General Motors’ Thacker Pass Investment Threatens Indigenous Peoples Rights: New Mighty Earth Report Reveals GM Failing on Protecting People and Climate
(Washington, D.C. )—- Mighty Earth has released a report documenting how General Motors (GM), a global leader in the automobile industry, is facilitating the violation of Indigenous Peoples’ right to self-determination with its investment in Lithium Americas’ Thacker Pass lithium mine in Nevada. The report “GM Wants “Everybody In” on Greenwashing” also shows how the auto manufacturer is, from multiple perspectives, failing on protecting people and climate.
The report sheds light on a litany of examples revealing how GM is failing to live up to its own stated ambitions to achieve carbon neutrality and ensure that human rights are not violated in its value chain. Furthermore, the report finds how GM continues to fall behind competitors like Ford, Stellantis, and Volkswagen on cleaning up its supply chain. The report shows that there is a massive disconnect between the company’s climate and human rights commitments that it communicates to its investors and consumers, and the actual actions that GM is taking to ensure these goals and commitments are fulfilled.
“As the largest carmaker in the U.S., GM has a unique opportunity to be an industry leader in the responsible transition to EVs. However, its failure to take adequate action to decarbonize its supply chain and to respect Indigenous Peoples and their ancestral lands shows GM consistently chooses public relations tactics over meaningful commitments. If GM is serious about commitments it has made,it can start by ensuring Lithium Americas respects the rights of Indigenous Peoples.” said Matthew Groch, Senior Director at Mighty Earth
The report highlights specific cases where GM’s actions have clashed with its public commitments:
Thacker Pass lithium mine on Indigenous People’s land
GM has invested $650 million in Lithium Americas Corp to help the company develop its Thacker Pass lithium mine project, which violates Indigenous Peoples’ rights and free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC). Federal permitting was fast-tracked for the Thacker Pass project and members of the public didn’t have sufficient time to weigh in before the plan to mine this land was approved, this violates the right of the local Indigenous People to self-determination. GM has a policy that claims its committed to ensuring respect of Indigenous Rights and FPIC specifically related to its supply chain, but at this time they have taken no action to ensure that this commitment is fulfilled with regards to this project, despite receiving multiple communications from organizations and the affected Indigenous communities.
“The consultation was never adequate. There are several Tribes with direct ties to Thacker Pass who weren’t included in OR give any Free, Prior and Informed Consent, including the Shoshone Paiutes of the Duck Valley Indian Reservation. GM should check that. Massacre sites and dirty mining history plague Indian Reservations. Consultations with everyone would have produced substantial evidence to affirm that Thacker Pass wasn’t properly processed. The People of Red Mountain call for accountability.” said Gary Mckinney, of The People of Red Mountain.
Human rights: Forced Labor and Child Labor
The report also criticizes GM for failing to take adequate action in response to research reports that have linked GM’s supply chain to forced labor and child labor. These damning revelations are in stark contrast to an initiative GM announced last year asking global suppliers to join the company in a commitment to carbon neutrality, the development of social responsibility programs and implementation of sustainable procurement practices in their supply chain operations. It’s clear this commitment and the process underpinning it is clearly failing.
Dirty Steel and Aluminium
The steel and aluminum industries produce around 10% of the 2% of the world’s annual greenhouse gas emissions – more than the whole of the European Union. And despite their significant impact, GM has yet to announce how it intends to decarbonize its North American steel and aluminum supply chains. Moreover, GM’s relationship with Cleveland-Cliffs is antithetical to its decarbonization commitments and continues the assault on communities near its facilities. Just this April, Cleveland-Cliffs announced it plans to reline a blast furnace at its Burns Harbor, Indiana facility in 2025. Blast furnace relining is incompatible with a climate-safe future and represents a major economic and climate decision that will extend the life of a blast furnace-powered plant for an estimated 18 years.
Automotive companies are key demand-drivers for both industries: they are the largest global consumer of aluminum and a top global consumer of steel, with automotive steel being the highest value-added major segment of the global steel market, selling for more than 50% more than conventional steel. “Lead the Charge”, an industry leaderboard published earlier this year, that analyzed publicly available official reporting of 18 of the leading automotive manufacturers in the world, ranking their efforts to eliminate emissions, environmental harms, and human rights violations from their supply chains, published earlier this year found that GM ranked 8 out of 18 automakers.
The report calls on GM to take immediate action to address these shortcomings and align its actions with its stated ambitions. Specific demands include:
Pause investment in the Thacker Pass Mine to conduct due diligence on their Indigenous Rights risk exposure in the project. Require suppliers and partners to implement FPIC policies in accordance with UNDRIP.
Commit to ending sourcing from any steel or aluminum supplier connected to human rights violations or the exploitation of Indigenous lands or people.
Adopt specific annual targets for purchases of carbon-free aluminum, reaching zero-carbon aluminum emissions by 2030.
Commit to transition to using 50% low-carbon steel by 2030.
Join global initiatives supporting value chain emission reductions, including ResponsibleSteel, SteelZero, and the Aluminum Stewardship Initiative
For more information or to arrange an interview contact:
William Fitzgerald, [email protected], 650-772-1236
About Mighty Earth
Mighty Earth is a global advocacy organization working to defend a living planet. Our goal is to protect Earth for Nature and secure a climate that allows life to flourish. We are obsessed with impact and aspire to be the most effective environmental advocacy organization in the world. Our team has achieved transformative change by persuading leading industries to dramatically reduce deforestation and climate pollution throughout their global supply chains in palm oil, rubber, cocoa, and animal feed, while improving livelihoods for Indigenous and local communities across the tropics. www.mightyearth.org