3. Responsible sourcing
If the EU cannot wean itself off virgin metals anytime soon, can it at least source them in a responsible way? At present, most mining practices are dirty, especially in the Global South. All too often, mining companies wreak ecological havoc, violate the rights of workers and local communities, avoid taxes and fuel conflict and corruption. In Chile, a major exporter of lithium, mining uses up water reserves, at the expense of farmers and wildlife. In China, the chemicals used to extract and process rare earths pollute rivers, groundwater, soils and air.
For the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), mining is a curse rather than a blessing. Despite its mineral wealth, it is one of the poorest and most conflict-ridden countries in the world. Mining by Chinese and Western multinationals follows an extractivist model where the Congolese people deliver large amounts of raw materials, at great human and environmental cost, but most of the profits accrue to others. Neocolonial and ecological injustices intersect with gender injustice: whereas mining jobs accrue largely to men, the loss of arable land and clean water makes life harder for women.