En El Nombre Del Litio – Clean Energy, For Who?

En El Nombre Del Litio: Clean Energy, For Who?

I’m the one who goes meandering through the hills

Watching life grow

With eyes of water that see the birth and death of time

I am healing the wounds of being

Don’t kill me or poison me

Don’t make me part of that suffering

You are death, I am life

You are the lithium, I am the feeling of the pacha

CATAPA held a screening of the documentary ‘En el Nombre del Litio’ at Studio Skoop, Gent on the 29th March as part of Belmundo Festival 2022. 

Eighty percent of the world’s lithium reserves are located in the ‘Lithium Triangle’; the salt flats that connect Argentina, Bolivia and Chile. The film depicts the disastrous consequences of lithium extraction for the indigenous communities of the Salares Grandes. Producing a single ton of lithium carbonate requires two million litres of water. And where is this lithium going? Each electric vehicle, central to the EU’s ‘green transition’ away from petrol and diesel based private transport, contains 4.5 kilograms of lithium.

“¿Energía limpia para quién?” (Clean energy for who?) (Clemente Flores, El Moreno)

After the screening, participants were challenged by Yblin Escobar Roman (CATAPA)  to think about the connections between the documentary and material consumption within the European Union and Belgium. Under the guise of ‘green mining’, the EU’s Critical Raw Materials list outlines a strategy for the resourcing of over thirty mined resources, such as lithium, deemed ‘necessary’ for the green transition. To fund the ‘green transition’, by 2050 the EU will require sixty times more lithium for electric vehicle batteries and energy storage versus current supply. 

Electric vehicles are not the solution to our climate crisis. Our push for ‘green mobility’ is steeped in the same extractivist logic that views our planet as an inexhaustible resource to be mined and dominated by humankind. But this fails to understand the fundamental contradiction: 


We cannot mine our way out of the climate crisis

This contradiction is at the heart of ‘El Nombre Del Litio’. Due to the harsh conditions, only microorganisms are adapted to survive within the Salar basin. Living under the salars, colonies, or ‘forests’ of microorganisms engaging in photosynthesis, have served as a carbon sink for over 3.5 billion years, releasing oxygen and creating our ozone layer. Yet, in the name of tackling the climate crisis, transnational corporations are extracting vast quantities of water from the basin, starving and destroying the very microorganisms that allow our continued existence on Mother Earth.

A Just Transition to Accessible, Carbon Zero Transport

Rather than maintaining the status quo by switching to electric cars, a just transition requires a fundamental re-organisation of our cities and communities towards zero emission public, not private transportation. Transportation accounts for 27% of global emissions.C40 Cities argue limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius requires doubling public transport use within cities by 2030

Despite this, De Lijn’s latest plans will oversee the removal of 1 in 7 bus stops in Ghent – around 200 in total. Zonder Bushalte Straat, an action group campaigning against these changes, argues this will inevitably prevent older and less mobile citizens from accessing and traversing the city. 

A Just Transition to the Right to Say No

The documentary also emphasises that a just transition requires indigenous and local communities having the Right to Say No to mining. Local communities must not only have the decisive, legally binding say over the fate of mining projects, this must be respected

I was born in the countryside,

I am the son of a peasant

I defend my tradition,

Of all the Argentine north

My father is the Chañi mountain

My mother the white Salar

During the documentary, the indigenous communities discuss Kachi-Yupi (literal translation: salt tracks), a document they collectively produced for the consultation process.Together with international laws on Free, Prior and Informed Consent, this document demands mining companies must seek approval from all of the indigenous communities of the Salinas Grandes and Laguna de Guayatayoc basin before proceeding with an activity or project. Despite promises, the document was never formalised into an official decree. Instead, the Argentinian state transferred ownership of the lands to JEMSE to pursue lithium extraction for the sake of ‘development’ without consent.

“If communities aren’t participating actively in the state, the state is meaningless’ (Clemente Flores, El Moreno)

Companies also seek ‘Social Licence to Operate’ by dividing communities with false promises of jobs, development and security. In the documentary, EXAR promised lithium mining would directly and indirectly provide around eight hundred jobs to the local community for over thirty years.

Whilst large-scale mining projects may provide jobs in the short term, the long-term destruction is incomparable. The loss of water is disrupting pastoral agriculture, an activity the community has relied on for thousands of years. Once mining projects are completed, the jobs are also taken with them, leaving behind a community contaminated and fractured by violence and conflict.

