©Pablo Rojas Madariaga / Danwatch

Lithiumexploitatie droogt de ’s werelds droogste woestijn uit

Aäron De Fruyt | Chili, Chili, Chili, Chili, Chili, Mijnbouw, Mijnbouw, Mijnbouw, Mijnbouw, Mijnbouw, Publicaties, Publicaties, Publicaties, Publicaties, Publicaties

Lithiumexploitatie droogt de ’s werelds droogste woestijn uit

Dit artikel is een samenvatting van een langer onderzoeksproject van Danwatch, gepubliceerd in samenwerking met CATAPA en SETEM. Meer informatie aan het eind van dit artikel.

De Acatama-woestijn in Chili, ’s werelds droogste woestijn, is haar laatste watervoorraden langzaamaan aan het verliezen. Inheemse gemeenschappen trekken al enkele jaren aan de alarmbel en worden nu gesterkt door wetenschappelijke onderzoeken en milieuorganisaties. Oorzaak van deze uitdroging? Lithiumwinning.

Lithium is essentieel voor de batterijen in onze telefoons, onze computers en de explosieve toename van het aantal elektrische voertuigen die vaak worden gezien als de sleutel tot een groene energietransitie. Chili, dat over de helft van de lithiumreserves ter wereld beschikt, is uitgeroepen tot ‘Het Saudi-Arabië van het Lithium’ en bijna de gehele export wordt momenteel gewonnen uit de Atacama-woestijn, de droogste plaats ter wereld. Maar het winnen van Atacama’s lithium brengt met zich mee dat enorme hoeveelheden van de schaarse watervoorraden worden opgepompt. Watervoorraden die ervoor gezorgd hebben dat inheemse volkeren en dieren duizenden jaren in de woestijn hebben kunnen overleven. 

Volgens onderzoekers veroorzaakt de extractie nu al blijvende schade aan de kwetsbare ecosystemen van het gebied. In de Atacama en elders in Chili protesteren de inheemse gemeenschappen nu tegen de huidige en toekomstige plannen voor lithiumwinning. Veel gemeenschappen beweren dat ze nooit geraadpleegd werden vóór de winningsprojecten, hoewel de Chileense autoriteiten verplicht zijn dit te doen volgens de internationale verdragen die door de Chileense staat geratificeerd zijn. Het Deens onderzoekscentrum Danwatch kan documenteren dat bedrijven zoals Samsung, Panasonic, Apple, Tesla en BMW batterijen krijgen van bedrijven die Chileens lithium gebruiken.

Met de onvergelijkbare lithiumreserves van het land en het steeds belangrijker wordende belang van het metaal voor de energiesector, heeft Chili af en toe het label ‘Het Saudi-Arabië van het Lithium’ gekregen. Bijna 40 procent van het wereldwijde aanbod komt de afgelopen 20 jaar uit Chili en, zoals Danwatch kan onthullen, komt het terecht in een aantal van de populairste elektronica en elektrische auto’s. Het metaal is een van de meest populaire producten van de Chileense energiesector. 

De inheemse gemeenschappen van de Atacama werden echter in snelheid gepakt. Chili heeft ILO-conventie 169 ondertekend, die de regeringen verplicht om de inheemse bevolking te raadplegen wanneer grote projecten in hun omgeving worden uitgevoerd. Maar volgens de inwoners van Pai-Ote werden ze niet geraadpleegd voordat de lithiumprojecten in de media werden gepresenteerd. “We ontdekten via de pers dat er een overeenkomst was gesloten die SQM in staat stelde om hier aan lithiumwinning te gaan doen. Niemand vroeg het Colla-volk of ze de mijnbouw op hun grondgebied wilden”, zegt Ariel Leon, vertegenwoordiger van de Colla-gemeenschap.

Het Chileense lithium kan tegen lage kosten worden gewonnen: mijnwerkers pompen lithiumhoudende pekel uit een massief reservoir onder de Atacama-zoutvlakte naar enorme plassen op het oppervlak van de woestijn. De hoogste zonnestraling ter wereld zorgt ervoor dat het water van de pekel snel verdampt, waardoor het lithium samen met andere zouten en mineralen wordt opgeschept.

