The article titled “A normative-empirical analysis of state duties and corporate responsibilities related to adverse human rights impacts on the Amazonian minerals-energy frontier” has been published in the Journal of Cleaner Production*. This article has been authored by Karlijn Kuijpers (University of Utrecht), Mariëtte van Huijstee (SOMO and Open University) and Joseph Wilde-Ramsing (SOMO).

The article probes the existence of a ‘minerals-energy complex’ (MEC), a concept developed in South Africa, to describe the strong inter-linkages between the mining and energy sector in the Brazilian Amazon. Within the framework of the MEC, the authors conduct a normative analysis – based on the United Nations Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) – of the state duties and corporate responsibilities for adverse human rights impacts in the complex.

Useful framework

The authors use a single, in-depth case study approach, focusing on the case of the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam in the Amazonian state of Pará. The MEC proves to be a useful framework for studying the advancement of hydroelectricity and mining projects on the Amazonian frontier. The analysis indicates that the Brazilian minerals and energy sectors are mutually dependent and have overlapping interests and decision-making structures. Applying the MEC framework to the Belo Monte case serves to clarify and detangle the relationships between the various actors associated with the dam’s adverse impacts. This provides a foundation for the normative analysis of the responsibilities and actions required of each actor based on the internationally-accepted standards in the UNGPs.

To improve policy

By applying the MEC as an analytical research framework and drawing on the UNGPs for normative guidance, the present study contributes to the academic literature on corporate responsibility, as well as providing policy and decision-makers with a normative-empirical analysis that can be drawn upon to improve policy and ensure that corporate activity contributes to sustainable development.

*The Journal of Cleaner Production serves as a “transdisciplinary, international forum for the exchange of information and research concepts, policies, and technologies designed to help ensure progress towards making societies and regions more sustainable”.