Along Russia’s ‘Road of Bones,’ Relics of Suffering and Despair – by Matilda Coleman (UpNewsInfo.com – November 22, 2020)

https://upnewsinfo.com/

The Kolyma Highway in the Russian Far East once delivered tens of thousands of prisoners to the work camps of Stalin’s gulag. The ruins of that cruel era are still visible today.

The prisoners, hacking their way through insect-infested summer swamps and winter ice fields, brought the road, and the road then brought yet more prisoners, delivering a torrent of slave labor to the gold mines and prison camps of Kolyma, the most frigid and deadly outpost of Stalin’s gulag.

Their path became known as the “road of bones,” a track of gravel, mud and, for much of the year, ice that stretches 1,260 miles west from the Russian port city of Magadan on the Pacific Ocean inland to Yakutsk, the capital of the Yakutia region in eastern Siberia.

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Canadian miner Nevsun Resources settles with African workers over case alleging human-rights abuses – by Niall McGee (Globe and Mail – October 29, 2020)

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/

Canadian base-metals miner Nevsun Resources Ltd. has reached a settlement with a trio of Eritrean workers who had sued the company for alleged human-rights abuses during the construction of a mine in the African country.

The development comes in the wake of a Supreme Court of Canada ruling earlier this year that Nevsun could be sued in Canada for alleged infractions abroad – a landmark decision that broadened liability for all Canadian corporations with international operations.

“This settlement speaks to the incredible courage of the mine workers who came forward with their horrific experiences,” Ketty Nivyabandi, Secretary-General of Amnesty International Canada, said in a release.

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Cobalt blues: In Congo the little guys are jailed for stealing minerals (The Economist – October 17, 2020)

https://www.economist.com/

When cobalt prices soared from 2016, young men from all over Congo flocked to the south of the country to dig the stuff up. Demand for the metal, used in smartphones and electric cars, was driven by carmakers needing around 10kg of it per vehicle.

(Phone batteries, by contrast, require just a few grams each.) Some of these young men set up camp in the village of Kawama, cobbling together their huts with planks and sheets of tarpaulin.

The village feels less hopeful nowadays. Barefoot children in rags chase each other around piles of smouldering wood, which residents burn to make charcoal. Cobalt prices plummeted in 2018 after the market was flooded and companies dawdled over electric-car designs.

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ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS MOUNT OVER USE OF NICKEL IN EVS – by Kieran Ahuja (Sunday Times Driving – September 7, 2020)

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OF COURSE, as something that has been widely touted as a more environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) cars, the green credentials of pure-electric vehicles have often been called into question.

A large amount of the conversation around this has revolved around the use of cobalt, which is used to aid conductivity and structural stability in lithium-ion batteries, enabling them to last for as long as they do.

However, production of cobalt is sometimes conducted in territories where a blind eye is turned to ethical mining practices, in places such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which produces around 60% of the world supply.

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Daimler Joins Responsible Mica Initiative to Combat Child Labor in Indian Mica Mines (Steel Guru – September 7, 2020)

https://steelguru.com/

Daimler AG is taking further important steps to ensure respect for human rights in the vicinity of raw-material mines: The Company has joined forces with the Terre des Hommes Netherlands NGO for a project and has joined the Responsible Mica Initiative to combat child labor in Indian mica mines.

The cooperation with Terre des Hommes Netherlands in Jharkhand India aims to enable children in the vicinity of mica mines to attend school and to provide economic support for their families.

The raw material mica is used, among other things, to achieve the shimmering effect of vehicle paints. The project aims to prevent parents from having to send their children to work in mica mines.

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Africa’s (Modern) Slavery Problem – by Joanna Rozpedowski (Global Security Review – August 21, 2020)

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From rubies in Mozambique to emeralds in Zambia, opals in Australia, and Jade in Myanmar, the mining industry is undergoing an extraction renaissance that is as profitable as it is contentious.