Tijdens dit proces verdampt tot 95 procent van de gewonnen pekel in de lucht. Dit versnelt de waterschaarste in de Atacama, zegt Ingrid Garces, een hoogleraar techniek aan de Chileense Universiteit van Antofagasta, die onderzoek doet naar zoutpannen. “In Chili wordt lithiumwinning beschouwd als een normale vorm van mijnbouw, alsof je een harde rots aan het winnen bent. Maar dit is geen reguliere mijnbouw – het is waterwinning”, zegt ze.

De twee bedrijven achter de lithiumwinning in de Atacama, de Chileense Soc. Química & Minera de Chile (SQM) en het Amerikaanse Albemarle Corp. hebben vergunningen om bijna 2.000 liter pekel per seconde te winnen. Naast de pekel winnen lithiummijnwerkers ook aanzienlijke hoeveelheden zoet water samen met de nabijgelegen kopermijnen. “Het gevolg is een impact op de biodiversiteit in het algemeen. En dat effect is nu al te zien – de wetlands drogen uit”, zegt Ingrid Garces.

Atacama’s inheemse gemeenschappen luiden al jaren de alarmklok over waterschaarste. Volgens de Atacama volksraad, die 18 inheemse gemeenschappen vertegenwoordigt, zijn de afgelopen tien jaar rivieren, lagunes en weiden allemaal in hoeveelheid water afgenomen. De Chileense autoriteiten hebben echter grotendeels vertrouwd op de milieueffectrapportages van de mijnbouwbedrijven zelf. En deze studies hebben over het algemeen geen significante effecten op het waterpeil of de omliggende natuur vastgesteld.

“Voor de lokale bevolking is de verandering heel erg duidelijk. Ze merken dat er minder water voor hun dieren is en ze zien hoe de rivieren uitdrogen. Deze anekdotische kennis wordt niet serieus genomen door de bedrijven of de staat”, zegt Cristina Dorador, bioloog en universitair hoofddocent aan de Chileense Universiteit van Antofagasta die het microbiële leven in de Atacama bestudeert.

In augustus 2019 kwam een analyse van satellietbeelden door het satellietanalysebedrijf SpaceKnow en het wetenschappelijke tijdschrift Engineering & Technology toch tot een vergelijkbare conclusie. Op basis van satellietfoto’s uit de periode van 2015 tot 2019 zagen zij een sterke omgekeerde relatie tussen het waterniveau in de lithiumvijvers van SQM en de omliggende lagunes: “Toen het waterniveau in de SQM-vijvers toenam, zou het waterniveau in de lagunes dalen”.

De ironie wil dat de Atacama-zoutvlakte ooit een groot meer was, voordat het duizenden jaren geleden door ernstige klimaatveranderingen opdroogde. Wetenschappers bestuderen de woestijn vandaag als voorbeeld van wat er met ecosystemen elders op de planeet kan gebeuren als de wereldwijde klimaatverandering effectief wordt. Maar in het streven om de stijgende temperaturen met elektrische auto’s te temperen, zuigen de industrieën het weinige water dat nog over is in de droogste woestijn ter wereld weg.

 

Danwatch, SETEM en CATAPA deden onderzoek naar de impact van de lithiumexploitatie in kader van het Europese Make ICT Fairproject. Deze campagne wilt de toevoerketen van onze elektronica zichtbaar maken en beïnvloeden door samen met publieke aankopers van ICT mijnbouw-en assemblagebedrijven om betere milieu-en arbeidsvoorwaarden te vragen. Lithium, als één van de belangrijkste metalen in de transitie naar groene economie, vormde de focus van dit artikel. 

 

Danwatch is naar Chili geweest om de groeiende lithium extractie industrie van het land te onderzoeken. Daarbij werd groot aantal wetenschappers, bedrijven, politici en mensen die het dichtst bij de ontginningsgebieden wonen, geïnterviewd. Ze hebben de impactstudies van de mijnbouwbedrijven en de weinige onafhankelijke onderzoeksrapporten over dit onderwerp bestudeerd. Ze baseren zich vooral op onderzoek uit 2019 naar lithiumwinning in Chili door onderzoekers van de Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability.

