Human Rights Organization Calls on Automakers to Solve Aluminum Abuse Problem | Automotive Industry News


Human rights groups are calling on automakers to take more measures to address the abuse of aluminum supply chains, including farmland destruction, water damage, and excessive greenhouse gas emissions affecting communities in Africa, Asia, and South America.

On Thursday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Inclusive Development International (IDI) released a 63-page report The impact of aluminum production in countries such as Guinea, Ghana, Brazil, China, Malaysia and Australia is introduced in detail-especially related to the mining and refining of raw material bauxite.

Jim Wormington, Senior Researcher at HRW Africa, said: “Automakers see aluminum as a key material in the transition to energy-efficient vehicles. “They should use their growing purchasing power to protect the land and the environment in communities where the aluminum industry is devastating. “

Human Rights Watch said in a statement that although the world’s leading automakers “have publicly pledged to address human rights violations in their supply chains, they have done little to assess and address the impact of aluminum production on human rights.”

The durian garden overlooks the land mined by the bauxite mining company, Kuantan, Malaysia [File: Olivia Harris/Reuters]

On the contrary, in the context of global production and awareness surges, manufacturers are paying more attention to solving the abuse of other raw materials used in electric vehicles in the supply chain. Especially cobalt, According to the report, partly based on communications with nine major car companies: BMW, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, PSA Group (now part of Stellattis), Renault, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo.

The other three companies-BYD, Hyundai and Tesla-did not respond to requests to participate in the research.

According to the report, automobile companies used one-fifth of global aluminum consumption in 2019, and its consumption is expected to double by 2050.

Farmland destruction, waterway pollution

The report highlights how several processes related to aluminum production have a terrible impact on local communities.

Bauxite is a red ore that involves “surface mining” and can destroy large areas of farmland.

In Guinea, which has the world’s largest bauxite deposit, a 2019 government study predicted that in the next 20 years, bauxite mining will remove approximately 858 square kilometers (331 square miles) of agricultural land and destroy approximately 4,700 Square kilometers (1,814 square miles) of land) of natural habitat, according to the statement.

At the same time, the extraction of bauxite into alumina is a step towards the production of aluminum, which will produce a large amount of harmful “red mud” and pollute waterways.

A group in the Brazilian state of Pará is currently suing a bauxite mine, a refinery and an aluminum smelter over allegations of water pollution in the Amazon Basin.

The report also emphasized the energy-intensive process of aluminum smelting, and pointed out that China is a major aluminum smelting country. In 2018, 90% of aluminum was produced through coal power.

It said that overall, aluminum production accounts for about 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Although the three German automakers—Audi, BMW and Daimler—have encouraged their suppliers to join the industry-led certification program, the Aluminum Management Initiative (ASI), the rights group stated that the program lacks “sufficient details. , And did not provide specific criteria to “evaluate the company’s response to key human rights issues.”

The author of the report pointed out that some auto companies have taken further measures to solve the problems in the aluminum supply chain after being contacted by rights protection organizations.

In May of this year, Drive Sustainability, consisting of 11 car companies including BMW, Daimler, Ford, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo, launched a program to assess human rights risks in the production of aluminum and nine other raw materials.

In a statement, Natalie Bugalski, director of law and policy at Inclusive Development International, stated that these measures should be only the “beginning of a broader effort by the automotive industry to address the human rights impact of aluminum production”.

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