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Will the world's switch to renewable energy support conflict?

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The growing use of solar panels, electric vehicles and wind turbines is a necessary part of tackling climate change.

But poor and opaque management of the minerals needed for these green energy technologies – from the mine site to the end customer – could fuel fragility, conflict, and violence, a new report by the International Institute for Sustainable Development says.

Released today, Green Conflict Minerals applauds the global surge in demand for green technologies and tracks the full spectrum of minerals required for their production. While this should translate into economic boons for communities near required minerals, strategic reserves can become fuel for exploitation if not managed responsibly. This a risk when they are found in countries already struggling with fragility and corruption.

“Stories of armed groups operating cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo and of riots breaking out around bauxite mining in Guinea are just two examples that have raised this issue’s profile, but it’s something that needs to be championed by the same voices correctly calling for a green economic transition,” says report co-author Clare Church. “Most of these metals are not covered in existing conflict mineral legislation, with the exception of tin.”

While previous studies have examined minerals in the wider tech sector or concentrated solely on rechargeable batteries, Green Conflict Minerals is the first study to look at the broad swathe of metals needed for low-carbon technologies and point to gaps in the responsible management of supply chains.


(View full screen interactive map)

To visualize the report’s findings, an interactive map overlays strategic mineral reserves required for green energy technology with measures of state fragility and corruption (as defined and measured by the Fund for Peace and Transparency International, respectively). The frequent overlap of state weakness with mineral concentration shows how ripe the situation is for abuse.

“There’s no question we need to shift to a low-carbon economy. This technology will get us there,” says Church, “but we need to do it without blood on our hands.”

Available for interview:

Clare Church, Research Officer, IISD, report co-author (UTC−05:00)
Alec Crawford, Senior Researcher, IISD, report co-author (UTC−05:00)

Peer reviewers:

Blanca Racionero Gomez and Kate MacLeod, Levin Sources
Isabelle Ramdoo, Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development
John Drexhage, World Bank
Louis Maréchal and Luca Maiotti, OECD
Sophia Pickles, Global Witness

Suggested interviews:

The World Bank (media office)
World Economic Forum (media office)
International Council of Mining and Minerals (contacts)
Responsible Minerals Initiative (contacts)
Local solar or wind energy companies, electric vehicle manufacturers and associations


About the International Institute for Sustainable Development

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is an independent think tank that delivers the knowledge to act. Our mission is to promote human development and environmental sustainability. Our big-picture view allows us to address the root causes of some of the greatest challenges facing our planet today – ecological destruction, social exclusion, unfair laws and economic and social rules, a changing climate. With offices in Winnipeg, Geneva, Ottawa, Toronto and New York, our work impacts lives in nearly 100 countries.

For more information, please contact: media@iisd.org or +1 (204) 958 7700 ext. 706