I’ve been a fairphone user for a few years now and have a fairphone 3.
I’m horrified to learn from the recent impact report that fairphone participates in the salar de atacama mining project against which many organisations have signed a petition recently for a joint declaration “Declaración por la Estrategia Nacional del litio: Los Salares no son Minas, son Humedales” it says that salt flats like this are important ecosystems and taking away this water constitutes ecocide. In chile this is possible via the extreme legal system that prioritises always mining and other multinational projects before the needs of the ecosystem, indigenous peoples and social/civic groups. Although the reports speaks of dialogue with 22 organisations, I can’t find it referenced in the link it points to so I can see who these organisations are and ask them for what kind of compromises you are conceding or how you are going to proceed. Speaking to an indigenous friend from that area, there is no way that mining can be done in a benign or non destructive way in an important ecological area of biodiversity like an humedal. These are carbon stores and it is deeply hurtful that an organisation like fairphone would perpetuate the colonising mentality that the global south should suffer and be extracted of the ingredients that the west requires to fix it’s mistakes, however ethical the packaging may seem. Please can you provide names and if possible summaries of decisions and actions taken as a result of meetings with these 22 organisations, and explain to me so that I can take this information to the Diaguita, Atacameno and Aymara indigenous groups of the area, how you feel this is a valid approach that overall validates your name as a truly fair initiative.
While I agree getting official statements here will be unlikely, are you referring to this paragraph in the report
• The Responsible Lithium Initiative, which we participate in,expanded its Multi-Stakeholder Partnership in the lithium extraction area in the Salar de Atacama in Chile during 2022.
Lithium extraction in this region has been linked to negative impacts on waterways, ecosystems and indigenous communities.
Currently, 22 organizations from indigenous communities, local civil society, academia, the local private sector, government and local mining companies are members in the roundtable
discussions, where they collaborate to reach agreements and identify actions regarding the care of the ecosystem of the Salar de Atacama basin
The two lithium mine sites operating in the project area have also undergone the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance’s
(IRMA) audit — the first lithium mines globally to do so. This is the most comprehensive certification for large-sale mining, and we have been working to integrate lithium from these mines into
Fairphone’s supply chain. We hope to achieve this in 2023
Hi there! Our Impact team noticed this question and were more than happy to provide a response. Here’s what they said:
Fairphone does not (yet) source lithium from the Salar de Atacama region. The majority of our lithium is currently coming from hard rock mines located in China. However, we recognise the profound impacts lithium (brine) and copper mining in the Salar has on water sources, the fragile ecosystem as well as local and indigenous peoples. Fairphone’s position is to always engage where there is the biggest opportunity for positive impact and progressive improvement - because we want to be part of the solution, rather than shying away from difficult, complex contexts. This is why we are engaging in a multi-stakeholder partnership on lithium and water management in the Salar de Atacama, and are seeking to source from responsible, audited mines in the Salar, who have undergone an improvement journey (further details provided below).
Fairphone has supported the Responsible Lithium Partnership since 2021, together with BASF SE, BMW Group, Daimler Truck AG, Mercedes-Benz Group and Volkswagen Group, with the goal of supporting sustainable use of resources in Salar de Atacama. The German Development Agency (GIZ) coordinates the partnership and multi-stakeholder platform (“Mesa Multiactor”). Currently, 22 organisations from indigenous communities, local civil society, academia, local private sector, and Government, as well as local mining companies, are members; and active participants. They have already begun to reach a consensus on concrete aspects to be implemented in relation to water management, among others:
The creation of a cadastre of the holders of water rights on the basin’s rivers;
To map the geological and hydrological river course;
To recover the water monitoring stations;
To create a publicly available training programme on water-related issues for the inhabitants of the Salar de Atacama basin in collaboration with the water management authority;
To research analysis on new irrigation technologies;
To monitor the Vilama and San Pedro Rivers
In addition, Fairphone is now purposefully exploring lithium sourcing from mines in the Salar de Atacama region which have undergone an IRMA-audit. The Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) has established the most encompassing standard for responsible mining, jointly with civil society and unions. The standard includes strict requirements on water management, environmental stewardship and on engagement with indigenous and local people, amongst many others. We do this because we believe that through our buying power, Fairphone can (and should) incentivise and reward mining companies for improving their practices and undergoing an IRMA-audit. Through that, Fairphone becomes a force for good, pushing the sector to improve, and contributing to positive change in the Salar de Atacama region.
I hope this answers your questions. If anything is unclear, let me know.
Thanks to all especially the impact team for your responses and clarifications. I will take this to the OPSAL (Spanish language) zoom meeting tomorrow. Here is an invitation in case anyone here would like to attend:
Desde el Observatorio Plurinacional de Salares Andinos (OPSAL) y Fundación Tantí, te invitamos a participar en el 1er foro: “Análisis de la Estrategia Nacional del litio en Chile”, a realizarse este viernes 5 de mayo a las 17:00 horas. En la instancia abordaremos: el rol de la sociedad civil en la estrategia, la participación ciudadana y consulta indígena ante proyectos de litio, y la creación del Instituto Tecnológico y de Investigación Público de Litio y Salares .
Expondrán la doctora en Ciencias y académica de la Universidad de Antofagasta, Ingrid Garcés; el agricultor integrante de la Asociación Atacameña de agricultores y Regantes de Soncor, Rudecindo Espíndola, ambos integrantes de OPSAL, junto a Ramón Balcázar, co-coordinador de OPSAL Chile y director de Fundación Tantí.
Hello again, I´m actually on the zoom call mentioned above and they will probably answer the question a little just now at least with respect to the IRMA standard and the mesa multiactor. It´s streaming on Observatorio Plurinacional de Salares Andinos OPSAL and will stay there recorded. I´ve also made contact with Adan Olivares Castro from responsible mining and will be meeting with him to go through in more detail and if language permits I think it would be good to invite Yasen to that or a future zoom call. Hope that gives a bit of an update. It´s really worth watching the film on Salares dot org about lithium extraction in the Salar de Atacama basin as it is subtitled so should be easy to understand. Also I think it´s worth considering what can be truly just and fair in the case of mining regardless of the outcome of our chats, I am thinking of terms like just transition, degrowth and anti colonialism, and thank Fairphone for the chance to discuss these things via your openness about your mining plans,
Also a DW documentary on youtube (El cobre y el lado oscuro de la transición energética) was suggested with copper extraction in Chile as an example also valid for lithium in that current water based lithium extraction is just not “clean”.
As a conclusion after listening to their answers about IRMA, who even had a representative at the zoom call I think that the struggle to get past fossil fuels must be a shared struggle not one that destroys one part of the world to temporarily feed another, as that destruction will eventually reach your own doorstep. I hope fairphone customers can see that this can only be a stepping stone towards fairer alternatives we haven´t thought of or put together yet and probably that a company within an industrial world can’t solve alone.