Without responsibility and transparency – Human rights risks along the nickel supply chain

Mine workers walking through a river, contaminated by nickel mining

Being one of the biggest export nations, Germany is strongly dependent on raw material imports. Nearly 100 percent of the metallic primary raw materials are imported from abroad and processed by German industry. The German raw material requirement has strongly increased over the past decades and according to the forecasts it will continue to increase in the coming years. Violations of human rights in connection with mining are discussed repeatedly. This applies equally to all raw materials: the raw materials sector is a risk sector.

The German and the European raw materials policies are strongly oriented towards security of supply for the industry. For example, the EU published for the first time a list with “critical raw materials” in 2011. On this list are primarily raw materials which were possibly endangered to supply the European industry (by monopolies of individual countries on mining). The raw materials on this list, like the rare earth metals, are a regular subject of public discussions. Although nickel is not a critical raw material in this sense, it is of central importance for the German and the European economy due to its application in various key industries, like steel production. In addition, Germany is the country with the fifth-largest demand for nickel worldwide (BGR 2015: 42). In spite of this importance, there have been no studies about the nickel supply chain in recent years.

The Philippines are one of the most important commodity exporters worldwide and the worldwide largest nickel supplier. The great majority of the nickel from the Philippines is transported to China. There are repeatedly massive human rights violations in connection with mining of nickel. Mid-2016 the Philippine government announced the closure of mines because the mining conditions did not meet environmental and human rights standards. So far, nickel is mined in the Philippines further on.

The present study by Melanie Müller and Michael Reckordt describes the nickel supply chain as well as the various mining stations. The first chapter focuses on the mining of this raw material and its context with the Philippines. The second part presents the significance of the melts as well as the most important melt producers. The third part focuses on the processing of the the raw material and presents the significance of nickel to the German industry.

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Without responsibility and transparency – Human rights risks along the nickel supply chain

 

This publication is a translation of our German-language paper Ohne Verantwortung und Transparenz. Menschenrechtliche Risiken entlang der Nickellieferkette (April 2017).

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