote of 66 in favor and zero against because the opposition wasn’t present to vote.

Other major changes

Under the original mining law, companies could easily buy up land because extractives activities were listed as having a higher economic benefit than sectors like agriculture and tourism. Now, mining companies no longer have preferential treatment and will have to compete with those industries through a public bidding process.

Companies are also held more accountable for pollution and land use changes. They will receive warnings and suspensions for environmental damage, during which time they’ll be required to correct the issue or else risk having their concessions cancelled altogether. This includes ensuring the safety of workers on-site.

“Communities continue to live in poverty despite being in areas that are very rich in gold, silver and other precious minerals,” said Beatriz Olivera, the general director of Engenera, an environmental and social advocacy NGO. “What we are going to see now is that companies can’t continue operating so irresponsibly on the part of employees.”

The reform bans exploration and extraction in areas with proven water shortages, underwater and in protected areas.

Currently, there are 1,671 mining concessions in 70 protected areas in Mexico, with an overlapping area of around 1.5 million hectares (3.7 million acres), according to the Ministry of Economy. Fourteen of those mining concessions overlap with protected area core zones.

Eleven mine sites labeled as “highly contaminated” by the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources were located within protected areas in 2019, the most recent year that the data is available.

Over half of the core zone in the Sierra de Manantlán Biosphere Reserve, or around 22,000 hectares (54,000 acres), overlaps with five mining concessions. The Zicuirán Infiernillo Biosphere Reserve has 12 mining concessions covering over 12,000 hectares (29,600 acres) of its core zone.

“It’s a big, big advance,” said Manuel Llano, Director of Carto Crítica, an NGO for environmental and social rights. “The prohibition of mining in protected areas will change what has been happening up until now, which was that land and water were being concessioned and operated on without concern.”

 

Photo by Dominik Vanyi on Unsplash

A Transition to “Clean” Energy Is Hurting Indigenous Communities

A Transition to “Clean” Energy Is Hurting Indigenous Communities

Editor’s note: The FPIC (Free, prior and informed consent) and UNDRIP (UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) are international standards, that some companies have adopted into their policies. The FPIC is an international human rights principle that protect peoples’ rights to self-determination. UNDRIP delineates and defines the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples. Both of these are important principles that improve the sovereignty of indigenous peoples. However, neither of these are legally binding, which has disastrous outcomes.

Companies and countries alike are bypassing these principles in favor of profitable ventures, most recent of which are clean energy projects.

Right now, companies that advance the “clean” energy transition are threatening the land and the livelihoods of indigenous peoples and peasants. Demand for minerals like copper and lithium is skyrocketing, as every economic sector is being transitioned towards the fourth industrial revolution. But indigenous peoples need to have their right to a say in decisions affecting to their land. Ecosystems and people living with the land are being victimized to serve an economy that is desperately trying to save itself from collapsing.

This story is published as part of the Global Indigenous Affairs Desk, an Indigenous-led collaboration between Grist, High Country News, ICT, Mongabay, and Native News Online. This story was originally published by Grist. Sign up for Grist’s weekly newsletter here.


Sarah Sax/Grist

When Francisco Calí Tzay, the United Nations special rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples, spoke at the 22nd United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, or UNPFII, last week, he listed clean energy projects as some of the most concerning threats to their rights.

“I constantly receive information that Indigenous Peoples fear a new wave of green investments without recognition of their land tenure, management, and knowledge,” said Calí Tzay.

His statements — and those made by other delegates — at what is the world’s largest gathering of Indigenous peoples, made clear that without the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous people, these “green” projects have the capacity to seriously impede on Indigenous rights.

Free, prior and informed consent — known as FPIC — has always been an important topic at the UNPFII, but this year it’s taken on a renewed urgency.

Mining projects and carbon offsets put pressure on indigenous groups

“The strong push is because more and more of climate action and targets for sustainable development are impacting us,” said Joan Carling, executive director of Indigenous Peoples Rights International, an Indigenous nonprofit that works to protect Indigenous peoples’ rights worldwide.

protester holding a sign that says protect thacker pass
Protest against Thacker Pass lithium mine. Image courtesy Max Wilbert

 

Indigenous peoples around the world are experiencing the compounding pressures of clean energy mining projects, carbon offsets, new protected areas and large infrastructure projects on their lands as part of economic recovery efforts in the wake of Covid-19, according to The International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs 2023 report.