While concerns over environmental degradation, population displacement, employment of slave and child labor contribute to the fracturing of communities and exacerbate internal rifts and vulnerabilities of already fragile states, questions of whether or not mining is good for social and economic development grow in proportion and relevance.

Africa alone hosts inordinate amounts of mineral, gold, cobalt, palladium and platinum deposits enticing foreign interests and heavy Chinese investment. Often, however, such vast resource wealth in the hands of foreign corporate entities combined with poor regulation and state corruption raises grave concerns over equitable revenue sharing, land ownership rights, and respect for fundamental human rights.

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1000s of Korean laborers still lost after WWII, Cold War end – by Kim Tong-Hyung (Associated Press – August 11, 2020)

https://apnews.com/

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Shin Yun-sun describes her life as a maze of dead ends.

The South Korean has spent many of her 75 years pestering government officials, digging into records and searching burial grounds on a desolate Russian island, desperately searching for traces of a father she never met.

Shin wants to bring back the remains of her presumed-dead father for her ailing 92-year-old mother, Baek Bong-rye. Japan’s colonial government conscripted Shin’s father for forced labor from their farming village in September 1943, when Baek was pregnant with Shin.

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The Dirty Secrets Of ‘Clean’ Electric Vehicles – by Tilak Doshi (Forbes Magazine – August 2, 2020)

https://www.forbes.com/

The widespread view that fossil fuels are “dirty” and renewables such as wind and solar energy and electric vehicles are “clean” has become a fixture of mainstream media and policy assumptions across the political spectrum in developed countries, perhaps with the exception of the Trump-led US administration.

Indeed the ultimate question we are led to believe is how quickly can enlightened Western governments, led by an alleged scientific consensus, “decarbonize” with clean energy in a race to save the world from impending climate catastrophe.

The ‘net zero by 2050’ mantra, calling for carbon emissions to be completely mitigated within three decades, is now the clarion call by governments and intergovernmental agencies around the developed world, ranging from several EU member states and the UK, to the International Energy Agency and the International Monetary Fund.

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Congo officials vow to tackle child labour at mines as virus threatens spike – by Malaicka Adihe (Reuters U.K. – June 23, 2020)

https://uk.reuters.com/

KINSHASA, June 23 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Authorities in Democratic Republic of Congo’s southeastern mining heartland are boosting efforts to tackle child labour amid concerns that the coronavirus pandemic could drive more families to put their children to work in mines, officials said.

Congo is Africa’s main producer of copper and the top global source of cobalt, accounting for two-thirds of global supplies of the metal used in smartphones and electric car batteries.

Mining accounts for 32% of Congo’s national output and the economy has been hard hit by the pandemic, which has slowed demand for metals and other raw materials.

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Column: Tesla’s reluctant commitment to cobalt a warning to others – by Andy Home (Reuters U.S. – June 23, 2020)

https://www.reuters.com/

LONDON (Reuters) – The unpredictable Elon Musk strikes again. Just when his electric vehicle (EV) company Tesla seemed to be pivoting away from using cobalt in its batteries, it signs a long-term supply deal for the controversial metal with Glencore.

This from the man who has vowed to eliminate cobalt from the Tesla product mix because of its financial cost and the reputational cost of a metal associated with child labour and poor safety conditions at artisanal mining operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the world’s dominant producer.

Tesla’s not the first auto company to lock in future cobalt supplies with a miner. BMW did the same last year, also with Glencore as well as with the Bou-Azzer mine in Morocco.

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ANALYSIS: Liability: how a new court ruling could put Canadian miners in the dock – by Matthew Hall (Mining Technology – June 17, 2020)

https://www.mining-technology.com/

In a 5-4 decision back in February 2020, the Supreme Court of Canada gave the green light to Canadian courts to develop new forms of civil liability based on alleged breaches of customary international law.

We speak to McMillan LLP litigation partner and international arbitration co-chair Robert Wisner to find out what the implications of this decision are, and what the landmark case could mean for Canadian mining companies.

