09th February 2023
Crush Hall, L69 3GQ
Adebayo Majekolagbe :
Climate Change, Mining, and Impact Assessment: A Just Transition Lens
A technocentric approach to climate change mitigation puts the mining sector at the center of addressing the climate crisis. Whether it is lithium for electric vehicle batteries, silicon and other rare earths for solar PV panels, or copper and zinc for wind turbines, the journey to a post-carbon world will be fueled by the mining sector. To meet the Paris Agreement goals, the demand for lithium will increase by 90%, 60% - 70% for nickel and cobalt, and 40% for copper and rare earth elements over the next two decades. The traditional socio-ecological risks associated with mining apply in the context of climate relevant mining. A major difference, however, is the presumption of ‘good’ that underpins climate relevant mining, and thereby influences pro-mining decision making. Across the world, major mining projects undergo impact assessment (IA) processes. IA, is therefore, an important phase in the decision-making process to explicitly identify climate related biases and avoid decisions that might be pro-climate but ultimately unsustainable. I argue that a just transition approach to impact assessment is important in ensuring that climate relevant mining decisions are premised on broad socio-ecological objectives. Canada’s recent approval of the Marathon Palladium Project (2022) and the James Bay Lithium Mine Project (2023) are useful case studies in highlighting the climate bias which influence the impact assessment of climate relevant mining projects.
Adebayo Majekolagbe is an adjunct professor at the University of Alberta Faculty of Law, Canada and a fellow at the African Sovereign Debt Justice Network, and the Marine and Environmental Institute, Dalhousie University, Canada. He holds a PhD in climate change law with specific expertise in climate change law, just transition, and impact assessment.