Green colonialism threatens ecosystems

As states around the world trend towards transitioning to “clean” energy to meet their national and international climate goals, the demand for minerals like lithium, copper, and nickel needed for batteries that power the energy revolution are projected to skyrocket. The demand could swell fourfold by 2040, and by conservative estimates could pull in $1.7 trillion in mining investments.

Although Indigenous delegates say they support “clean” energy projects, one of the issues is their land rights: more than half of the projects extracting these minerals currently are on or near lands where Indigenous peoples or peasants live, according to an analysis published in Nature.

This can lead to their eviction from territories, loss of livelihoods, or the deforestation and degradation of surrounding ecosystems.

“And yet […] we are not part of the discussion,” said Carling. “That’s why I call it green colonialism — the [energy] transition without the respect of Indigenous rights is another form of colonialism.”

However, standing at the doorway of a just “clean” energy transition is FPIC, say Indigenous delegates. FPIC is the cornerstone of international human rights standards like the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, known as UNDRIP. Though more than 100 countries have adopted UNDRIP, this standard is not legally binding.

Companies and governments don’t abide by communities

Because of this, delegates are calling on countries and companies to create binding policy and guidelines that require FPIC for all projects that affect Indigenous peoples and their lands, as well as financial, territorial and material remedies for when companies and countries fail to do so.

However, there is some push back. The free prior, informed consent process can lead to a wide variety of outcomes including the right for communities to decline a highly profitable project, which can often be difficult for countries, companies and investors to abide by, explains Mary Beth Gallagher, the director of engagement of investment at Domini Impact Investments, who spoke at a side event on shareholder advocacy.

Indigenous Sámi delegates from Norway drew attention to their need for legally enforceable FPIC protection as they continue to protest the Fosen Vind Project, an onshore wind energy complex on Sámi territory, that the country’s Supreme Court ruled violated their rights.

“We have come to learn the hard way that sustainability doesn’t end colonialism,” said a Sámi delegate during the main panel on Tuesday.

Across the globe indigenous peoples face eviction

In the United States, the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, the People of Red Mountain and members of the Fort McDermitt Tribe filed lawsuits against the federal Bureau of Land Management for approving the permits for an open-pit lithium mine without proper consultation with the tribes. In the Colombian Amazon, the Inga Indigenous community presented a successful appeal for lack of prior consultation from a Canadian company that plans to mine copper, molybdenum and other metals in their highly biodiverse territory.

Consternation over governments and multinational companies setting aside FPIC has long extended over other sectors, like conservation and monoculture plantations for key cash crops. In Peru, the Shipibo-Konibo Indigenous peoples are resisting several large protected areas that overlap with their territory and were put in place without prior consultation.  In Tanzania and Kenya, the Maasai are being actively evicted from their lands for a trophy hunting and safari reserve. Indigenous Ryukyuan delegates condemn the ongoing use of their traditional lands and territories by the Japanese and U.S. governments for military bases without their free, prior, and informed consent.

Implementing the FPIC is truly sustainable

While delegates put a lot of emphasis on the lack of FPIC, they put equal emphasis on FPIC as a crucial part of the long-term sustainability of energy projects.

“FPIC is more than just a checklist for companies looking to develop projects on Indigenous lands,” said Carling. “It is a framework for partnership, including options for equitable benefit sharing agreements or memorandum of understanding, collaboration or conservation.”

The focus at this year’s conference has emphasized the growing role of FPIC in the private sector. Investors and developers are increasingly considering the inclusion of FPIC into their human rights due diligence standards. Select countries such as Canada have implemented UNDRIP in full, although First Nation groups have pointed out irregularities in how it is being implemented. The European Union is proposing including specific mandatory rights to FPIC in its corporate sustainability due diligence regulation. Side events at the UNPFII focused on topics like transmitting FPIC Priorities to the private sector and using shareholder advocacy to increase awareness of FPIC.

