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Brazil: 86 NGOs write to business partners & investors of Vale, raising concerns about human rights violations related to the Brumadinho dam disaster

Brazil barragem Brumadinho_credit_Corpo de Bombeiros_http://imagens.ebc.com.br/sF-jj9qLi_xpx6I7aHVXiYojQMQ=/754x0/smart/http://agenciabrasil.ebc.com.br/sites/default/files/thumbnails/image/barra.jpg?itok=7wm1ujbc

[To read this story in Portuguese, click here]

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited 21 companies to respond to letters from 86 organizations from across the world raising concerns about the impacts and human rights violations related to the Mina do Feijao dam disaster on 25 January 2019, in Brumadinho, Brazil. The letters also address the case of the rupture of the Fundao dam in 2015, considered one of the worst socioenvironmental disasters in Brazil. The dam was owned by Samarco, a joint venture of Vale and BHP. The organizations allege the companies are involved in the activities/supply chain of Vale or are partners of the company and urge them to use their leverage and require Vale to remedy the situation caused by the dam's rupture.

 

Allianz, Arcelor-Mittal, BHP, BMW, Cargill, BNP Paribas, Daimler, Deutsche Bank, Ford, HSBC, ING, thyssenKrupp and Vale responded. DZ Bank, General Motors, Samarco and Tüv Süd AG did not respond. We will inform in the near future if Cargill, Crédit Agricole, Hebei Jingye Group and Nissan respond.

 

To know more about the Mina do Feijao dam disaster on 25 January 2019, in Brumadinho, Brazil click here. To know more about the Fundao dam disaster click here.

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All components of this story

Company response
25 April 2019

Ford response

Author: Ford (US)

 

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Company response
23 April 2019

Daimler response

Author: Daimler (Germany)

"Response of the DAIMLER AG to the Business and Human Rights Resource Center’s inquiry regarding the letters from 86 organizations on the impacts and human rights violations related to the Mina do Feijao dam disaster on 25 January 2019, in Brumadinho, Brazil", 23 April 2019

Upholding and preserving human rights is fundamental at Daimler. We are committed to ensuring that human rights are respected and upheld throughout our organization and by our suppliers. To ensure that human rights are respected and protected, Daimler has developed a systematic due diligence approach called the Daimler Human Rights Respect System (HRRS). Oriented on our Group-wide Compliance Management System, it is designed to enable the early identification and avoidance of systemic risks and possible negative effects of our business activities on the respect for human rights. The HRRS is also designed to ensure that human rights are respected by our direct suppliers and, in a risk-based approach focusing on specific products, also beyond our direct suppliers in the upstream supply chain as well. For many years, we have defined our expectations towards our suppliers regarding sustainability in our Supplier Sustainability Standards. The Standards, which are an integral part of our conditions of business, define our requirements for working conditions, human rights, environmental protection, safety, business ethics and compliance. To ensure that our direct suppliers comply with the sustainability standards, we regularly conduct risk analyses. We use regular database research and other measures to discover any violations of our sustainability and compliance rules by our current suppliers. We systematically follow up all reports of violations. With the help of an online survey, we also question our main suppliers about their sustainability management and their communication of these requirements to their upstream value chains. On the basis of the results, we define measures to improve their sustainability performance...Daimler has conducted supplier surveys to increase transparency of the supply chains and has been in touch with our direct suppliers on human rights related issues. Furthermore, we actively engage in concerted activities and targeted cooperation within the framework of the Responsible Steel Initiative, focusing on the improvement of working conditions and the prevention of human rights violations in raw material mining operations.

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Company response
15 April 2019

BMW response

Author: BMW Group (Germany)

[BMW Group sent the following response to the Resource Centre on 15 April 2019:]

  • We have worked hard to increase efficiency and transparency in our supply chains and ensure that our resource procurement process is environmentally compatible and socially acceptable. The same applies to steel.
  • We have supported the formalisation of the Responsible Steel Initiative (RSI) for many years and are deeply involved in developing a sustainability standard and auditing concept for the entire steel value chain. In 2018, we formally joined the Initiative to shoulder our responsibility in this area.
  • We are working closely with our direct suppliers to ensure compliance with sustainability standards and increase transparency and resource efficiency in all our supply chains. All our suppliers are fully aware that we do not tolerate human rights abuses of any kind. If any such cases in our supply chain became known to us, we would take immediate corrective action – up to and including termination of cooperation. Compliance with social and environmental standards throughout the value chain is an important aspect of our understanding of sustainability and a key demand of our stakeholders.
  • The BMW Group has integrated a survey of sustainability standards at direct suppliers into its tender process and defined compliance with them as a major decision criterion.
  • Vale S.A. is not a direct business partner of the BMW Group. However, Vale S.A. does supply iron ore from Brazil to the BMW Group’s steel suppliers.
  • Following the accident in Brazil, we decided to be proactive and have since been carefully examining our steel supply chains to determine if and when the BMW Group has had any connection with the mine involved.
  • Our investigations so far have confirmed that the Brumadinho mine involved, which is owned by Vale S.A. in Brazil, is not part of our supply chain.
  • Irrespective of this, we are in constant communication with our steel suppliers and following the current investigations to identify the causes closely with them. The BMW Group and many of its stakeholders are eager to clarify the circumstances surrounding the accident.
  • The BMW Group welcomes the fact that the major steel manufacturers are in close contact with Vale S.A. to take joint preventive action to avoid further accidents of this kind in the future.

