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First Nations demand a voice in the clean energy transition – National Observer

January 3rd 2024

While leaders return to their countries from COP28, the rights of Indigenous communities, including mine, are still at risk as the world makes the necessary transition to clean energy.

As an Elder of the Tahltan Nation, I’ve seen a massive influx of mining projects, proposed and already started, on our ancestral lands because of our rich copper, gold, silver, nickel, and zinc deposits. These minerals are key to producing electric vehicle batteries and forms of renewable energy. When Indigenous communities are left out of the decision-making process of these mining projects, our safety and livelihood are put in danger.

While it’s important for us to move away from dirty fossil fuels to curb the impacts of the climate crisis, it’s even more important to ensure this transition doesn’t make the same mistakes and perpetuate the same harms as extractive industries, like oil, gas, and mining companies, during this pivotal moment. Investing in technology to reduce the demand for minerals needed in this clean energy transition is critical, but mines still need to be built to meet the moment.

Indigenous communities must be meaningfully engaged in the mining process from day one. That might even mean saying no to mining if the impact on our land, people, environment, or subsistence lifestyles is too great.

During COP28, 100 Indigenous organizations, leaders, and allies – including myself – sent an open letter to delegates, calling for governments and corporations to respect, protect, and fulfill Indigenous Peoples’ rights, specifically the right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC), as the minimum standards enumerated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the ILO Convention 169, when deliberating mining projects on our ancestral lands.

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