“Mining is bread for today, but hunger for tomorrow” (Gil Cruz, Susques)

In response, the indigenous communities of the Salinas Grandes and Guayatayoc Lagoon mobilised to protest the violation of international law on indigenous rights, the failure to consult the collective assembly by lithium mining companies operating in Quebraleña territory and to demand an end to all mining activities in the area. 

“I give my life for the Salar. I cannot accept this.If you want, kill me first. Then you will pass through the Salar.” (Veronica Chavez, Santuario Tres Pozos)

Our transition to sustainable energy must only be green, but just. This cannot be achieved through our current path of continued extractivism, which promises nothing but destruction. We are at a crossroads. Rather than extracting lithium for electric cars, our society must be based on social and environmental justice where the extraction of non-renewable resources is no longer necessary.

Water, little water

They call me and they think of me

Water, little water,

They say to me as I pass by

Protect our place

Well chayadita my soul will remain

With the dance of the suris I’ll stop

With the trot of the vicuñas I will follow

With the condor I will fly

In the rain over the Andes I will return


En El Nombre del Litio is produced by Calme Cine & FARN, and directed by Tian Cartier, Martín Longo and Pía Marchegiani. You can read more about the film and indigenous communities fighting against lithium mining on their website: https://enelnombredellitio.org.ar

*This documentary was screened as part of Cinema Belmundo 2022. Cinema Belmundo is a collaboration between various organisations that show films to make an impact. This year, the collaboration consists of Studio Skoop Cinema, 11.11.11, Amnesty International, BOS+, Broederlijk Delen, Dierenartsen Zonder Grenzen, FOS ngo and JEF.

Written by Catapista Connor Cashell


An Van Bost (2021) ‘Ghent action group fights to preserve bus stops in and around Ghent with symbolic action’, VRT, 21 June. Available at: https://www.vrt.be/vrtnws/nl/2021/06/21/een-deel-bushaltes-in-en-rond-gent-dreigt-te-verdwijnen/ [Accessed 30 March 2022].

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En El Nombre Del Litio (2021) Directed by T. Cartier, Longo. M and Marchegiani.Pía [Film]. El Salvador, Argentina: Calme Cine.

European Commission (2020) ‘Critical Raw Materials Resilience: Charting a Path towards greater Security and Sustainability’. Available at: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:52020DC0474 [Accessed 30 March 2022]

European Environmental Bureau, Friends of the Earth Europe (2021) 

‘Green mining is a myth’: the case of cutting EU resource consumption

Available at: https://eeb.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Green-mining-report_EEB-FoEE-2021.pdf 

[Accessed 22 March 2022].

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United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs: Indigenous Peoples (2016) Free Prior and Informed Consent – An Indigenous Peoples’ right and a good practice for local communities – FAO. Available at: https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/publications/2016/10/free-prior-and-informed-consent-an-indigenous-peoples-right-and-a-good-practice-for-local-communities-fao/ [Accessed 30 March 2022]

Zonder Bushalte Straat (2022) [Facebook]. Available at: https://www.facebook.com/zonderbushaltestraat/ [Accessed 30 March 2022].

Speakers Tour Student Event Ku Leuven

Speaker’s Tour Student Event – Citizens Council: Extractivism and KULeuven

Speaker’s Tour Student Event – Citizens Council: Extractivism and KULeuven

We do not eat gold, we do not drink oil.

(Rosas Duran Carrera, KULeuven Student Event)

During this year’s Speaker’s Tour CATAPA organised several events in student campuses across Flanders. On Monday 7th March Rosas travelled to KULeuven to deliver a striking testimony about the impact of several mining projects on his community and their collective resistance. 

In the second half of the event, students were challenged to question the links between extractivism and their university. For example, KULeuven’s SIM2 Institute works on ‘environmentally friendly’ mineral and material extraction and recycling. The institute works with various extractive companies, such as Nyrstar and Umicore, with a history of environmental and human rights violations and ties to Belgian colonialism.

Speakers Tour Student Event Ku Leuven

The enthusiasm in the room was electric. Students brainstormed several strategies around how we could take collective action to force KULeuven to divest from mining and provide greater transparency. We then planned a further meeting to turn these ideas into a concrete  campaign.

This event was part of the Speaker’s Tour 2022.

Written by catapista Connor Cashell.