Het onderzoek wordt ondersteund door het Make ICT Fair project, dit is gefinancierd door de EU. Publicatie gebeurt in samenwerking met SETEM en CATAPA.

TOESTELLEN DIE DE WOESTIJN UITDROGEN

Bekijk hieronder alle artikels uit het onderzoeksproject.

ARTIKEL 1: Onze vraag naar batterijen droogt de droogste plek ter wereld op.
ARTIKEL 2: Een groot deel van het lithium in de wereld wordt tegen de wil van de inheemse volkeren op hun grondgebied ontgonnen.
ARTIKEL 3: Inheemse volkeren worden aangeklaagd omdat zij zich verzetten tegen toekomstige lithiumprojecten in Chili.

ARTIKEL 4: Er zit waarschijnlijk Chileense lithium achter het scherm waarop u dit leest.

ARTIKEL 5: Hoeveel water wordt er gebruikt om de batterijen in de wereld te maken?

ARTIKEL 6 / INTERVIEW: De mijnbouwbedrijven zien alleen water. Maar water is leven voor ons.

Interview met de 67-jarige Clementino López, één van de ongeveer 20.000 inheemse Likan Antai in de Atacama-woestijn,

ARTIKEL 7 / VIDEO: Bekijk de surrealistische lithium extractie landschappen van bovenaf.

Bekijk de surrealistische lithium extractie landschappen van bovenaf.

Dit artikel is geschreven door Aäron De Fruyt en Charlotte Christiaens.
Fotografie: ©Pablo Rojas Madariaga / Danwatch

Art as a Form of Protest – Peru

Maxime Degroote | GECOs on the road, GECOs on the road, GECOs on the road, Mijnbouw, Mijnbouw, Mijnbouw, Peru, Peru, Peru, Publicaties, Publicaties, Publicaties

Art as a Form of Protest – Peru

As all neighboring countries of Peru are stuck or have been stuck in violent protests recently, Peru seems calm. Cajamarca, known for its huge protests to stop the mining project of Conga, seems calm.

Those protests happened only about 7 years ago, in 2011 and 2012, and still have a special taste in everyone’s mouth. Everyone in Cajamarca today has lived them profoundly. Everyone has somehow been part of the cruel protests. But looking at Cajamarca now, it seems like the idea of protesting has died. It seems like people have quietly accepted legal and illegal mining activity in the region. For example, there seems to be no reaction to the new mining project Michiquillay of the company Southern Copper, which they hope to start using in 2022. And there is very little reaction to the contamination of the Valle de Condebamba, where vegetables most Cajamarquinos eat get produced and are severely contaminated with toxic metals.

Why is that? Why do people stay calm? Is it because there are too many protests in Peru? Because they got tired? Because of the number of social conflicts that never get resolved? Because of the 279 people that died defending human rights until 2018 in Peru? Because of the horrible criminalization of protests in Peru in all its forms – both direct attacks as methods like states of emergency? Because of the memory of the horrible protests in 2012?

All very good reasons to not take to the streets anymore. But the truth is – the protests have never really stopped. They have just taken different forms.


Silent protests

Calm, silent protests are happening everywhere. Protesting doesn’t mean aggression. Protesting means showing how things can be different, making people think, for example through art, photo exhibitions, music, whatever you feel like. Protesting can be as silent or as violent as you want it to be. It’s your fight.

So yes, people in Cajamarca – or in Peru – might be tired of protest marches. It’s easy to see that the protest marches for women rights are smaller every year. The three climate change actions we’ve organized this year shrunk every time, and in June, when bull fights came back to Cajamarca after years, we were just a small group screaming outside of the arena holding up cardboards and getting laughed at.

But almost no one came to see the bull fights. The stadium was empty, which made the government cancel the second day of fights. And isn’t that a sign that Cajamarca doesn’t want bull fights anymore? Isn’t just not showing up a form of protest too? Isn’t silent protest, protest too?


