This is according to the Business and Human Rights Resource Center (BHRRC), a London-based non-government organization and corporate watchdog that tracks the local impact of thousands of businesses around the world.
According to the BHRRC's report, there were at least 102 alleged abuses linked to Chinese mining interests across 18 countries in 2021 and 2022. (Related: Car companies are expanding into the lithium mining business to secure their supplies for EV manufacturing.)
China has recently come into the forefront of the world's mining operations, as companies coming from the communist nation dominate the processing and refining of lithium, cobalt, copper, manganese, nickel, zinc, chromium, aluminum and rare earth minerals.
Furthermore, Chinese corporations also dominate the manufacturing of technologies like solar panels, wind turbines and batteries for electric vehicles – all of which require so-called "transition minerals" for the Western world's green transition to reduce their consumption of fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy.
China isn't alone in committing abuses against people and the environment. Mining firms based out of the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada, among others, have also been levied with allegations of abuse. However, China is at the forefront due to its vital role in mining, processing and refining transition minerals. This is why the BHRRC believes Chinese companies need to be at the forefront of ensuring equity and fairness in mining.
"Given their vital role in energy sectors globally, Chinese actors are well placed to lead a responsible energy transition," read the BHRRC's report. "However, this can only be achieved if Chinese businesses and regulators take proactive measures to address endemic human rights and environmental abuses linked to transition minerals."
According to the report, the most alleged abuses were found in Indonesia with 27 cases, followed by Peru with 16, the Democratic Republic of the Congo with 12, Myanmar with 11 and Zimbabwe with seven. The alleged human rights and environmental abuses from these five countries represented more than 70 percent of the documented abuses.
These five countries are notable for weak governance and a lack of attentiveness to violations of human rights and environmental regulations. They are also notable for having China as their major economic partner.
"Many projects invested in by Chinese companies are located in resource-rich host countries, which often have weak governance and limited options for victims of abuse to seek remedy," noted the BHRRC in its report. "This is accompanied by an absence of legislation in China mandating extraterritorial human rights and environmental due diligence, leaving workers and communities vulnerable to harm."
Around two-thirds of the alleged abuses involve human rights abuses against local communities, with the communities of indigenous peoples being the most affected.
Other allegations involve attacks against local leaders and activists, water pollution, ecosystem destruction and unsafe working conditions.
Experts warn that the mad dash to acquire the transition minerals needed for expanding the use of green energy technologies is threatening to increase the number of abuses mining companies commit against people and the environment. They warn that a new wave of illicit land grabs, water violations, environmental damage and community conflicts is coming as corporations flout human rights laws and environmental regulations to profit from the green transition.
Learn more about mining at Metals.news.
Watch this report warning how Chinese state-owned investment conglomerate CITIC Group acquired a massive 20 percent stake in Canadian mining firm Ivanhoe Mining in 2018.