KULeuven Institute for Sustainable Metals and Minerals (2022) Industrial Sounding Board,
Available at: https://kuleuven.sim2.be/industrial-sounding-board/
[Accessed 22 March 2022]. 
KULeuven Institute for Sustainable Metals and Minerals (2022) Mission and Vision.
Available at: https://kuleuven.sim2.be/mission-vision/
[Accessed 22 March 2022].
Sanderson, Henry (2019) ‘Congo, child labour and your electric car’, Financial Times, July 7 2019.
Available at: https://www.ft.com/content/c6909812-9ce4-11e9-9c06-a4640c9feebb
[Accessed 23 March 2022]. 
Shepherd, Tony (2021) ‘In the shadow of Port Pirie’s lead smelter,
parents fight a losing battle against contamination’, Guardian, 3 September 2021.
Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/sep/04/
[Accessed 23 March 2022].
Summary MEP day speakers tour 2022



Our Peruvian environmental defenders, alongside indigenous representatives from Russia and Guatemala, met with MEP’s on Thursday 4th March to share their stories of fighting on the frontlines to defend their communities from destructive mining projects. 

International voluntary standards on responsible corporate conduct have failed to have an impact on environmental and human rights abuses along supply chains.

They demanded tougher battery and due diligence legislation that centres the voices and experiences of impacted communities. Under the ‘social licence to operate’ (SLO), a non-binding voluntary commitment to ‘good practice’, corporations are able to greenwash their operations. International voluntary standards on responsible corporate conduct have failed to have an impact on environmental and human rights abuses along supply chains.

Our Peruvian defenders were part of a delegation that met with the assistants of French MEP Manon Aubry - GUE/NGL (pictured above) and Dutch MEP Antonius Manders (EEP)
Our Peruvian defenders were part of a delegation that met with the assistants of French MEP Manon Aubry - GUE/NGL (pictured above) and Dutch MEP Antonius Manders (EEP)

The delegation emphasised the importance of retaining copper, bauxite and iron within proposed due diligence obligations. They also brought attention to the need to include obligations towards climate impacts.

Current Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence proposals only require EU mining companies with more than 250 employees and an annual turnover of 40 million euros to prevent human rights and environmental abuses along their supply chains. This applies to less than 0.2% of EU companies. 

Companies will also only be required to prevent the impact of so-called ‘established’ business partners. This fails to cover short-term relationships, incentivising companies to regularly switch suppliers to avoid liability. 

The proposed law also fails to remove serious legal hurdles that prevent transnational cases being brought against companies, such as costs, short time-limits, lack of access to evidence and a disproportionate burden of proof. 

Beyond corporate sustainability, our environmental defenders pushed for a fundamental transformation of our society and relationship with nature. Our current linear model of consumption and production is a driving cause of the climate crisis. In this “throwaway” model, the pursuit of limitless growth, production and consumption are destroying our biodiversity, polluting our rivers and killing those who defend us.

Overconsumption in the EU is directly tied to destructive mining projects in Peru and Latin America. The EU’s material footprint is 14.5 tonnes per capita (of which 20% is imported from outside of the EU). This is double the just limit of consumption and is using up to 97% of the planet’s ‘safe operating space’

After visiting the EU Parliament, our environmental defenders met with other indigenous representatives, CSOs and MEPs for dinner to build and strengthen links of solidarity between their fights for justice.

This meeting occurred in collaboration with the EEB, as part of the Speaker’s Tour 2022.

Written by catapista Connor Cashell.


Business and Human Rights Centre Resource Centre., (2019). 
Brumadinho dam collapse: lessons in corporate due diligence and remedy for harm done. 
Available at: https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/blog/brumadinho-dam-collapse-lessons-in-corporate-due-diligence-and-remedy-for-harm-done/ 
[Accessed 22 March 2022].

Cockburn, H. (2020) ‘Climate crisis: 
global temperature rise of 2C ‘would release billions of tonnes of soil carbon’, Independent, 2 November 2020. 
Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/climate-change/news/soil-carbon-climate-crisis-global-warming-b1534409.html 
[Accessed 22 March 2022].

European Commission (2021) ‘Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council 
on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence and amending Directive (EU) 2019/1937’. 
Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/default/files/1_1_183885_prop_dir_susta_en.pdf 
[Accessed 22 March 2022].

European Environmental Bureau, Friends of the Earth Europe (2021). 
Green mining is a myth’: the case of cutting EU resource consumption. 
Available at: https://eeb.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Green-mining-report_EEB-FoEE-2021.pdf 
[Accessed 22 March 2022].

MEP Antonius Manders (2021), Report on the liability of companies for environmental damage (2020/2027(INI)) 
Committee on Legal Affairs. 
Available at: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/A-9-2021-0112_EN.pdf 
[Accessed 22 March 2022].

OECD (2011), Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (2011 update), 
Available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264115415-en 
[Accessed 22 March 2022].