Cross boundaries

Protest is what you want it to be. And using art as a form of protest isn’t something new. In fact, it represents the way of protesting in Peru. In the world. And all through history.

It’s said that art as a form of protest or activism was first seen with Dada, an anti-war movement which openly outed critiques to the First World War. Picasso protested with paintings based on for example the Spanish Civil War. The Vietnam War formed a base for many works of art in the sixties, and also gender issues, feminism, immigrant problems, and so on, got addressed through art. And then we haven’t even mentioned Banksy yet with all his work on all kinds of global issues, or the Russian feminist punk-rock band Pussy Riot that dealt with themes as feminism, freedom of speech, LGBT+ rights, etcetera, through their music.

Art is political, and art can be a powerful weapon. Art can make you think about things you hadn’t thought about before. Art can make a political statement, can be some sort of critique on a political or social situation. Art often looks up boundaries, or crosses them.


Art and activism

Also during the awful protests against mining project Conga in 2011 and 2012, art was used. The Plaza de Armas in Cajamarca changed into an art gallery, there were concerts, people were singing and dancing on the street. The Marcha del Agua towards Lima was beautiful with everyone singing together. And that has never stopped. That’s still part of Peru’s – or Cajamarca’s – culture. Art is protest.

As Carlos, founder of an environmental organization in Cajamarca says: “Art has a great impact on people. People get conscious about the environment, and on top of that about the beauty of the art and the people.” Art has an incredibly creative power to move people emotionally, while activism sets a goal, shows us the social or political change we need to see in the world. Art moves a feeling, while activism creates an effect. And in order to make that change, in order to get that effect, we need some sort of stimulation. We need to be moved. Emotionally. Art and activism combined, can lead to many, many things.

On top of that, art used as a form of protest, outside of actual protest marches or political spaces, gets you a surprise effect. It makes people think about serious, maybe political, issues, without them maybe realizing it. It gets in your mind, and slowly, gets you to that effect activism wants to reach.


Changing minds

Murals for example, big paintings on walls, are widely used as a form of protest or activism in Cajamarca and in Peru. In the province of Celendín the streets are full of colourful walls. And also in Cajamarca the city is covered in painted walls, leaving powerful messages. Something we could already see in the beginning of the 20th century in Mexico.

And I have to admit, while painting one of those murals, thinking about the load of work waiting for me on my desk, I did think to myself that I could use my time better. That I could actually do something useful to help the environment, instead of just paint. That I shouldn’t waste my time painting a wall with a message probably no one would read. But was I wrong. All the people passing by that day stopped to check out our message. To see what it was about. And still very often, as I walk passed that wall, I see people talking about the painting. Maybe the mural didn’t gain the change immediately. But it is changing people’s minds, slowly, daily, firmly.

The same happened when we used a beautiful Cajamarcan tradition as a form of activism. On Corpus Christi, the whole Plaza de Armas gets covered in alfombras, or flower carpets. We focused on animal rights and protested against the bull fights with our carpet, whereas some others used it to address gender inequality, for example. And in between the beautiful art works, those pieces of art showing some sort of social or political issue, were the alfombras where most people stood around, discussing what they saw. Not what was actually there, but what they saw, what it meant to them, what they understood the message was. It made people rethink their own actions.


Happiness in protest

And that’s not all. Ecological fairs keep popping out of the ground like mushrooms, focusing on economic alternatives to mining and environmental issues, and that way making passengers-by think about the impact of mining activity without them realizing that’s what it’s about. Wakes are organized to mourn the death of our environment, combined with a beautiful piano concert, to focus on environmental issues in a different way. Theatres are held all through town showing the effects of gender inequality or climate change. Movie nights focusing on social themes are a big thing.

The lyrics to the typical cheerful carnival music of Cajamarca get changed to songs defending human rights and are being sung whenever the opportunity shows.

A few weeks ago a protest action was held at Cerro Quilish. Only about 30 people showed up, hiking to the top of the mountain from where you could look out over Yanacocha. But those 30 people brought up their giant speaker, singing and dancing their way up. And after the talk on top of the mountain, the volume of that same speaker was turned up a bit more.

