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Green Minerals: Justice and Opportunity in the Renewable Energy Transition

October 20, 202213:27

To mitigate climate change, a global shift away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy is required. And although we all stand to gain from addressing climate change, some communities are in danger of paying a steep price for the world’s energy transition. Renewable energy technologies, from solar panels to storage capacity, depend on minerals like lithium, cobalt, copper, and nickel. In the coming years, the demand for these “green minerals” is expected to soar. But when it comes to producing green minerals, challenges abound. Across the globe, mineral extraction has been linked to instances of violent conflict, human rights abuses, governance risks, and environmental degradation. In sourcing the minerals that will power the global energy transition, how can we avoid the injustices and risks often linked to resource extraction? How can we maximize opportunities for the communities and countries providing green minerals?

This explainer video offers an overview of the risks posed by green mineral mining and possible avenues to promote more peaceful and inclusive development. It highlights pathways forward from the perspectives of local actors, researchers, and practitioners. As such, the video represents a collaborative effort, bringing together insights from a range of individuals and organizations, including a Bolivia-based non-profit, a foreign policy think tank, a global peacebuilding organization, a community-based organization in South Africa, and a United Kingdom university.

We begin with a broad overview of green minerals, their rising demand, and the kinds of human rights and conflict challenges they have traditionally posed, before looking at how these issues are playing out in two contexts: Cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and lithium extraction in South America. The video ends with strategies to promote responsible green mineral mining—and how the international peacebuilding community can help—so that the energy transition brings positive change for all.


Kathryn Ledebur headshot

Kathryn Ledebur

Director, Andean Information Network
David Ngoy Luhaka

David Ngoy Luhaka

Research and Advocacy Expert, Search for Common Ground (SFCG)
Katlego Malesa headshot

Katlego Malesa

Project Coordinator, Sekhukhune Combined Mining-Affected Communities (SCMAC)
Anouk Rigterink headshot

Anouk Rigterink

Associate Professor in Quantitative Comparative Politics, Durham University, United Kingdom
Larisa Stanciu headshot

Larisa Stanciu

Climate and Natural Resource Policy Officer, Search for Common Ground (SFCG)
Elton Thobejane

Elton Thobejane

Chairperson, Sekhukhune Combined Mining-Affected Communities (SCMAC)

Hosted By

Environmental Change and Security Program

The Environmental Change and Security Program (ECSP) explores the connections between environmental change, health, and population dynamics and their links to conflict, human insecurity, and foreign policy.  Read more