United Nations (2011), Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: 
Implementing the United Nations ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework. 
Available at https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/GuidingPrinciplesBusinessHR_EN.pdf 
[Accessed 22 March 2022].
tin supply chain part I

The Tin Supply Chain Miniseries, Part I

Monitoring of the Tin Mines in Bolivia

Since autumn 2020, CATAPA vzw has been partnering up with Electronics Watch – an independent monitoring organisation with experts in human rights and global supply chains – and CISEP – Centro de Investigación y Servico Popular, a local Bolivian non-profit organization – to start monitoring tin mining cooperatives in the department of Oruro, Bolivia. This project was funded by Bread for All (BfA). This work is part of a bigger project organised by CATAPA’s Bolivia Working Group: investigating the tin supply chain, from raw material to end product.

Today we are presenting the first part of this research focussed on important findings related to working conditions and human rights (violations) in the Bolivian tin mines. Later on we will also present the findings related to the Bolivian smelters, the import of tin into the EU and the presence of tin in the electronics sector.

Most important findings of the monitoring of the miners

Infographic tin monitoring project Landscape Banner (3)

The interviews with the miners of the cooperatives indicate that:

  • Miners sometimes have to work below 70m depth (related issues: less oxygen, lung diseases, silicosis) without personal protection
  • Wages are calculated daily, but can become more fixed after time (depending on goodwill of the chief)
  • Cooperative miners are paid based on the amount of mineral extracted, wage levels are very untransparent (often only 1% of the gross value of production, which is very low)
  • The miners work long hours, mostly 6 days a week. Some work 12 to 16 hours a day
  • There is large inequality between male and female workers: females are being paid much less because they mostly get jobs outside of the mining galleries (as it is believed bad luck for women to enter the mines) where they search for value among discarded ore 
  • Occupational safety and health prevention systems are almost non-existent
  • There is no access to drinking water in the workplace

More details about the results and the background of the monitoring project can be found further down this page.

CISEP_Mineral extraction galleries
CISEP_Mineral extraction galleries
CISEP_Heavy machinery, in operation and without adequate protection, lack of physical spacers
CISEP_Heavy machinery, in operation and without adequate protection, lack of physical spacers

Conclusions and future steps

Legally it seems that the Bolivian national laws are not being violated, but rather circumvented, as cooperative workers are legally themselves their own employers. CISEP and Electronics Watch are planning to continue working on this project, ultimately aiming to contribute to improved wages and health and safety conditions for the workers. The next steps, amongst others, will include training the cooperative miners on the importance of prevention and the use of protective equipment. 

This is PART I of our miniseries about the monitoring of the tin supply chain. Once the tin ore is extracted, what happens with it? Stay tuned for part II and III: the findings about the Bolivian smelters and under which circumstances tin is imported into the EU and later on, how and when it ends up in the electronics sector.

CISEP_Wood reinforcement yielding to the weight of drilling malpractice (2)
CISEP_Wood reinforcement yielding to the weight of drilling malpractice (2)

More details and background of the monitoring project in the tin mines

20 surveys and 13 interviews were conducted between May and September 2021. Note that the majority of the interviewed cooperative mining workers were male, less than 28 years old and of Quechua origin. This profile is also the most common one, although some females also work there, and some of them have also been interviewed. The surveys and interviews have taken place in the workplace or at site, lasting approximately 30 minutes up to 1 or 2 hours. They were asked mainly about the following topics: form of income, remuneration, health and safety, possible forms of harassment at work (also in terms of gender), production and working hours. 

Also important to know: the main part of the monitoring took place during the Corona pandemic, which prevented a more constant and continuous monitoring because people outside the exploitation had reduced presence in the mining camp. The research might also have been limited by the fear of some of the interviewees to address certain topics like for example environmental issues.

Actually most of the workers are self-employed. This means that miners are not provided with protective and technical equipment or occupational health and safety, which … makes their work dangerous and unhealthy.

The mining cooperatives

The cooperative system is in practice a system of labour “flexibility” in Bolivia, which reduces labour costs within the internal supply chain. Although the cooperative law states that they are obliged to comply with the social laws (such as the general labour law), this applies only when there is an employee/employer relationship.

The cooperative system is in practice a system of labour “flexibility” in Bolivia, which reduces labour costs within the internal supply chain. Although the cooperative law states that they are obliged to comply with the social laws (such as the general labour law), this applies only when there is an employee/employer relationship.