Gallagher of Domini Impact Investments said companies have a responsibility to respect human rights, which includes FPIC: “If they have a human rights commitment or they have a commitment in their policies not to do land grabs, we have to hold them to account for that.”

Indigenous leadership at the center of negotiations

In 2021, the world’s largest asset manager, BlackRock, published an expectation that companies “obtain (and maintain) the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous peoples for business decisions that affect their rights.” Large banks like Credit Agricole have included FPIC in their corporate social responsibility policy. But in most cases, even when companies have a FPIC policy it doesn’t conform to the standard outlined in UNDRIP and is not legally binding.

“It doesn’t do the work it’s supposed to do to protect self-determination,” said Kate Finn, director at First Peoples Worldwide. “It becomes a check-the-box procedure that’s solely consultations and stakeholder consultation instead of protection of rights and self-determination.”

“If communities aren’t giving their consent, a company has to respect that,” said Gallagher, who added “There’s obviously points of tension where investors have different agendas and priorities but ultimately, it’s about centering Indigenous leadership and working through that.”

Not properly abiding by FPIC can be costly to companies in countries that operate where it is a legal instrument. It comes with risks of losing their social operation to license, and financial damages. According to a study by First Peoples Worldwide, Energy Transfer and the banks that financed the now-completed Dakota Access Pipeline, lost billions due to construction delays, account closures, and contract losses after they failed to obtain consent from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in the United States.

Ultimately, Indigenous people need to be part of decision-making from the beginning of any project, especially “clean” energy projects mining for transition minerals on their territories, said Carling. “For us, land is life, and we have a right to decide over what happens on our land.”

Banner by Carolina Caycedo. Lithium Intensive, 2022. Color pencil on paper. Courtesy of the artist.

Lithium Mining Will Supply Nuclear Weapons and Reactors

Lithium Mining Will Supply Nuclear Weapons and Reactors

Editor’s Note: This essay was originally published in 2021, but is timely today as the new Christopher Nolan film “Oppenheimer” has just been released. As people are coming to realize the Bright Green Lies of “renewable” energy, they are looking for other ways to continue their unsustainable lifestyles. Many people are seriously considering risking more nuclear reactor accidents, waste and nuclear winter as the war in Ukraine continues to escalate.


By Max Wilbert/Substack

“The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything except our thinking. Thus, we are drifting toward catastrophe beyond conception. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.”

― Albert Einstein

At 8:15am on August 6, 1945, cameras began to click on board the Necessary Evil, a military flight over southern Japan. Necessary Evil’s mission was to photograph the first atomic bombing in history. Nearby, on board another plane, the Enola Gay, bombardiers opened hatches on the belly of the plane and pulled levers to release the bomb.

It was called Little Boy. Ten feet long and 28 inches in diameter, it weighed 9,700 pounds, 141 of which were enriched uranium. The bomb dropped out of the plane and began falling. It took about 12 seconds to reach terminal velocity, which, for a big oblong object like Little Boy is around 1,000 feet per second. But the extra 12 seconds of time for spend accelerating meant that it took 53 seconds to fall from 31,060 feet to 1,900 feet, where it detonated.

nuclear

Hiroshima shortly after the city was bombed in August 1945. 

 

The explosion began directly above a hospital, Shima byōin. Within a fraction of a second, the 80 residents and staff of that building, and perhaps 20,000 other people, were dead. The first died from thermal radiation, which travels at the speed of light and causes “flash burns.” Within seconds, the blast wave followed, traveling at 300 meters per second, rupturing eardrums, shredding lungs, tearing blood vessels, and flattening buildings.

Three days later, a second bomb was dropped on another city in southern Japan, Nagasaki. Within 4 months, as casualties from radiation burns and firestorms mounted, the death toll from these two bombs reached 200,000, with as many again injured.

Mass destruction was not new. Earlier that year, in March, 325 U.S. Air Force planes bombed Tokyo with napalm, igniting a firestorm that destroyed a quarter of the city and killed 100,000 people. But Hiroshima marked the beginning of the nuclear age. Now, the same destruction could be executed with a single plane and a single bomb.