People opened their bags, uncovering bowls of food, giving everyone a spoonful of whatever they had brought. Sharing. Dancing. Singing. Turning a protest into a beautiful moment together, showing their strength, their traditions, their bond. Showing they are one. Unstoppable. Finding happiness in protest.


Beautiful protests

There’s loads of centers that open their doors for all kind of social movement or activity, for free, supporting artists. There’s a cultural magazine made entirely by volunteers that also hold events every few weeks addressing for example topics as cultural identity, traditions, history. There’s movies or poetry in Quechua to make people rethink their roots and history. There’s dozens of bands in Cajamarca singing about animal rights or human rights or violence against women or any topic you can think of.

Lots of youth organizations take charge and organize fun activities for all ages such as actions on recycling with quiz questions and prices to win. Photo exhibitions focus on what nature should look like and shows the work of different human and environmental right defenders.

Of course, protesting is hard in Peru. And it’s sad that there’s still so much to protest about. But at least we know it will always be here, in its own way. And protesting can be so, so beautiful.

There’s resistance. There’s hope. In all its forms. Don’t underestimate the power of art. And don’t underestimate Cajamarca.

Armenia: Amulsar, the Mountain where Water is more Precious than Gold

Laura Luciani | Armenia, Armenia, Armenia, Ramp, Ramp, Mijnbouw, Mijnbouw, Mijnbouw, Pers, Pers, Pers, Publicaties, Publicaties, Publicaties, Ramp

On the 2nd of October, CATAPA had the honor of receiving Armenian activist Anna Shahnazaryan, from the Armenian Environmental Front. She is part of the Save Amulsar campaign, which for years has been opposing the Amulsar gold mine by Lydian International. The Amulsar mine is the second largest gold deposit in Armenia. Shahnazaryan travelled to Belgium to have conversations with EU lobby groups and managed to give a short presentation with CATAPA.

During this gathering, we also met Laura Luciani (author of this article), who is a PhD student at the Centre for EU Studies of Ghent University, where she researches human rights and civil society in the South Caucasus.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE in the East Journal in Italian, by Laura Luciani.

Armenia: Amulsar, the Mountain where Water is more Precious than Gold

In 1986, a group of 350 Armenian intellectuals wrote an open letter to Mikhail Gorbačëv to denounce the catastrophic consequences of pollution caused by heavy industries, whose repercussions had long been ignored by the Soviet authorities. Even though for over thirty years environmental protests have been taking place in an almost cyclical way in Armenia, and the damages caused by irresponsible industrial practices are constantly monitored, today citizens still have to take to the streets to prevent yet another ecological disaster.

For seven years, local communities and environmentalist groups have been opposing the construction of a gold mine in Amulsar – a mountainous area in the South of Armenia, located in the centre of the national water supply system. But in the last year, in the wake of the political changes that affected Armenia, this local protest has taken on a transnational dimension: now, the “post-Velvet-Revolution” government led by Nikol Pashinyan finds itself having to handle it with caution.

The project and its impact

Armenia is a country rich in mineral resources including copper, gold, but also lead, silver, zinc and other industrial minerals; these constitute more than half of the country’s exports. With a surface of less than 30,000 km2, Armenia counts today around 27 authorized mineral sites, of which 17 are active. However, the exploitation of these deposits has for decades been at the centre of controversies due to mismanagement and to these extractive projects’ extremely negative environmental effects.

In 2012, a mining company called Lydian Armenia (subsidiary of the offshore company Lydian International) signs a first deal with the Armenian government, at that time led by the Republican Party. In 2016, the company receives the final mine operation permit, even though the project is highly problematic. Amulsar, which is the 2nd largest gold deposit in Armenia, is in fact located only 6 km away from the spa town of Jermuk, famous for its thermal water: the inhabitants (who were not consulted about the project and its impact) fear that the proximity of the mine and the pollution resulting from it may discourage tourist flows to the town, thus affecting the community’s main source of income.