In reality, mostly this is not the case: the cooperative structure is restricted to being a collective management organization for the purchase and sale of minerals, the administration of social security and the access to metal-rich sites owned by the state. So actually most of the workers inside the cooperative mining area are self-employed as cooperative members (employer-and-employee).

The consequences of this self-employment are that miners are not provided with protective and technical equipment or occupational health and safety, which, together with the lack of protective systems in the workplace, makes their work dangerous and unhealthy. The miners’ teams have to provide their own personal protection equipment: they buy their work tools, they pay for the use of the concentration plant and the machinery, they pay for basic services and for the administrative services provided by the cooperative management.

Also investments in new technology are very limited and maintenance services are practically nonexistent, although there is a mechanical workshop to replace parts of essential equipment. On top of that, equal remuneration among all members is not guaranteed due to this management model of the mining cooperative system in Bolivia.

Labour contracts for apprentices

The people who work in the concentration plant (instead of those inside the galleries) are paid a basic national salary: approximately US$300, although it is not sure if this coincides with the minimum necessary to live, since according to the interviewees the cost of living is approximately US$430. Regardless of this, the cooperative does not even apply the calculation of a minimum wage for all their employees, only to cooperative members who can’t work inside the mine due to their temporal obligation in specific functions (Directors or Supervisory boards) and the possible future associated workers who are working on trial.

On the one hand there is no guarantee that the wages received cover the minimum needs, nor is there any control that the hours per week are less than 48 hours, since the cooperative does not act as an employer, but rather as an administrative manager of the self-employment of its members.

There is also a large inequality between cooperative members and non-cooperative probationary workers (there is a minimum 1 year of external work before getting offered to become a member of the mining cooperative) . If you work under this “apprentice” system,you receive this national minimum wage for 8 hours of work, but you do not receive an increase for overtime or for working on Sunday or holiday, and it is not possible to verify if health insurance is paid by the cooperative.

It is also possible that there are infractions with the apprentice contracts and that there is an unofficial system of labor harassment by the cooperative members during the probationary year. On the positive side, the working hours of the probation workers are controlled and regulated, while the cooperative members work in a system of self-exploitation. 

The miners’ income depends entirely on luck: either they find enough metal-rich ores or they don’t.*

Wages for these workers are calculated daily. They can become more fixed after some first trial time, but this depends on the goodwill of the  person in charge of that new worker. Miners are paid based on the amount of mineral they extract, so the miners’ income depends entirely on luck: either they find enough metal-rich ores or they don’t*. Also the income levels are very untransparent: often it is around 1% of the gross value of the production in the international market, which is very low.

Payment insecurity and overtime

There is no transparent system that ensures equal remuneration amongst the cooperative workers, mainly when the production is delivered to the concentration plant on behalf of the leader of a miners crew. This leader is supposed to distribute the value equally among his/her crew, but here there is no evidence that this happens without discrimination. The crew system has another downside: because the crews are self-managed, the mechanisms for conflict resolution are dealt with within the crew. Only when cases are serious (which is also subjective), they go to the management or Supervisory Council, one of the two official upper organs in the cooperatives, together with the Board of Directors.

Working hours are extremely long for (potential) affiliates and there is a risk of involuntary overtime for all: because there is no control over work schedules there is a danger of overwork and overtime.

They mostly work 6 days a week. According to the survey 91% say that they have worked 7 days a week at some time … 33% say they work 10 hours and 16% say they work 12 hours a day. Since no one controls whether workers are working beyond their own strength, working hours could be lasting even longer than 16 hours.

Some of them argue that given the high price of minerals, they have been working sometimes 16 and 24 hours continuously, because of “their own will”. But since this “will” is linked to generating more income, you could argue that it is not necessarily “their own will”, but “forced” out of necessity. In the survey, 1 person said that they do not work voluntarily but that necessity forces them to do so.

Apparently there is also a recent obligation to work at least 15 days/month (this obligation is linked to the quota from the agreement they have with the local trading company that purchases their ore), and if they do not do so, they are sanctioned.

Next to these inconsistencies, there is large inequality between male and female workers. Women are paid much less. 50% of respondents indicate that women and men are not treated equally in the workplace. Women mostly get jobs outside of the mining galleries, as it is believed bad luck for women to enter the mines.

