Cobalt human rights abuses ‘ignored’, Indonesia certifies timber and the Call for ethical label on clothes

Cobalt human rights abuses ‘ignored’

Cobalt and copper mining by some of the largest operators in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is responsible for severe and systematic environmental pollution and human rights violations, according to new evidence from a Dutch NGO. DRC produces half the world’s cobalt and is Africa’s largest producer of copper – both metals that are used in consumer electronics and industrial applications around the world.

Unlike tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold, which are known as “conflict minerals” because they are produced in rebel-controlled mines in eastern DRC, copper and cobalt is produced mainly in the more peaceful southern region of Katanga. The Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (Somo) says in a new report, Cobalt Blues, that while the mines in Katanga are not controlled by armed rebel groups, “the formal mining industry, controlled by Congolese state-owned and foreign companies, is associated with labour rights violations, community conflicts and land grabs. The industry as a whole creates considerable environmental damage, including biodiversity loss and deforestation, air pollution, and contamination of water with toxic and radioactive elements.”

The report says the DRC government breaks its own laws by, for example, granting mining concessions in protected reserves. Somo says that despite the efforts of numerous NGOs to draw attention to the systematic human rights and environmental issues, “Katangese copper and cobalt continue to flow freely onto the world market, without buyers, end users or foreign governments posing questions about the conditions under which they were produced”.

Somo report

Congolese children mining cobalt for smart phones

Indonesia certifies timber

After nearly a decade of talks, Indonesia is set to become the first country to certify its timber exports in line with the European Union's Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (Flegt) licensing scheme. EU-Indonesia negotiations on a voluntary partnership agreement to combat illegal logging began in 2007 and the agreement was signed in 2013. The certification scheme, which is the product of that agreement, is now ready to take effect once the European Parliament and EU member states give formal approval. The EU says the deal means that companies can rely on Indonesian timber as having been legally logged and processed. Timber and timber products from Indonesia are now under “an unprecedented level of scrutiny”, the EU said. By value, Indonesia supplies about a third of the EU's tropical timber imports.

EU Flegt scheme

Workers carry Meranti off a boat in Kalimantan

Trudeau consults on climate

Canada is calling for public input on how to shape its new climate policy, as the country's government works to deliver new prime minister Justin Trudeau's promise of a nationwide carbon price. The Canadian government has established a platform through which ideas can be submitted. An agreement in March between Canada's federal government and its provinces on the principle of a carbon price marked an about-turn in the country, which came to be seen as a climate laggard under previous prime minister Stephen Harper. In mid-April, the Mining Association of Canada boosted the carbon price plan by coming out in favour of it, as long as the revenue is spent on emerging low-carbon technologies.

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau

Call for ethical label on clothes

The European Union should require all clothing imported into the bloc to meet minimum ethical standards and to be labelled as such, according to Green members of the European Parliament. Coinciding with the third anniversary of the April 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, the MEPs are calling for an EU law that would oblige clothing companies to prevent human rights abuses, corruption and environmental or health-related harm in their supply chains.

The law would help to harmonise current voluntary garment labelling schemes, where there is a “problematic lack of consistency”, according to two Green MEPs, Judith Sargentini (Netherlands) and Pascal Durand (France). Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans said mandatory ethical labelling for clothes would inform consumers and could “make a real difference to people's lives in the developing world”.

Human rights  Conflict minerals  Environment  government  deforestation  air pollution  carbon  ethical  labelling 

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