Neodymium is a rare earth mineral that is mined in Baotou, China and used in the production of neodymium magnets, which are used in the manufacture of wind turbines in the U.K. The extraction of neodymium leaves in its wake devastating environmental pollution. The extraction of neodymium has resulted in the barrenness of land that was once fertile. Therefore, in place of the fields of wheat and corn that once grew in this region, there is a vast lake of bubbling toxic waste. Britain uses the neodymium for the manufacture of wind turbines, which conserve the environment, whereas they live the city of Baotou devastated with massive environmental degradation and pollution.
Responsible methods of extracting the mineral should be sought. In addition to this, Britain and the other companies should also embark on solving the problems that have been caused to the communities through the environmental pollution caused by the factories and the degradation caused by unethical mining methods. The fact that the companies are benefiting financially at the expense of the poor community living in this area is both unethical and illegal.
The lake caused by the mining activity has resulted in wasted farmland and has poisoned several people living in the Baotou area. The lake of toxic waste has grown steadily in size over the years because of the dumping of neodymium waste. The neodymium waste is radioactive, toxic and foul smelling. The communities living in this area are forced to endure not only the degradation of their land but also to be assaulted by toxic fumes that eventually have detrimental consequences on their health.
The lake has hampered the community’s economic activity since it causes plants to wither and animals to die due to its toxicity. The health of the Dalahai people is severely affected by the lake; there have been many cases of skin and respiratory diseases. In addition to this, there have been rising cases of cancer and many children are born with fragile bones.
One of the legal issues in this case is that the officials of the companies operating around the area have refused to admit publicly that the lake is indeed contaminated. Failure to acknowledge that the lake is toxic enables them to avoid the legal consequences of their actions such as compensating the affected individuals and practicing ethical waste disposal methods.
The air pollution from the factories is so high that the people of Baotou have to wear masks from day to day in order to avoid poisoning. This is a stark infringement of their right to live in a healthy and clean environment. The manufacturing companies should take responsibility for their actions and stop this pollution. It is also a legal concern that the workers of this company are under-compensated for their work despite the high level of risk they face in the course of their work. The employees are also not adequately protected with protective garment and material to shield them from the toxic material they encounter as they work. The company therefore also infringes the rights of its workers.
The environmental problems are caused by the emission of copious amounts of harmful chemicals such as Sulphur, fluorine, toxic water and radioactive material. The environmental degradation affects only China. The chief importers of the neodymium use it to manufacture energy-efficient wind-turbines. It is therefore ironic that the environment of this Chinese town has become so polluted in order to help other countries achieve environmental friendly solutions to their energy problems.
The Chinese authorities in collaboration with the United Kingdom should provide a lasting solution to this problem either by relocating the villages and communities that have been affected by the poisonous wastes emitted by the factory. The authorities should also compensate these people adequately for the destruction that has been caused to their environment. In addition to this, safer and responsible methods of dumping the toxic wastes should be implemented in order to control the pollution and prevent further environmental degradation. The Chinese authorities should also control the amount of neodymium it produces for export because over extraction of the mineral accelerates the degradation of the environment. The company has to act ethically and sustainably in order to ensure that none of its various stakeholders is negatively affected by its activities. Over-extraction will also result in the depletion of the neodymium.
Degradation of the environment has adverse effects on the economic and environmental systems of a community.
In the case of Baotou city, the environmental degradation can be rightfully termed as an environmental disaster. The whole community, whether young or old, has been affected by the pollution health wise and /or economically. The environment is no longer able to support human, animal or plant life. At this stage, the authorities should work hard to reverse the effects of the degradation. The Baogang Group is acting illegally and unethically by ignoring the environmental needs of the vulnerable community residing close to the industry. Companies have an obligation to its stakeholders to protect their rights and act in their best interest. Therefore, Baogang Group’s actions violate this right.