Ever since, historians have argued over whether or not these bombings were necessary. The U.S. Military’s own review concluded “Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts… [that] prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped.”  Many have concluded that the bombings were, as Nobel-prize winning scientist Patrick Blackett wrote, “the first major operation of the cold diplomatic war with Russia.”

That Cold War began with 200,000 deaths, and the atrocities would continue over the coming decades, all around the world: coups, assassinations, political purges, gulags, McCarthyism, proxy wars, and brutal economic combat.

While World War II and The Cold War have ended, the threat of nuclear war has not, and neither has the danger posed by nuclear power generation. And while the dangers of Three Mile Island, Fukushima, and especially Chernobyl [and the risks around Zaporizhzhya, today] cannot be underestimated, nuclear waste is perhaps a bigger danger than accidents.

This trifecta of horrors—nuclear war, nuclear accidents, and nuclear waste—still haunts our world today.

Immediately following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, scientists from the Manhattan Project created a non-profit organization called the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists dedicated to educating about the dangers our world faces “at a time when technology is outpacing our ability to control it.”

In 1947, members of the Bulletin launched “The Doomsday Clock” — a metaphorical representation of the likelihood of global catastrophe. Each year, a team of scientists, Nobel laureates, and others experts meets to consider the current state of man-made global threats from nuclear weapons, global warming, and disruptive technology, and set the time on the clock accordingly. The closer to midnight, the higher the level of danger.

The doomsday clock currently is set 90 seconds to midnight.

This is the direst warning the Bulletin has ever issued.

In explanation, the Bulletin’s scientists write that “Accelerating nuclear programs in multiple countries moved the world into less stable and manageable territory [over the past year]… Development of hypersonic glide vehicles, ballistic missile defenses, and weapons-delivery systems that can flexibly use conventional or nuclear warheads may raise the probability of miscalculation in times of tension… Nuclear nations… have ignored or undermined practical and available diplomatic and security tools for managing nuclear risks. By our estimation, the potential for the world to stumble into nuclear war—an ever-present danger over the last 75 years—increased in 2020. An extremely dangerous global failure to address existential threats… tightened its grip in the nuclear realm in the past year, increasing the likelihood of catastrophe.”

Last year, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that the world has entered “a time of nuclear danger not seen since the height of the Cold War.”

The link between nuclear power and nuclear weapons is long established. The enriched uranium and plutonium, as well as other so-called “fissionable material” used in nuclear weapons, can be sourced from nuclear reactors, which is why Iran’s creation of a civilian nuclear power program has been so contentious over the past decade.

Proponents of nuclear power argue that it is a safe, low-carbon energy source. There are nearly 500 nuclear power reactors in the world today, with more under construction. But beyond the risks of nuclear accidents and the nightmare of nuclear waste (who thinks it is a good idea to intentionally unearth and enrich materials that will be highly toxic for billions of years?), each of these reactors is a potential vector for dangerous weapons-grade nuclear materials to be lost, stolen, or knowingly redirected into weapons programs.

According to the Nuclear Threat Initiative, there were 46 cases of nuclear materials being stolen between 2010 and 2016, as well as 57 cases of lost material, and dozens of other concerning incidents. There are already nearly 900,000 metric tons of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium stored around the world, most of it in Russia and the United States.

Thacker Pass before the destruction began; September 2022. Photo by the author. 

 

You may wonder how this is connected to Thacker Pass (Peehee Mu’huh” in the Paiute language). For the past 31 months, I have been working to protect this part of remote Northern Nevada from a proposed 28-square mile lithium mine. The mainstream environmental organizations weren’t doing anything about it, so I decided I had to.

Joining with my friend Will Falk and working to find other allies, we set out to stop the Thacker Pass lithium mine. Supporters of lithium mining believ it’s an essential mineral to help move away from fossil fuels and help, global warming. We disagree. Lithium is dangerous, for many reasons.

Climate change is, indeed, a serious threat to our planet. But that changing climate is a symptom of our consumeristic, earth-destroying culture—not the root of the problem. Electric vehicles won’t save the planet because a typical electric car requires six times the mineral inputs of a conventional car. The truth is, producing both electric and gas-powered cars is incredibly harmful to the planet. And lithium isn’t even possible to extract without massive quantities of fossil fuels. For example, oil from the “tar sands,” the world’s largest and most destructive industrial project, would be required for processing the lithium from the Thacker Pass mine.