Scientists also indicate that the project could have ecological repercussions on a much larger scale: the Amulsar deposit is located within a seismic area, which increases the risk that acid drainage processes, accelerated by the excavations, leak in and contaminate the surrounding rivers (Arpa, Vorotan and Darb), with negative consequences for agriculture and livestock. Furthermore, contamination threatens to reach Lake Sevan – the largest freshwater reservoir of the country and an almost sacred place in Armenian popular culture. Last but not least, the project would alter the Amulsar ecosystem, which hosts different protected species including the Caucasian leopard (or Persian leopard) – of which only 10 specimen remain in Armenia.

A turning point 

After years of protest, in June 2018 the local communities decided to seize the window of opportunity opened by the “Velvet Revolution” that took place over one month earlier (thanks to an unprecedented wave of mass peaceful protests) to undertake direct action and block the streets leading to the mining site. The #SaveAmulsar campaign was born: for over a year and a half, local people supported by environmental activists have been supervising the entrance to the mine, doing shifts in checkpoints they built for this purpose, and managed to effectively stop the works in the construction site.

However, the citizens’ euphoria suffered a severe blow on 9 September this year: after opening an investigation and commissioning an independent assessment of the project’s environmental impact, prime minister Nikol Pashinyan unexpectedly gave the go-ahead for the digging in the Amulsar gold mine, asking protesters to clear the streets. As Anna Shahnazaryan, Armenian Environmental Front’s activist, explains in an interview for Kiosk (T.N. Italian radio programme), “the independent report, published in August, stated that Lydian’s estimations about the mine’s impact on water resources were incorrect, and that the project contained several evaluation errors – including intentional ones. Therefore, the environmental impact mitigation measures envisaged by Lydian were not adequate”.

Nevertheless, the Investigative Committee and the prime minister himself concluded that the company would be able to manage all the environmental risks. “For this reason, – Shahnazaryan continues – in the last two months the situation has become hectic: the prime minister took the side of Lydian and organized different meetings with the company’s representatives, while we activists took to the streets both in Amulsar and in Yerevan”.

“Post-revolutionary” Armenia and its problems

Experts suggest that Pashinyan is defending the private interests of Lydian Armenia and its investors (among which the USA, the United Kingdom and several international financial institutions) to prevent the company from having recourse to the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). This is an international mechanism which allows a foreign investor to request arbitration by a corporate court if the “host-state” violates its rights: this decision could cost Armenia around two billion dollars, that is two thirds of its state budget.

However, there are also people who believe that Pashinyan’s ambiguous position is symptomatic of some criticalities of Armenia’s post-revolutionary government: first, the lack of an ideology going beyond the mere overthrow of the corrupt political system, which for ten years had been in the hands of former president Serzh Sarghsyan. According to Anna Shahnazaryan, “the current government uses many slogans, but behind the slogans there is little action. And one of these slogans is ‘we will not follow the economic path traced by the previous government, which focused on the mining industry, but we will try to develop new sectors such as tourism and the IT sector’”.

In reality, the “economic revolution” that Pashinyan wants to bring about in Armenia seems to be based on the same neo-liberal approach of the previous government, aimed at “opening up the country” to multinationals and foreign investors (with the 400 million dollars destined for Amulsar, Lydian would be the largest single investor in the history of independent Armenia). An understanding of “development” which disregards ecological considerations, human rights and the citizens’ well-being.

Another problem, Shahnazaryan points out, is that “with the revolution in Armenia people developed a certain idolatry of the current prime minister, who is considered the leader of the revolution. Many former activists who participated in the revolution and were then elected to Parliament have now expressed ‘unconditional support’ to Pashinyan’s position on Amulsar”. According to Shahnazaryan, this raised many doubts, even among those who were not necessarily opposed to the project, “because it is something that undermines the democratic structure of the country: the legislative body should not be ‘unconditionally supporting’ the person that it is in charge of supervising”.

#SaveAmulsar continues 

Last year, the Armenian Environmental Front launched a petition requesting municipal councils in Jermuk and other towns in the region to ban all mining activities and declare Jermuk an ‘ecological area’. Although the petition has collected 12,000 signatures so far, the government has recently appealed against this initiative. Lydian Armenia is also putting pressure on protesters through legal channels.

