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To meet its growing demand for raw materials, the European Union's plan in the short and medium term is to encourage large-scale extractivism in as many places as possible; and in the long term recycle everything extracted.
Although all initiatives and expressions of goodwill see it as a necessary and desirable option, recycling would remain for the moment as plan B, for "later".
The week that just ended, policy makers and industry met in Brussels for the third edition of the EU Raw Materials Week. The point of view totally absent in the event has been that of thecommunities affected by extractivismboth in Europe and outside the continent. Their participation was not considered, they were not invited, and their opinions and particular cases in which extractive projects are already causing havoc did not seem to be among the political interests of the moment.
What Europe does feel is strong competition from fast-growing emerging economies in theglobal commodity markets. The supply of these raw materials for industries plays an increasingly important role in economies and policies.
Consequently, they are investing large amounts of public money in investigating and discussing issues related to the supply of raw materials with a great “forgetfulness”: the territory from which they intend to extract it, understood as the environment where other activities are previously carried out, such as all those related to the life of the communities that use it. they inhabit; and the problems posed by the proposed coexistence of mining and other types of extractivism with those lives and activities. Neither does it speak of the extraction conditions or exhaustively thesocial and environmental impacts, or human rights.
There is no sustainable mining
Although it is by presenting its activity as supposedly "sustainable, responsible", what the industry pursues are its own economic benefits and neither sustainability nor responsibility are its first concerns. Other terms usually associated with mining and extractivism in these spaces are "innovation" and "great potential", "competitiveness". The mining discourse does not miss an opportunity to speak of “making mining sustainable”.
The EU argues that sustainability and sourcing will give it competitive advantages globally if it is done in a manner akin to the Millennium Development Goals. And it has even been mentioned that raw materials are necessary to achieve these goals.
Sweeping for home
Along these lines, some representatives of the mining industry sharpen their arguments and make their proposals to facilitate their business. For example, if certain natural areas can be protected under the Natura 2000 network, why couldn't others be “protected” or shielded for mineral production?
The industry also protests for not being guaranteed the "right to mine" in the EU, as one of the most important limiting factors for mining investment in the EU.
In fact, they seek access in the words of the industry "fair, long-term, safe and affordable" for both secondary and primary raw materials. A great illusion, a mirage that may be possible the way they paint it. Why?
The impacts of extractivism are here
From my point of view, it is essential that the political class and society take charge of the ecological and social impactof all that extractivism.
As they are taking place, the political and strategic processes do not correspond to the situation that is being experienced in many of the parts of the world that these processes are indicating as adequate to carry out extractivism.
Initiative after initiative, the European Union complies with the agenda that it has been actively promoting for 10 years, and which is aimed at ensuring access to the raw materials that its industry needs to survive, its economy to grow and its industrial value chain to strengthen itself, as well as its consumers to continue feeding an increasingly unsustainable system for the planet.
The ultimate purpose of the EU is “to ensure that it remains competitive and agile to generate profits”, in such a way that it aligns with that of the industry and not with that of the ecology or affected communities.
At the same time, the aforementioned commitment to the “green” economy and electric mobility are inextricably dependent on massive extraction in any country in the world and the global trade in metals such ascobalt and thelithium.
In that line, they are multi million dollar investments current European countries to ensure the supply of these metals and minerals, promote research and development, map and compile geological data and make them accessible to attract investment within Europe; and outside Europe, commercial tools such as free trade agreements and development aid agreements such as international cooperation are being used to guarantee free access to raw materials.
And knowing that no competent authority is listening carefully to the communities affected by mining or thematization of the problem, but rather ignoring it or even denying it, it is amodus operandi very scary.
How long will the EU continue to turn a deaf ear to the communities that resist mining and extractive projects?
The 3rdEuropean Raw Materials Week / EU Raw Materials Week 2018 occurredwith an extensive program in Brussels the week of 12–16 November comprising a series of events organized by the European Commission that addressed issues related to raw materials in the EU around topics such as: politics, technology, international cooperation, framework conditions, knowledge base, etc.
By Guadalupe Rodríguez (@ecologistadelno)