The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Guinea:
Electric Cars Pollute

Sep 27, 2021

Translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.

Production of bauxite worldwide is expected to rise from 372 million tons this year to 406 million tons in 2025, according to a study by Globaldata.

Bauxite is ore from which aluminum is refined—one of the main resources in electric vehicles made by all the giants of the automotive industry: Ford, Toyota, Volkswagen, Renault ....

Guinea is the second-largest bauxite producer after Australia, and mining there has intensified significantly. It shot from four percent of global production in 2014 to 22% last year. Consequences are drastic for farming communities. Opening the surface mines destroyed a square mile of fertile land which farmers relied on for their livelihood. Mining companies gave displaced residents a pittance which in no way made up for their loss of land. Families living nearby were thrown into poverty.

The environmental consequences are just as extreme. By destroying plants and making soil erosion more likely, bauxite mining poisons rivers and streams. And refining aluminum from bauxite generates big amounts of corrosive red sludge. Aluminum refining uses a lot of electricity and releases a lot of greenhouse gases. The world’s biggest producer of aluminum is China, which uses electricity made mostly by coal-fired powerplants. Human Rights Watch says aluminum production releases more than one billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent each year.

These human and environmental disasters certainly will not prevent automobile capitalists from continuing to use aluminum. Because it’s such a light metal, the International Aluminum Institute expects the sector to double its aluminum purchases by 2050.

Making electric vehicles obeys the same laws as every other activity in the capitalist system: producing at a lower cost in order to make as much profit as possible—with total indifference to the results for people and the planet.