Electric cars are not eco-conscious planet saving gadgets; they are luxury goods destined only for the wealthiest people on the planet.

I’ve explained in previous essays how this mine is actually about the money; how a greed so deep it is like lust underlies projects like this one. Similar feelings underlie community concerns about missing and murdered indigenous women and a rise in drug abuse that’s projected to accompany the mine. I’ve written in the past about the golden eagles who nest near Peehee Mu’huh, the meadowlarks, and the other wildlife who live in the pass and are threatened by this mine proposal.

In February 2021, we began to uncover the history of “Thacker Pass.” Over the spring, elders from the Fort McDermitt Tribe began to share with us the oral history of a massacre that gave the place it’s Paiute name, Peehee Mu’huh. And in August and September, evidence began to emerge documenting an 1865 massacre of Paiute men, women, children, and elders committed by the US Cavalry directly adjacent to the mine site. Two years ago, I challenged Lithium Americas CEO Alexi Zawadski’s characterization of his company as a good neighbor, asking if good neighbors usually dig up ancestors’ graves?

Thacker Pass, spring 2022. Photo by the author. 

 

This work hasn’t been easy. We’ve endured winter storms, blistering temperatures, physical and legal threats, three years of long days and late-night work sessions, and the BLM is attempting to fine me and my friend Will Falk $49,890.13 for defending this land. Now, we’re being sued for defending the land. The forces arrayed against us are powerful. But we persist.

The booming demand for lithium is mainly driven by the electric vehicle industry, and demand for massive “grid-scale” batteries to store electricity from intermittent sources like wind and solar energy generation facilities. But lithium is also used in a wide variety of other industries.

This includes chemical propellants for rockets and torpedoes used by militaries and in spaceflight; in glass production; in metallurgy such as aluminum smelting, alloy production, and welding; in the production of fireworks and flares; and in the production of synthetic rubber and other plastics.

But here, I want to focus on a problem that I have not seen discussed before in regards to the Thacker Pass mine: the links between lithium and the nuclear industry.

There are two stable isotopes of lithium: lithium-6 and lithium-7. According to the World Nuclear Association, “Lithium-7 has two important uses in nuclear power today and tomorrow due to its relative transparency to neutrons. As hydroxide it is necessary in small quantities for safe operation in pressurised water reactor (PWR) cooling systems as a pH stabilizer, to reduce corrosion in the primary circuit. As a fluoride, it is also expected to come into much greater demand for molten salt reactors (MSRs).”

PWRs, or Pressurized Water Reactors, are a type of nuclear reactor that can be found in exactly two thirds of the world’s nuclear power plants. Engineers at these facilities, most of which are quite old at this point, are constantly dealing with corrosion in the components of their radioactive water cycling systems. Highly purified lithium-7 hydroxide is used in these systems “as an additive in PWR primary coolant, at about 2.2 ppm, for maintaining water chemistry, counteracting the corrosive effects of boric acid (used as neutron absorber) and minimizing corrosion in steam generators of PWRs.”

Lithium-7 is also used directly in nuclear weapons, where the reaction itself can produce the necessary tritium to fuel a runaway nuclear reaction. In 1954, the largest atmospheric nuclear weapons test in US history took place over the Bikini Atoll. Due to a shortage of lithium-6 (which is less common and hard to produce), the “Shot Bravo” nuke was built with lithium-7 instead. The bomb was projected to yield a 10-megaton blast. But due to lithium-7’s incredibly explosive features, the yield was 15 megatons—equivalent to every bomb dropped by the allies in World War II exploding at once.

One account describes the effect of the bomb: “An entire island turned into radioactive dust and the fallout seriously contaminated Bikini and two neighboring atolls. The ships of the Operation Castle task force steamed at flank speed away from the mushroom cloud, their decks covered with radioactive coral shards. The Japanese fishing vessel Fifth Lucky Dragon, sailing well outside the safety zone, suffered one death and several casualties from radiation. The bomb’s firing crew retreated to a closet in their concrete bunker for 12 hours while their Geiger counters roared.”

