Human Rights Risks in Mining – The Role of the German Development Cooperation

Mining, in all of its forms, still accounts for some of the most egregious human rights violations around the world. The direct and indirect effects on the fundamental rights of individuals are most visible where the exploitation of resources leads to violent and even armed conflict, as illustrated, inter alia, by the cases of Sierra Leone, Colombia or Afghanistan. Moreover, the often drastic environmental effects of mining activities deprive affected communities, particularly indigenous groups, of the very basis of their existence.

At the same time, the mining sector bears one of the biggest potentials for economical development. It is therefore one of the prime targets of the international as well as the German development cooperation activities. In order to prevent German implementation organisations from unintentionally contributing to human rights violations in the mining sector, the German focal point organisation, the German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), commissioned the Max Planck Foundation with a comprehensive research project on human rights risks in the mining sector.

In a first phase of the project, human rights experts of the Max Planck Foundation prepared a base-line study on the most important human rights risks in mining in all of its forms, in all regions of the world. The study combines the expertise of the researchers of the Foundation and mining experts of BGR. Interviews were conducted with several BGR mining experts working in the field to add an on-the-ground perspective to the study.

Upon its publication the experts of the Max Planck Foundation and BGR were given the chance to present the baseline study to an international audience at the world’s largest mining event, the Mining INDABA conference in Cape Town, South Africa, during a side event, hosted by the World Bank Group and the German Development Cooperation on 9 February 2016.

In a second phase, the baseline study formed the basis for the preparation of two working papers for the practitioners of the BGR. The first working paper describes the specific legal obligations of the BGR, as an implementation organisation of the German development cooperation, under international human rights law and focuses on the extraterritorial applicability. The second working paper then summarises possible solutions for the different human rights risk areas identified by the study. The working papers are being used to develop concrete guidelines for the mining managers of BGR in their project implementation.

The project was commissioned by the BGR and funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). It is part of the larger BMZ-initiative on “Human rights in the German development cooperation”. The baseline study by the Foundation can be read here:

Human Rights Risks in Mining – a baseline study


German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)



Local Partners

  • German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR)