SIRGE COALITION STATEMENT ON THE CRITICAL RAW MATERIALS ACT*

Republished from Cultural Survival, September 20, 2023, https://www.culturalsurvival.org/news/sirge-coalition-statement-critical-raw-materials-act

European Parliament's recognition of Indigenous Rights a positive step, but the law fails to fully recognize the sovereignty of Indigenous Peoples

The Securing Indigenous Peoples' Rights in the Green Economy (SIRGE) Coalition (https://www.sirgecoalition.org) celebrates that the European Parliament included Indigenous Peoples' right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent, as enumerated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), in their official position on the Critical Raw Material Act (CRMA) adopted on September 14, 2023. This is a positive step toward making EU transition legislation just and sustainable.

Yet, the adopted Critical Raw Materials Act does not fully protect Indigenous Peoples' rights. If not addressed and corrected during the coming trilogues, remaining gaps could threaten Indigenous Peoples' rights and lead to resistance that could have detrimental effects not only on the well-being of Indigenous communities but also on the success of the European Green Transition. Over 50% of mining for energy transition minerals takes place on or near Indigenous Peoples' territories.

The CRMA is meant to contribute to the development of a green economy in the EU that promises to be environmentally and socially responsible. The SIRGE Coalition calls on European Member States to follow the European Parliament leadership and adopt Critical Raw Materials legislation that guarantees the rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent.

Nevertheless, we regret that FPIC has not been included in the certification schemes as a specific criterion in Annex IV as proposed in Amendment 23. Although ANNEX IV (Criteria for certification schemes (b)(ii)) of the Critical Raw Materials Act contains positive wording on Indigenous Peoples, this is too vague to guarantee their rights.

Additional points of concern:

˙  Using the concept of "public interest" and "overriding interest." There is no clear definition of the term "overriding public interest" that some projects will receive, which leaves many questions unanswered (Article 7, numeral 2, numeral 19). The term "overriding public interest" could potentially allow a balancing of interests between fighting global warming and the economic benefits of a mining project against Indigenous Peoples' interests and rights. Historically in such situations, Indigenous communities are burdened disproportionately. In worst cases, Indigenous territories could be sacrificed for a mining project on the grounds of "overriding public interests" when the project is considered particularly important.

˙  A whole-text approach is not taken to include Indigenous Peoples' rights and Indigenous communities are conflated with local communities. The inclusion of Indigenous Peoples in the term "local communities" dilutes the meaning and strength of Indigenous Peoples and undermines the protection of their specific rights. The wording "Indigenous Peoples" and "Indigenous Peoples' rights" need to be included in all relevant text in the CRMA.

˙  The CRMA adopted by the European Parliament fails to protect Sámi Peoples' rights. The Coalition regrets the omission of Amendment 15, which would have required that projects planned or implemented under this Act must respect the rights of the Sámi Peoples. As a result, it sends a message that the CRMA is already failing to ensure the rights of Indigenous Peoples. As the Stockholm Environmental Institute observes, there is "No green future without securing Indigenous Peoples' rights," reporting that mining has a long-term and grave impact on Sámi communities, economies, and cultures of northern Sweden, where the majority of mines are located.

Below are statements from SIRGE coalition members.

"We applaud the inclusion of the Free, Prior and Informed Consent, as enumerated in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as required criteria for projects to be considered "Strategic Projects" in the European Parliament's official position. And while this is a very positive development, we urge the European Parliament, the Commission, and the Council to secure FPIC in the certification schemes criteria. Indigenous Peoples' rights are not negotiable. Our future and the future of our children depend on decisions made today."
Galina Angarova (Buryat), Executive Director, Cultural Survival

"Inclusion of Free, Prior and Informed Consent in the Critical Raw Materials Act is a strong step towards ensuring the integration of Indigenous Peoples' rights and perspectives in decisions that affect their livelihoods and lands. A stronger step is a whole-text approach to ensure that the considerations and criteria necessary for robust economic decision-making are prioritized via policy."
Kate R. Finn (Osage), Executive Director, First Peoples Worldwide

"The fast-tracking of strategic projects in the Critical Raw Material Act poses considerable risks for the Saami People in Europe and for Indigenous Peoples worldwide. The inclusion of Free, Prior and Informed Consent as a criteria to assess strategic projects is an important first step, but falls short of truly safeguarding Indigenous Peoples' rights, leaving too much room to circumvent these criteria altogether."
Christoph Wiedmer, Co-Director, the Society for Threatened Peoples

"We welcome the steps taken by the European Union to protect human rights and the rights of Indigenous Peoples. However, based on the practices and experiences that exist, we believe it is important that effective control mechanisms and real, rather than declared, interaction with Indigenous Peoples be created."
Pavel Sulyandziga (Udege), President, Batani Foundation

"We commend the inclusion of Free, Prior and Informed Consent in the European Union's Critical Raw Materials legislation. FPIC is a fundamental right of Indigenous Peoples to determine their own priorities for their lands, territories, sacred sites and resources. But EU Parliament leaders must ensure that the right to FPIC is respected, required and independently verified at every step of the implementation process as well. The EU must not place Indigenous lands and rights at risk from irresponsible mining."
Payal Sampat, Mining Program Director, Earthworks

* The SIRGE Coalition is a coalition of Indigenous Peoples and leaders, who, along with our allies, champion a just transition to a low-carbon economy. Members of the Coalition include Cultural Survival (https://www.culturalsurvival.org) , First Peoples Worldwide (https://www.colorado.edu/program/fpw/) , Batani Foundation (https://www.batani.org) , Earthworks (https://www.earthworks.org) , and the Society for Threatened Peoples (https://www.gfbv.ch/en/) .