Lithium-6 is more rare than lithium-7 in nature, but is widely used in the nuclear weapons industry. When used as a target element in a reactor or a nuclear weapon, it reacts with a neutron to produce tritium (T), the most important thermonuclear material for weapons. According to the Institute for Science and International Security, “Lithium 6 is a critical raw material needed for the production of single-stage thermonuclear and boosted fission weapons.”

In the United States, the Tennessee Valley Authority operates three nuclear reactors. One of these, Watts Bar, uses lithium as the feedstock for producing tritium for use in nuclear weapons. This tritium is a key component in those weapons, but it needs to be constantly replenished. Tritium has a half-life of only 12.3 years and decays at 5.5% annually. That’s why tritium sourced from reactors using lithium is currently being used to rebuild and replace the U.S. nuclear arsenal as part of a 30-year, trillion dollar nuclear weapons plan launched under Obama.

Many critics of the nuclear weapons industry believe that nuclear power is, in general, little more than a civilian cover for the production of nuclear weapon material.

Meanwhile, advocates of nuclear power such as Bill Gates argue that next-generation reactors will address the problems that have plagued nuclear power—safety issues, radioactive waste, weapons proliferation, and high cost. But the Union of Concerned Scientists calls this “wishful thinking,” noting in their most recent report that serious concerns remain unresolved.

Modular Salt Reactors (MSRs), for example, produce massive amounts of radioactive waste that is exceptionally dangerous from a nuclear proliferation standpoint (U-233), and they are extremely difficult to clean up at the end of their relatively short lifespans. Current prototypes also depend heavily on lithium. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are both on the verge of activating MSR reactors (perhaps with illegal assistance from the Trump Administration and U.S. corporations), which may lead directly to them becoming nuclear powers. And fusion reactors, for the foreseeable future, consume far more energy than they produce, amounting to nothing more than an exceptionally expensive and dangerous experiment (an experiment in which lithium is being used to control plasma).

The bottom line here is that the dangerous nuclear power industry, and the nuclear weapons that depend on it, require a steady supply of lithium. As nuclear tensions once again escalate, the Department of Energy is moving toward 100% U.S. sourcing of uranium in order to bypass international treaty obligations, which require the disclosure of locations and volumes of highly enriched uranium a country possesses. By cutting out foreign sourcing, the supply chain is kept more obscure. A similar consideration no doubt underlies, in part, the swift permitting of the Thacker Pass lithium mine. This mine is a part of the nuclear supply chain, and given that most U.S. lithium is now sourced overseas, war hawks no doubt prefer that this place is sacrificed.

One must step outside the halls of power to find sanity. The nuclear industry has been an unmitigated disaster from the beginning. I say this as someone who grew up in Washington State. We have seen the horror that is Hanford. And Nevadans know the perils of nuclear weapons and waste better than almost anyone else on the planet.

If the Thacker Pass lithium mine is built, lithium produced there may end up inside nuclear reactors and inside nuclear weapons. How would you feel if you were involved in a project that supplied critical material to power the next nuclear disaster?

Yes, Nevada has a bleak history of nuclear weapons testing and waste storage. Yet from the Nevada Test Site to Yucca Mountain, there is as long and as rich a history of resistance. Of sanity. Of desire for peace. I would like to invite all the activists, politicians, and regular people who fought nuclear testing and nuclear waste disposal across this region to join the fight against lithium mining as well.

Ceremonial tipi at Ox Sam Newe Momokonee Nokutun “Indigenous Women’s Camp” in May 2023. Myself and others associated with this non-violent action are being sued by Lithium Nevada Corporation. 

 

There are many ways of laying waste to the Earth, and to our future. Nuclear technologies and strip mining are two of them. And in this case, they are firmly linked. That is why we must stand up against lithium mining and nuclear catastrophes alike.

“We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”
― C. S. Lewis


The 2023 DGR conference is scheduled for late August in northern California. This annual gathering is an opportunity for our community to share skills, reflect on our work, strengthen our connections, and plan for the future. While this conference is only open to DGR members, we do invite friends and allies on a case-by-case basis. If you’re interested in attending, please contact us, and if you’d like to donate to support the conference, click here.

Photo by Maria Oswalt on Unsplash