Raw Materials

Raw materials are the source of many of our products

Without mineral resources, we wouldn’t have most of the products we use every day. Even a lot of financial products would not exist because they involve “betting” on the market trends of commodities or on the stocks of mining companies. There are a number of issues about many of these products that are not immediately visible, such as the enormous human rights violations or the environmental problems they cause.

There are countless mining conflicts in Central America that are often solved through violence. Communities are fighting against the displacement and the destruction of their source of life through massive environmental pollution. Raw materials such as gold, tungsten, tantalum and cobalt from the Democratic Republic of Congo or iron from Mexico are financed through violent gangs who finance their weapons with the trade of such commodities.

Who is responsible?

There are various institutional players who are responsible for fighting these issues. Businesses are supposed to take measures to protect human rights along their whole supply chain, from mining to processing. Banks also have a duty of care when they invest in commodity projects.

The people who are affected by mining cannot rely on the good will of the businesses. That’s why politicians have to take action and pass legislations to establish a framework for raw materials trade. Businesses have to be bound by law to care for the people in their supply chain. New raw materials laws have to include goals to reduce the waste of raw materials. That’s what we, together with our partner organizations in Central America and organizations such as AK Raw Materials, are working for.

Human Rights and the Environment

Foto: Christian Wimberger (CIR)

What problems are caused through mining?

The enormous demand for cheap raw materials in industrialized countries such as Germany is the foundation of extractivism in Central America. Behind it, there is a development project that exists for the sole purpose of mining the raw materials and transporting them without processing. The consequences are that whole communities depend on global market prices, corruption is growing and the enormous amounts of money earned are distributed among only very few people.

The governments of Central America started to support this system after the armed conflicts stopped during the 1990s. They opened the markets through free trade agreements and gave away countless licenses for the mining of metals to transnational companies. Those companies pay nearly no taxes and most of the profits are made abroad.

Furthermore, mining pollutes the groundwater as well as the soil. Companies and the government react to protests by criminalizing mining opponents. In 2016, 120 environmental activists were murdered in Latin America.

Pedro Landa of the organization ERIC works for human rights in mining projects in Honduras. Photo: Isabell Ullrich (CIR) . Photo: Isabell Ullrich (CIR)

What is the CIR doing concerning raw materials?

The CIR is working in Germany and Europe for a law on human rights due diligence of raw material importers as well as industrial cooperations. In addition, future raw material politics should guarantee that the consumption of raw materials is reduced so that the environment and the human rights of the affected communities are protected. The CIR educates consumers on how to integrate a sustainable use of raw materials into one’s lifestyle. These are the goals we pursue as members of the AK Raw Materials Network.

Furthermore, the CIR supports organizations and communities in Central America which fight against ruthless mining projects. On the one hand, we show our solidarity with communities affected by mining through fast actions. On the other hand, we also provide financial aid through donations and project funding for organizations who work for the rights of affected communities. First and foremost, however, we work with organizations of the Central American Network ACAFREMIN (Central American Alliance on Mining) such as CRIPDES in El Salvador, ERIC/Radio Progreso in Honduras and Colectivo Madre Selva in Guatemala.

Porträt von Christian Wimberger

If you have any questions, feel free to ask me:

Christian Wimberger
Contact person for public procurement and raw materials
Phone: +49 (0) 251  674413 21