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22 September | Australia

Rio Tinto blasts another ancient rock shelter near Pilbara

Credit: PKKP Aboriginal Corporation

Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto has blasted yet another rock shelter of ancient significance, three years after the infamous Juukan Gorge blast destroyed parts of a 46,000-year-old Aboriginal site.  

The incident occurred last month near the Nammuldi iron ore mine, around 60km north-west of the nearest town, Tom Prince.   

A drone assessment on 6 August revealed a tree and a 1m² rock had been dislodged from its original position in the rock shelter, which is registered as a cultural heritage site.   

Rio Tinto said its initial assessment, taken by a drone, had not found any structural damage at the Nammuldi site or any impact on the cultural materials. The CEO of Rio Tinto’s iron ore operations, Simon Trott, said the mining activities were paused immediately after the drones recorded movements following the blast.

20 September | Governance

US proposes 50-year ban on new mining projects in New Mexico

The US Government has announced a proposal to prevent new mining claims and oil and gas developments in New Mexico for a 50-year period.

The Department of the Interior said that 4,000 acres within the Placitas area in Sandoval County will be protected to safeguard Native American lands and promote responsible mining in public grounds. The announcement marks the beginning of a 90-day public comment period in which input will be gathered on the proposal. 

The Pueblos of San Felipe and Santa Ana in the Placitas area are considered sacred lands. According to the Bureau of Land Management, the proposal will help to preserve culturally important sites in the area. Deb Haaland, Secretary of the Interior, said: “Today we are responding to calls from Tribes, elected leaders and community members who want to see these public lands protected. We look forward to hearing more from the public.”

18 September | Trade

EU to become over-reliant on China for lithium-ion batteries by 2030, paper says 

According to a paper prepared by EU leaders obtained by Reuters, the EU could become as dependent on China for lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries and fuel cells by 2030 as it was on Russia for energy before the start of the war in Ukraine, unless it changes course. 

The paper was prepared by the Spanish presidency of the EU for a meeting in Granada, Spain, on 5 October where leaders are set to discuss how the EU can pivot towards stronger ties with Latin America and Africa to reduce reliance on China. 

In February 2023, Li- Bridge, a public-private alliance, said that global demand for lithium batteries will surge more than fivefold by 2030. This is because intermittent renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power require batteries for storage.

In June, new registrations of battery-electric cars increased by 66.2% in the EU, leading to a market share of 15.1% for electric vehicles (EVs), up from 10.7% in June 2022.

14 September | Copper

Copper and cobalt mining is “wrecking lives” in the DRC, finds Amnesty International

The expansion of cobalt and copper mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is “wrecking lives”, according to a report published by Amnesty International on Tuesday. Residents have been forcibly evicted from their homes and subjected to human rights abuses such as sexual assault, arson and beatings.

Amnesty International compiled the report with DRC-based organisation Initiative pour la Bonne Gouvernance et les Droits Humains by interviewing more than 130 people at six different mining projects in Kolweziin the southern province of Lualaba. 

Campaigne Minière de Musonoie Global SAS (COMMUS), a joint venture between Chinese company Zijin Mining Group and the DRC’s state mining company Générale des Carrières et des Mines (Gécamines), run the mines in the Kolwezi area. During the first wave of evictions in 2016, 56 households were affected.

Crispin Mwenda, a 63-year-old local resident who lost his home, said evictees were not allowed to retain a copy on an agreement protocol COMMUS had given them.

20 September | Trade

Indian and Canadian officials meet to discuss critical minerals

A senior Indian minister held talks with Canadian officials on Monday to discuss critical mineral cooperation. Indian Mines Minister Pralhad Joshi met with Ranj Pillai, the Premier of Canada’s Yukon territory. According to a post on Joshi’s X account, formerly known as Twitter, the pair “deliberated enhancing cooperation in the mining sector, especially mining of critical minerals”.  

He added that both elected officials “resolved to strengthen the supply-chain of critical minerals between both nations”.   

The meeting comes amid tense geopolitical relations between the two nations after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused India of being complicit in the assassination of a Sikh activist in Western Canada in June. The Indian Government has not specified the critical minerals that were under discussion among ministers.  

Canada’s Yukon territory, located in the north-west of the country, contains extensive minerals resources including asbestos, copper, gold, iron, lead, silver and zinc, according to a statement from the Indian Government.