Learning from experiences around controversial Chinese mining investments

China imports a large share of the mineral ores extracted around the world as the country’s own mineral reserves are insufficient to meet the demand for industrial metal by key sectors of its booming economy, including the development of renewable energy technologies in which China is a dominant player.

Since the early 2000s, the Chinese government has supported companies to invest in mineral assets overseas. These investments guarantee China a steady supply of raw materials and reduce the country’s dependency on fluctuating commodity markets. Chinese companies have particularly been attracted by the investment opportunities offered by developing countries with abundant mineral resources. These countries are also often characterised by poor governance, and the exploitation of natural resources frequently goes hand in hand with social and environmental conflicts.

When Chinese mining companies invest in such fragile environments, it is hard to hold them to account for any adverse impacts resulting from their business. Communities, civil society organisations, and other public interest groups, have criticised Chinese mineral operations in foreign countries because of their links to ecological degradation and human rights abuses.

With Chinese overseas operations under increasing scrutiny, this report reviews over 20 controversial Chinese projects abroad – most of which involve mineral products used in low-carbon technologies – and examines the nature of these mineral investments as well as highlighting the actions taken by communities protesting at the negative impacts of the projects. This report also uses the knowledge learnt from past experiences, to reflect on how best to support community defenders develop influencing strategies which might improve the development outcomes of Chinese high-risk projects overseas.

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publication cover - China’s global mineral rush
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