The women involved in Oruro’s cooperative mining activities are usually elderly widows who lost their husbands in the mines or in related activities, either young girls or single mothers with children. Active participation is limited for them, as it is traditionally believed that their presence inside the mine brings bad luck. Therefore, they mainly work outside, breaking up discarded ore blocks looking for mineral rests, or working in other fields with fewer opportunities to earn a living. In the sales process, it is mainly the women who are cheated and receive an unfair price. Many women work on an informal basis, even outside the framework of the cooperative, so they lack health insurance or a pension fund. In addition, they generally take care of the family and therefore almost always bear a double burden.*

CISEP_Concentrated mineral leaching into waters without environmental measures
CISEP_Concentrated mineral leaching into waters without environmental measures
CISEP_Acidic waters and tailings dam without safety borders
CISEP_Acidic waters and tailings dam without safety borders

Working Conditions: Health & Safety

The interviews that were conducted indicate that miners sometimes work without personal protection, even when working below 70m depth, since that lowest level is being exploited by the cooperative as a whole. It is part of the collective contribution for the cooperative, out of their traditional mining-crew system. They have to help with the common costs of the cooperative by putting their own work at least 3 days a month in this new deep gallery. So it is not only unsafe and unhealthy to work there, but they also feel forced by the cooperative management to work there as an extra, because while those days are paid, the members are required to work inside the mine besides the days they already had to work with their crew to provide for their own income.

That depth is critical because there is less O2 and higher risks for lung diseases and silicosis, among others. They have to work there a minimum of 3 times a month: if they miss 2 times they are penalized and if they miss a 3rd time they lose their affiliation paper (the certificate of contribution to the cooperative) and they have to leave the cooperative. This level is accessed by an elevator system without emergency exit systems.

The interviewees imply that there is no safety plan in place and that occupational safety and health prevention systems are almost non-existent, probably due to the lack of resources from the management. On the contrary there are safety and health officers, but their functions are related to managing accidents and subsequent events, not preventing them!

A physical check shows that the concentration plants are constructions that are more than 50 years old and that there is no proper signage and ventilation. In general there are almost no risk and hazard signs inside the mine, or they are in constant deterioration and there is no plan for replacement of these signs. 

The work inside the mine is excessively cold and humid. There is no access to drinking water in the workplace.They mention that each worker takes his/her own water for daily work. More than 75% of the respondents say they have to stand continuously, sometimes up to 6 or even 12 hours. 3/4 also note that they are exposed to strong vibrations due to rock drilling and blasting and that they have to use heavy machinery.

The drilling of the rock inside the mine is not controlled: it should be done with water to avoid the formation of mineral dust suspended in the air, but there is no water system that reaches all the sites due to the investment cost involved. 74% claim to be exposed to gases and dust from rock blasting.

CISEP_Entrance to galleries in wells without ergonomic conditions or emergency exits.
CISEP_Entrance to galleries in wells without ergonomic conditions or emergency exits.
CISEP_Wood reinforcement yielding to the weight of drilling malpractice (2)
CISEP_Wood reinforcement yielding to the weight of drilling malpractice (2)

Because of these circumstances some miners have developed silicosis (a form of occupational lung disease caused by the inhalation of dust** due to the lack of water in the mining drilling process), rheumatism (due to excess humidity inside the mine) and head tumors (because of sliding rocks inside the mine, due to a lack of reinforcement of gallery infrastructure).

91% say that chemicals are not handled properly and more than 83% claim that there is continuous exposure to unprotected toxic materials such as xanthate and arsenic and that they have been exposed to fumes from the underground, for example those generated by diesel minecarts. The lack of ventilation systems generates a lot of combustion smoke that, according to one interviewees, affects mainly the “older” miners.

66% of the miners complain about occupational safety issues. Since everyone buys their own personal protective equipment, there is no industrial safety and it is not ensured. In the description of personal protective equipment, all describe the use of hearing protectors, respirators (but without a continuous change of filters and limited to the drilling of the rock) and head and feet protection, but no one has spoken about the use of back protectors. This is especially important because the minecarts  are only present in the main galleries and from the undercuts they have to move the ore on their back in backpacks or sacks that carry a weight of about 40 kilos. There is evidence that they have to make walks of up to 30 minutes with this weight on top of them.

Within the mines there are no toilets or excreta disposal systems, therefore it is not allowed to relieve themselves inside the mine, for this they should wait for the change of shifts (7-13, 14-19).

On top of this the miners do not have clear and visible information about their rights within the cooperative: they do not receive an introduction, they lack information about their health insurance and they are poorly treated by the public health system, they are not trained in the handling of tools nor do they receive postural education, they are not taught to use personal protective equipment and so on.

Stay tuned for part II of our miniseries

This is PART I of our miniseries about the monitoring of the tin supply chain. What happens once the tin is extracted? Stay tuned for the findings about the Bolivian smelters and under which circumstances tin is imported into the EU and later on, how and when it ends up in the electronics sector.


