NIR Programme

Responsibility and Sustainability in Latin American Mining

Securing minerals for the green transition by addressing environmental and human rights risks

NIR’s new programme for responsible and more sustainable mining, also known by its Spanish acronym MARS (Minería Americana Responsible y más Sostenible), takes a regional perspective on the sustainability challenges posed by the increasing demand for minerals needed for the global energy transition.

The programme is the result of co-creation between business, the financial sector, embassies, experts and representatives of civil society. MARS is fully funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and implemented in cooperation with regional partners.

Latin America has become a key region for diversifying supply chains and securing access to transition minerals as it has some of the world’s largest known reserves of copper and lithium as well as significant amounts of graphite, nickel and other transition minerals. Mining therefore has the potential to become a growth engine in Latin American economies. However, mineral extraction is accompanied by risks that negatively affect the environment and communities, and social conflicts are rooted in mining in many regions throughout Latin America.

 

Why is this important?

Mining can lead to conflict between stakeholders and affected communities. Stakeholder dialogue and support to affected communities to actively participate in addressing mining-related conflicts are central to our initiative.

In consultation with affected stakeholders and companies throughout the mineral supply chain, civil society organisations and leading experts, and with support from the Swedish embassies in the region, we formed a Swedish-Latin American partnership to promote more responsible mining as a regional competitive advantage.

3 routes to impact

Inclusive water management in lithium extraction

Lithium is today a key component for the electrification of vehicles and the generation and storage of electricity. A large portion of the world’s lithium resources are found in Argentina, Bolivia and Chile. Extraction of lithium can have an impact on local ecosystems and water resources, and in turn on the traditional economic activities of the surrounding communities. At the same time, it has the potential to contribute to job creation and better infrastructure.

Our partner, the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), has developed a process for more inclusive water management. By promoting participatory processes and co-developing analytical tools, a fairer and hopefully more constructive dialogue may be achieved. Together, we can contribute to improved conflict management in relation to lithium extraction.

Multi-stakeholder dialogue in copper mining

Copper is important in renewable power generation, electric vehicles and wiring and cabling for energy storage, and is often mined on a large scale. In many countries, mining is key to economic development as it generates investment, tax revenues and can contribute to development in remote areas. At the same time, large-scale copper mining is one of the main causes of social conflict as it is linked to pollution, relocation of communities and disputes over the use of land and water resources in the arid Andean region.

In cooperation with the Inter-American Development Bank, we will promote an inclusive stakeholder platform by involving companies, local governments and communities in decision-making about development projects. This model has yielded promising results to resolve conflict in large-scale mining in the region and has the potential to be systematised.

Regional alignment of ESG standards and good practices

Through peer exchange, trainings and promotion of good practices, we support stakeholders across the region to align with and implement existing human rights and environmental sustainability standards and frameworks. Key partners include mining associations, civil society platforms and intergovernmental initiatives.

MARS will actively align with and strengthen existing regional initiatives and strive to increase leverage on sustainability challenges by involving our members, partners, regional business partners and other relevant stakeholders.

UP!

UPSKILLING OF UNION SHOP STEWARDS

lack of enabling environment for social dialogue at the workplace level, despite the provision of legislative acts that protect and promote workplace cooperation is a reoccuring issue  in Kenya. To implement good policy there must be a fertil ground.

Therefore SWP developed the UP!  project. Together with Swedish companies as an entry point, and with unions i South africa and Kenya. 

In Kenya SWP created the SWP UP! Programme targeting skills development of the union Shop Stewards from 18 companies in the Automotive sector in Kenya during 2021. As a result, the Stewards were able to use their skills to build trust and cooperation with management in new ways to avoid conflicts. 

A second cohort of training, in close cooperation with union AUKMW, takes place in 2022.

The training allows shop stewards to step out of their daily routines and understand their role and the purpose of their union, understand the labour market context, the laws that regulate relationships and the business itself. But on a human level, many shop stewards also highlighted that they feel respected as human beings, and that they have developed the skills to engage with supervisors and management and experience respect in professional relations. The experiences had deeply impressed them and helped to project the vision of dialogue and mutual respect and their own potential as a means to change workplaces.

The intervention of the SWP programme had a direct effect at the workplaces, where shop stewards listed several cases where they had managed to intervene and secure results in dialogue with management, avert crises or find solutions based on opportunities and the communication skills obtained during the SWP training. For the Amalgamated Metal Workers Unions in Kenya, the shop stewards pointed to how the training had enabled them to design their own strategies at the workplace in relation to supervisors and staff, and to achieve many concrete results.

Based on this shop steward upskilling, I feel confident that as a union we now have change ambassadors that will grow the industry, protect, and promote decent work principles for both the employer and the employees represented. And that disputes will be dealt with at the workplace level by though consultative dialogue.

Rose Omamo

General Secretary
Amalgamated Union of Kenya Metal Workers

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE CONTENT AND TRAININGS IN THE UP! PROJECT IN KENYA AND SOUTH AFRICA