Metals: Social Issues

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Working Conditions & Human Rights

Poor working conditions and human rights concerns are some of the key social issues associated with the use of metals.

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Labour rights and working conditions

  • Metal extraction and production involve intensive labour.
    • For example, mining operations and manufacturing processes.
  • Workers face hazardous working conditions, low wages, long hours, and limited access to basic labour rights.
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Child labour and exploitation

  • In some regions, the mining and production of metals have been linked to child labour and exploitative practices.
  • Children may be involved in dangerous mining activities.
    • This deprives children of education.
    • This subjects children to physical harm.
    • This subjects children to mental harm.
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Conflict minerals

  • Certain metals are associated with conflicts.
    • For example, tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold are associated with conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • Conflict minerals can be used to finance armed groups and perpetuate violence.
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Indigenous rights and land displacement

  • Metal mining often takes place near lands that were inhabited by indigenous communities.
  • The extraction of metals can infringe upon the rights of indigenous peoples.
  • The extraction of metal can lead to:
    • Land displacement
    • Environmental degradation
    • Loss of cultural heritage

Environmental Impact & Mining Practices

The use of metals can give rise to several social issues, depending on factors such as mining practices and environmental impact.

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Environmental Impact

  • The extraction of metals can have severe environmental consequences.
  • Mining operations can cause deforestation, habitat destruction, soil erosion, and water pollution.
    • This leads to ecological imbalances.
    • This harms local communities.
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Health and safety risks

  • Metal mining can expose workers and nearby communities to health hazards.
  • Exposure to toxic substances like lead and mercury can have long-term health effects.
    • For example, respiratory problems, neurological disorders, and developmental issues.
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Waste management

  • The production of metals generates significant amounts of waste.
    • For example, hazardous byproducts.
  • The improper management of metal waste can result in pollution of water bodies, soil, and air.
    • This poses risks to human health and ecosystems.
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Supply chain transparency

  • The complex global supply chains for metals often lack transparency.
    • This makes it difficult to trace the origin and conditions under which metals are produced.
    • This makes it difficult to address social and environmental issues.
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Addressing social issues

  • Efforts are being made by various stakeholders to address the social issues involved with the use of metals.
    • Stakeholders include governments, NGOs, and industry groups.
  • Sustainable and ethical practices are being promoted in the metal industry.
    • Initiatives include responsible sourcing and certification programs.

Jump to other topics

1Core Technical Principles

2Paper & Board: Specialist Technical Principles

3Timber: Specialist Technical Principles

4Metal: Specialist Technical Principles

5Polymers: Specialist Technical Principles

6Textiles: Specialist Technical Principles

7Designing & Making Principles

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