‘Greenwashing’ of the mining industry

‘Greenwashing’ of the mining industry

A warm nest, your own car and the latest smartphone; many of us are used to a life of luxury. However, continuing to meet these needs requires an energy transition. The highly acclaimed European Green Deal opens the door to ‘green’ alternatives such as electric cars and solar panels. But are these alternatives really so green and our needs so indispensable?

According to the global solidarity network YLNM (Yes to Life, no to Mining) they are not. They recently issued a press release “On the frontlines of lithium extraction” in which they sound the alarm. They particularly denounce the drastic expansion of mining in the name of green energy. Mining equals the violation of human rights and the destruction of crucial ecosystems. Anything but green.

“The EU needs to wake up and set an objective to reduce material use by two-thirds so that the European Green Deal does not become yet another footnote in the history of the destruction of the planet,” says Meadhbh Bolger of Friends of the Earth Europe.


The EU should reduce the extraction of natural resources by 65%. This is what Friends of the Earth Europe and the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) published in a recent study titled “Green mining is a myth”. Europe is already using a disproportionate amount of available natural resources. In fact, the EU’s material footprint currently stands at 14.5 tonnes per capita, approximately double what is considered a sustainable and equitable limit, and far above the global average.

Despite these revealing figures, the European Green Deal only takes mining further. The use of individual electric cars is absolutely no solution. The demand for lithium in the EU through batteries, required for electric cars, is expected to increase almost 6000% by 2050.

They come and destroy everything. They say they bring work and food. But that is only for today. Tomorrow we will be hungry again.

Empty Promises

The mining industry is often controlled by multinationals that care little about the rights of local people. In the video from the YLNM press conference, an indigenous woman says, ‘They come and destroy everything. They say they bring work and food. But that is only today. Tomorrow we will be hungry again.”

Indigenous people often set the example of a sustainable lifestyle. Yet it is precisely these communities and environments that are being abandoned in the name of ‘green’ energy. In many cases, lithium projects are forced on local communities. There is no transparency or democratic decision making. The mining industry is intertwined with local politics and often receives support from local politicians and international development organisations to promote ‘green mining’. But ‘green mining’ does not exist.

Water is worth more than lithium

Besides violating human rights, mining also destroys ecosystems.  Lithium mining and processing cause permanent and irreversible damage to water systems. The mines not only affect the watercourse and the water quality. They also fragment the landscape, rendering more sustainable livelihoods such as agriculture and tourism almost impossible. The Atacama Desert in Chile is gradually losing its last water resources due to the effects of lithium mining. Chile has half of the world’s lithium reserves and almost all of its exports are currently extracted from the Atacama Desert, the driest place in the world.

Need for behavioural change 

These are horrific findings. However, there is an alternative. Many action groups propose a number of concrete alternatives to limit mining and further damage as much as possible.

A drastic change in our habits and consumption, but also on production level, is crucial. The demand for energy and materials has to decrease significantly. This can be achieved by maximising public transport, providing alternatives to private transport and paying more attention to the repair, reuse and recycling of batteries and other products.

In addition, it is important to fully inform communities about the consequences of mining. Local communities must have the right to say no if they do not agree with the project.

Climate change should be addressed from a holistic socio-environmental justice perspective. Mining is destructive, not only ecologically but also in human terms. These elements must be recognised and policies must address them in a meaningful way.

Finally, the impunity of companies must end. Binding treaties must improve business and human rights. If they are not complied with, sanctions must follow. In order to ensure this, sensible environmental and social protection regulations are needed.

We should be aware that these ‘green’ approaches of the European Green Deal are often presented as innovations, but in reality they represent destructive models that promote an unjust and unequal transition. We must not let it get that far!

Article written by Catapista Helena Spriet

Photos by Sebastian Pichler via Unsplash

Take part in the free escaperoom Re-Connect!

Take part in the free escaperoom Re-Connect!

Always wanted to do an escaperoom, but never got around to it? Fond of your smartphone, but don’t know what’s inside? Then participate in the free escaperoom Re-Connect. Impress your friends by outsmarting them, solve the fun puzzles and riddles and find the tips to free yourself first. In this way you can learn more about the impact of your smartphone on people and the environment in a playful way.

Escaperoom-ReConnect -Bos plus Catapa

There are 3 escaperooms available. In each room you play with min. 4 and max. 8 people. From October 16 to November 27, the escape game will be on the CINOCO site, rue Pierre Van Humbeek 5, Molenbeek-Saint-Jean (Brussels). Registration is mandatory! Reservations can be made via this link. The escaperoom is in Dutch, so you’ll need at least one person that understands Dutch. But for most of the exercises you just need to think logical and a good command of Dutch isn’t necessary. 