Nevsun Resources was a Canadian diversified mining company that was acquired by the Chinese Zijin Mining Group in 2018. One of Nevsun’s principal assets, the Bisha zinc-copper mine in Eritrea, is the subject of the case Nevsun Resources Ltd. v. Araya. Construction began on the Bisha mine in 2008, using workers from the country’s National Service Program.

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OPINION: Canadian mining companies better start behaving, thanks to Nevsun – by Richard Poplak (Globe and Mail – March 7, 2020)

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/

Richard Poplak is a Canadian author and journalist based in Johannesburg. He is currently working on a book about the Canadian mining industry and is co-director of the forthcoming documentary, Influence.

When they hear the word “slavery,” most Canadians are likely reminded of the antebellum American South. But slavery – or, more accurately, the trafficking and selling of living human beings – is a 21st-century recession-proof growth industry. Across the world, organized syndicates and shady governments benefit from the unprecedented movement of people within and across borders.

Take, for instance, the secretive African redoubt of Eritrea, one of the major contributors to the Mediterranean migrant industrial complex. Among other things, its people are fleeing a non-existent economy compounded by compulsory military service that pays conscripts next to nothing, overseen by the continent’s most determinedly dour regime.

According to figures provided by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, almost 10 per cent of Eritrea’s 5.7 million people are on the run, and an astonishing 50,000 sought asylum abroad in 2017 alone. The country ranks behind China, and just ahead of North Korea, in terms of press freedom, while its per capita GDP is the third-worst in the world. As a result, Eritrea is entirely absent of the rule of law or humane governance.

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Canada’s top court rules Nevsun lawsuit can proceed, paving way for more overseas abuse cases – Jeff Lewis and Sharadha Singh (Reuters Canada – February 28, 2020)

https://ca.reuters.com/

(Reuters) – Canada’s top court on Friday said a lawsuit by Eritrean workers against miner Nevsun Resources Ltd can proceed, a decision that clears the way for cases to be brought domestically against Canadian companies accused of abuses abroad.

Legal advocates and civil society groups hailed the court’s 5-4 decision as a landmark victory. The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed an appeal from Nevsun and said a lawsuit by three Eritrean workers against the miner for alleged violations of human rights could go forward.

The plaintiffs, who were employed by Nevsun at its Bisha gold mine in Eritrea, Africa, have accused the company of slavery, forced labor and crimes against humanity.

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RPT-COLUMN-Congo’s move to control artisanal cobalt is double-edged – by Andy Home (Reuters U.S. – February 9, 2020)

https://www.reuters.com/

LONDON, Feb 7 (Reuters) – The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo has announced ambitious plans to take control of the country’s wild-west artisanal cobalt sector.

A new state company, Entreprise Generale du Cobalt (EGC), has been given monopoly powers to purchase and market cobalt from the informal sector. The move is being hailed by the government as a way to clean up a sector that is tarnished with a reputation for child labour, lax safety and illegal activity.

That would be very good news for the cobalt market. The human cost of mining in the Congo, which accounts for more than 60% of global cobalt production, is one of the reasons companies such as Tesla are actively trying to engineer the metal out of their battery supply chain.

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Mining mica: can the industry overturn its legacy of exploitation? – by Heidi Vella (Mining Technology – January 28, 2020)

https://www.mining-technology.com/

Mica, a shimmering, heat resistant mineral used in everything from car paint to make-up, is in large-part produced by artisanal miners in India and Madagascar, where child labour and unsafe conditions are rife. We find out what can be done to rid the commodity of its unethical origins.

Eight-year-old Frederic works morning or afternoon shifts, depending on his school schedule, sorting mica alongside his elder brother. His hands are marked by traces, wounds and scars caused by the repetitive task of removing the calcite.

Thirteen-year-old Felicia, who has never attended school, works Monday to Sunday for a sorting company. The money she earns helps support her mother and eight siblings, but is having a negative impact on her health. These are just two stories of child labour in the illegal mica mining sector of Madagascar detailed by a new report by NGOs Terre des Hommes and SOMO.

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