Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Critical Minerals and Clean Energy: How To Protect Communities and Safeguard Human Rights
Press Release

RELEASE: Critical Minerals and Clean Energy: How To Protect Communities and Safeguard Human Rights

Washington, D.C. — As the clean energy transition increasingly relies on a steady supply of critical minerals, a new report from the Center for American Progress outlines how the United States can mine and supply these minerals while also protecting communities and the environment.

The United States and its allies have a responsibility to require the highest labor standards, transparency in business operations, and other safeguards for human rights and environmental health in a way that China—which controls more than half of all supply steps needed to produce a lithium-ion battery—has refused to do.

“The United States has an enormous opportunity ahead, and policymakers must choose a path that will determine the success of the clean energy transition,” said Nicole Gentile, senior director for Conservation at CAP and co-author of the report. “It will be a significant challenge, but it is both possible and essential to success to mine and process the battery minerals needed for the clean energy transition while also protecting communities and the environment. If we fail, we’ll lose the confidence of the public, which could undermine the clean energy transition.”

The report outlines how the United States has taken major steps by passing the Inflation Reduction Act and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to shore up supply. It shows that energy investments will be key to contesting China’s chokehold of the world’s critical mineral processing. Inflation Reduction Act tax credits will also give the United States leverage to improve labor conditions.

The report also urges U.S. officials to work with allies to establish robust chain of custody protocols for supply-chain-bound electric vehicle materials and conduct regular audits of the supply chains, which will help prevent human rights abuses. It also identifies several mining projects that show best practices and deserve closer review by decision-makers and host communities that support building a responsible supply of critical minerals.

The report recommends several ways U.S. policymakers can address these challenges:

  • Provide clear and strong policy signals about the goals of the global energy transition to help guide corporate investment decisions.
  • Provide a framework to engage communities, guaranteeing local economic benefits and environmental safeguards.
  • Set clear and enforceable standards for human rights to deter illicit activities and ensure responsible sourcing of minerals by respecting workers’ rights and environmental protections.
  • Invest in developing ethically sited domestic mining that will become an example to the world for transparency, community engagement, Tribal consultation, labor standards, and environmental safeguards.
  • Invest in developing U.S. processing and refining capacity to give the United States leverage to improve mining conditions internationally through direct sourcing of raw materials.
  • Create supply chains that are less vulnerable to geopolitical risk by building partnerships with allies that increase investments in processing and build out refining capacity.
  • Urge lending institutions to take on the necessary risk and make faster decisions in ways that build the resilience of communities.
  • Maintain integrity of supply chains by enhancing oversight and implementing stringent chain of custody protocols.
  • Invest in research, development, and innovation, including a circular economy that minimizes ongoing extraction.

Read the report: “Sustainable and Reliable: Securing Resources for the Clean Energy Future” by Nicole Gentile, Anne Griffin, Robert Benson, Mark Haggerty, Mariel Lutz, and Michael Clark

For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at [email protected].

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