Meanwhile, activists are trying to internationalize the movement, with the aim of exposing the responsibilities of international financial institutions (in this case, the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development) and other project funders (notably, the Swedish government which channelled money to Amulsar through state export-credit funds) in the global phenomenon of extractivism – namely non-sustainable development practices based on the extraction of mineral resources at the expense of local communities’ interests and the environment on which they depend.

Anna Shahnazaryan is convinced that the government cannot give a definitive authorization to Lydian “because the citizens are firmly opposed to the project, and if Pashinyan decides to use violent methods this will only turn against him”. The stakes in Amulsar seem to be very high: they do not “only” touch upon the protection of the environment and natural resources, but also the legitimacy of Nikol Pashinyan and the future of democracy in Armenia.

iPhone 11 Illegally Produced in China: Apple allows supplier factory Foxconn to violate labor laws

Laura Garcia | Rapport, Nieuws, Nieuws, Nieuws, Publicaties, Publicaties, Publicaties, Rapport, Rapport

iPhone 11 Illegally Produced in China
Apple allows supplier factory Foxconn to violate labor laws

“Over the years, China Labor Watch has monitored the working conditions at several Foxconn facilities and investigations have revealed a string of labor rights violations. In this year’s report, several investigators were employed at the Zhengzhou Foxconn factory, and one of the investigators worked there for over four years. Because of the long investigation period, this report reveals many details about the working and living conditions at the Foxconn factory.”

Among others, some of the labor rights violations registered at Zhengzhou Foxconn by NGO China Labor Watch are the following:

  • New workers have a probationary period of three months and if they wish to resign during this time, they must apply three days in advance.
  • During peak season, regular workers’ resignations won’t be approved.
  • After completing resignation procedures, factories will pay workers in around two weeks with no pay stub provided that month.
  • Some dispatch workers failed to receive their promised bonuses from the dispatch company.
  • The factory does not pay social insurance for the dispatched workers.
  • In 2018, dispatch workers made up 55% of the workforce. Chinese labor law stipulates that dispatch workers must not exceed 10% of the workforce. In August 2019, around 50% of the workforce were dispatch workers.
  • During peak production season, student workers must work overtime. However, according to regulations on student internships, students are not to work overtime or night shifts.
  • Chinese labor law mandates that workers must not work more than 36 overtime hours a month. However, during the peak production seasons, workers at Zhengzhou Foxconn put in at least 100 overtime hours a month. There have been periods where workers have one rest day for every 13 days worked or even have only one rest day for a month.
  • Workers have to receive approval not to work overtime. If workers do not receive approval and choose not to work overtime anyway, they will be admonished by the line manager and will not be working overtime in the future.
  • If work is not completed by the time the shift ends, workers must work overtime and workers are not paid for this. If there are abnormalities at work, they must work overtime until the issue has been addressed, and work done during this time is also unpaid.
  • Workers sometimes have to stay back for night meetings at work, and this time is unpaid.
  • The factory does not provide workers with adequate personal protective equipment and workers do not receive any occupational health and safety training.
  • The factory does not provide a single training class on fire safety and other relevant knowledge.
  • The chairman of the labor union is always appointed by the factory, not elected by the workers, and the chairman is always the department leader or manager.
  • The factory does not report work injuries.
  • Verbal abuse is common at the factory.
  • The factory recruits student workers through dispatch companies, as student workers sent by schools are subject to many restrictions.
  • The factory violates the “The Administrative Provisions on the Internships of Vocational School Students” which stipulates that student workers cannot be recruited by agencies or dispatch companies but only schools.

Read the full report here: Zhengzhou Foxconn

Jaarverslag CATAPA

Laura Garcia | Catapa in de kijker, Publicaties

Jaarverslag CATAPA 2018

“Laat me met de deur in huis vallen en zeggen: bedankt dat je opnieuw ons jaarverslag in de hand hebt genomen. Je bent aan de eerste pagina van onze rapportage van 2018, en alleen al de omvang van deze editie toont dat de Catapistas keihard hebben gewerkt vorig jaar.