A group of Catapistas already participated and set a record time! Can you do better? 😉

Escaperoom-ReConnect -Bos plus Catapa

Why this project?  

The average smartphone lasts 2.5 years. Half of the youngsters feel addicted to their smartphone. Moreover, that smartphone is full of materials that require mining. Disturbing figures, because mining is one of the 4 biggest drivers of deforestation. Read why here.

The supply chain of our electronics also causes many other environmental and social problems. A smartphone contains about 62 minerals and metals. Several of these are mined in vulnerable areas, with serious consequences for people and the environment: pollution by chemicals and heavy metals, deforestation, loss of agricultural land and biodiversity, human rights abuses and criminalization. The ICT sector also causes almost 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

So would you like to learn more about the impact of our electronics on people and the environment? Through riddles, discover which minerals are in your smartphone, where they are mined and who bears the consequences?

Don’t hesitate, register as soon as possible and try to beat the record time! Good luck!


Under the direction of BOS+, CATAPA and De Transformisten joined forces for the creation of this escaperoom, as part of the Re-Connect project. For its development, they called on #ANTcollectief.

Ctr alt del logo

Ctrl Alt Del Campaign

Launch Ctrl Alt Del Campaign

Reset the system & stop planned obsolescence!

The earth is becoming exhausted.

Floods, forest fires, melting glaciers, …: we are increasingly confronted with natural disasters. The consequences are disastrous & undeniable: we are exceeding the limits of our planet. To keep our globe livable, we must wake up and take action. Action aimed at the system, because we urgently need to stop holding only citizens responsible: we need to address the system, the economic system that strives for eternal growth! A reset of that system, that’s what we need! Ctrl Alt Del!

Take, make, waste.

Our current linear model of consumption and production is one of the biggest causes of this climate crisis. In this “throwaway” model, the quality of those products is secondary to quantity, in order to drive consumption and sales, primarily of electronics, to the limitless.

More production = more mining

That infinite supply of products is not consistent with the finite nature of our planet; the earth is not a bottomless pit. We cannot keep extracting more and more metals from the ground. The demand for raw materials is already unsustainable, resulting in many catastrophes. Mining is not only associated with huge energy and water wastage, but also with the contamination of soil and water, through the use of chemicals. This causes biodiversity loss and thus the degradation of the earth’s ecosystem. On top of this, the mining sector is also responsible for 10% of global CO2 emissions, making it one of the most polluting sectors on earth.

Planned obsolescence: what is it and why will it destroy our planet?

Producing goods at top speed and at the lowest possible prices is the basis of our current economic system. Products are made with a limited life span (planned obsolescence) or the design makes repair difficult or unfeasible. Some products are even deliberately made with system faults, deliberately designed to be defective, so that the life span is short and more products are sold. This is part of a deliberate industry strategy to discourage users and to make us buy new devices quickly. That is the definition of planned obsolescence.

Time to take action for more regulation!

The solution to this lies at the policy level. The planet urgently needs strong politicians who do not allow themselves to be lobbied by the industry, but dare to subject them to strict regulation. Regulation can ensure that multinationals are obliged to make better products (eco-design) for consumers: repairable products, made to last, instead of disposable products made to break down quickly and be replaced. Logical right?

Join the Ctrl Alt Del Campaign!

Expect numerous workshops, lectures, actions, … on Planned Obsolescence in the coming months. Follow our Ctrl Alt Delete campaign closely and join Catapa in action: let’s force our politicians to take responsibility, stop planned obsolescence and reset the current system! 

#ctrlaltdel #ExpresDefect

Catapa communication education volunteer

Become a Communication or Education Volunteer!

Become a Communication or Education Volunteer

Would you like to be part of a volunteer team supporting the Communication or Education of some amazing social & environmental justice projects across Belgium and Latin America?

Become a Communication Volunteer!

Are you interested in social media, content creation or graphic design, etc? We are now recruiting for volunteers who want to help shape the communication strategy and output of CATAPA by being a part of our Communication working group!

Send an email to communication[at]catapa.be introducing yourself.

Become an Education Volunteer!

Are you interested in setting up educational events and trainings, develop educational material, guide workshops, and much more, we are also recruiting for volunteers who want to help shape the educational strategy and output of CATAPA!

Send an email to education[at]catapa.be introducing yourself.


We are looking forward to welcoming you in our team!