06 Sep 2021, 14:00
Benjamin Wehrmann

Norway’s Sami people welcome German company's withdrawal from CO2-free mining project

Der Spiegel / Clean Energy Wire

German raw material company Aurubis has ended cooperation with Norwegian mining firm Nussir ASA on the world’s first carbon neutral copper mine after resistance from an indigenous group, Jan Petter reports for magazine Der Spiegel. The Sami people, who inhabit parts of northern Scandinavia, fear the copper mine would threaten their homelands, Runar Myrnes Balto, president of Norway’s Sami people, told the newspaper. “We’ve been fighting this project for ten years,” Balto said, adding that he was surprised by Aurubis’s decision to “value the rights of indigenous people and environmental protection higher than Norway’s government does.” Aurubis said in a press release that, while the project would have been “completely in line with the targets of our sustainability strategy,” it decided to end the cooperation with Nussir because “certain social aspects” needed to be given greater consideration. Sami leader Balto described the proposal to create the world’s first CO2-neutral copper mine as “greenwashing” due to the fact mining activities would threaten fish stocks and grazing grounds in the region regardless of the project’s carbon emissions. Aurubis stated that, while it welcomed the CO2-free approach, “all sustainability criteria” had to be fulfilled to meet its ambitions. Rather than bringing prosperity and jobs to the remote region, the Nussir mine would further eroded the Sami’s traditional lifestyle, which is already threatened by global warming, Balto argued. “Climate change is often used as a pretext to overlook us once again in the name of progress,” he added, calling the increasing use of their homelands for clean energy projects “green colonialism.”

Achieving more sustainable production conditions across the entire supply chain has increasingly become a challenge for companies in Germany and elsewhere in their bid to become climate neutral, with copper being just one of many raw materials for which demand will spike due to the roll-out of clean energy technologies.

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