2018 was geen gewoon jaar voor CATAPA, maar eerlijkheidshalve moet ik toegeven dat 2018 ook het jaar was dat ik officieel ophield met het wachten op ‘een gewoon jaar’ voor CATAPA. In een jaar van grote en kleine verwezenlijkingen, groeide CATAPA verder uit tot een geloofwaardige organisatie, in de strijd voor klimaat-, ecologische en sociale rechtvaardigheid.”

Living under risk – Copper, ICT and Human Rights in Chile

Charlotte Christiaens | Chili, Chili, Chili, Rapport, Mijnbouw, Mijnbouw, Mijnbouw, Publicaties, Publicaties, Publicaties, Rapport, Rapport

Living under risk

Copper, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and Human Rights in Chile

Catapa heeft dit rapport (in het Engels) samen met War on Want gepubliceerd. U kunt het hier lezen.

CHILE, COPPER & ICT

Chile is currently the largest copper producer in the world, holding 29% of the world reserves of the red metal. Copper represents a crucial portion of the Chilean economy and the copper industry -as will be shown in this report- is highly influential in national politics.

But the extent and intensity of copper extraction across Chile’s territory has precipitated negative impacts in the environment and on communities that resist extractivism.

Through the analysis of a case study, this report unveils the adverse socio-environmental impacts of copper extraction and discusses the role of the company, the national government and international actors in addressing the consequences brought by the copper mining industry.

Within this last group, this report highlights the role that ICTs –which represent 24% of the usage of copper (Comisión Chilena del Cobre, 2016a) – could play in the improvement of social, environmental and labour conditions at the local level.

 

The case study

Caimanes is a small agrarian town situated in northern Chile that has been at the centre of opposition to the Los Pelambres (hereinafter MLP or the Company) mining project, the fifth largest copper mine in the world. The community does not have political relations with national or local elites, and therefore, as will be seen, its opportunities for mobilisation have been mostly limited.

Yet, the local community reacted against the construction of El Mauro tailings dam –the largest in Latin America- identifying various negative socio-environmental impacts on issues of water, health and security. As will be detailed in this report, the capacity of the community to mobilise resources has varied across the 20 years of struggle. Through its history of resistance, the community has gone through different phases of mobilisation: from a period of direct action to a process of formalising its demands in a judicial lawsuit, which has marked the last 10 years of mobilisation.

This case also reveals a process of countermobilisation to the protest. Given the significant scale of the project, and its high
levels of associated investment, the mining project has been assiduously defended by the state and the Company, restricting the possibilities for social contention. As will be seen throughout the report, both the Company and the state have deployed direct techniques of repression such as forced displacement, the criminalisation of local leaders, and use of police forces to suppress protests. Additionally, the corporate-state nexus, has also used more sophisticated forms of counter-mobilisation such as using company-community interactions to divide the inhabitants of Caimanes, and diminishing their capacity to decide in formal spaces of community engagement.

By analysing the mechanisms that explain the rise of the Caimanes mobilisation and its main shifts, this report explores the
emergence of micro-dynamics of contention in territories that lack political opportunities and resources. Its insights allow us to understand episodes of protest in an unfavourable context for social contention; and how, despite this restrictive context, the community has been able to create opportunities, resources and solidarities at different stages of the conflict.

The report begins with a contextualisation of the political economy of copper in Chile, highlighting how it relates to consumption at a global scale, with a specific emphasis placed on the consumption of ICTs. It then generates a process-tracing analysis of the episodes of contention marked by two significant stages of protest: (i) a period during which the community aimed to, and were successful in receiving compensation from the company and (ii) a period during which the community sought to legally demonstrate the negative impacts of the project. This part of the report includes a discussion about the interlinked relationship of the community with a growing labour movement that has not yet been able to coordinate their demands with the socioenvironmental movement. The concluding section summarises these two periods of
protest highlighting the most important elements that have generated conflict in the last 20 years. It also shows how the global consumption of copper (especially from ICTs), the closed political opportunities at the national level, the process of countermobilisation by the Company and lack of networks have ended up dividing and isolating the community, diminishing its capacity to self-organise.