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Company response
15 April 2019

Deutsche Bank response

Author: Deutsche Bank (Germany)

"Response to letters from 84 organizations related to the Mina do Feijao dam breakdown in Brumadinho, Brazil", 12 April 2019

...Deutsche Bank also got to hear with great concern from the breakdown of the tailings dam I of the Córrego do Feijão mine in Brumadinho in January. Shortly after this incident our client coverage team in Brazil contacted Vale to get the latest information directly from the company. During regular meetings Vale’s senior management keeps us abreast of the latest developments. All our internal risk and control functions are alerted and the developments related to the incident are closely monitored. All available information will be duly analyzed to stay informed on the activities on the ground. The investigations on the reasons and responsibilities for this incident and the security of Vale’s other dams are still going on and are expected to take some time. During this time we will continue to engage with Vale and use our leverage as far as the scope of our business relationship allows for it. On the other hand we have to meet our contractual obligations. Our asset management unit DWS has exposure to Vale and monitors investments carefully. DWS’ dedicated ESG funds are currently not allowed to invest in Vale due to its assessment on United Nations Global Compact compliance, which were already in place before the event. The incident confirms DWS’ very cautious ESG (environmental, social, governance) view on the sector that Vale operates in. DWS ESG funds already exclude many mining companies, including Vale. DWS assumes its role as fiduciary and active owner and will also continue with its engagement activity with Vale. Our fiduciary responsibilities include integrating non-financial, environmental, social and corporate governance factors to the best possible extent. This applies not only to our own investment decisions but also by assuming active ownership of our holdings, using proxy voting and engagement to drive change for the benefit of our clients.

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Company non-response
10 April 2019

DZ BANK non-response

Author: DZ BANK (Germany)

[DZ BANK responded to the Centre's email saying that it was not able to comment on the matter of the invitation]

10 April 2019

...Thanks for your email but we can not comment on this...

Article
9 April 2019

Brazil: 86 NGOs from across the globe urge companies and investors to use leverage and require Vale to remedy the situation caused by the breach of its Brumadinho dam

Author: FIDH-International Federation for Human Rights (France)

"Brumadinho dam: NGOs urge companies and investors to use leverage and require Vale to remedy the situation", 21 February 2019
...Press Release...Today, 86 organisations addressed a letter to companies and investors of the mining and steel industry following the rupture of the Brumadinho tailings dam, on January 25. The letter urges the companies to exercise their due diligence regarding the situation in Brazil and to require Vale S.A. to adequately repair the victims of these events and provide guarantees of non-repetition. The organisations alert about the negligence of Vale despite the warnings given by human rights defenders and State authorities about the risks and irregularities concerning the dam. Vale S.A currently has 168 dams throughout the Brazilian territory, among which 1 out of 3 present a high "potential associated damage" equivalent to the Mariana and Bumadinho dams, according to information from the National Water Agency of Brazil. Concrete actions must be urgently taken to remedy the situation. The responsibility to take actions relies not only on Vale S.A. but also on their business partners and actors in the supply chain. As such, they must exercise their leverage to prevent further damage and ensure integral, prompt and effective redress. Two versions of the letter to business partners and actors in the supply chain were made public...

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Article
8 April 2019

Brazil: Joint letter by civil society groups to companies linked to the activities of Vale

Author: 86 NGOs from across the world, including, Mesa Nacional frente a la Minería Metálica, El Salvador, Mining Justice Action Committee, Misereor, Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens, Movimento Nacional de Dereitos Humanos , Movimiento Mesoamericano contra el Modelo extractivo Minero, MultiWatch Switzerland, Narasha Community Development Group, NeSoVe / Netzwerk Soziale Verantwortung, Nord-Süd-Forum, Nostromo Research, Observatorio de Conflictos Mineros de América Latina, OECD Watch, Otros Mundos, Paix-Caritas Canada, Pax Christi International, Plataforma Boliviana Frente al Cambio Climático, Project on Organizing, Development, Education, and Research (PODER), SOMO

“Joint Letter by Civil Society Groups to companies linked to the supply chain of Vale S.A.”, 86 NGOs, 21 February, 2019

Letter addressed to:Arcelor-Mittal...BMW...Cargill...Daimler...Ford...General Motors...Hebei Jingye Group...John Deere...Nissan...ThyssenKrupp...According to publicly available information, your company is or has been directly or indirectly linked to the activities of Vale S.A. The undersigned organizations express their deepest concerns about the events that occurred on January 25 after the breakdown of the tailingsdam I of the Córrego do Feijão mine in Brumadinho. We call upon companies directly or indirectly linked to Vale S.A. activities to take actions towards ensuring that Vale...provides reparation to the victims and guarantees of non-repetition….The negligence of Vale...not only engages its own responsibility, but also the responsibility of its business partners. By virtue of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and in some cases of binding national and regional legislation..., all companies bear a duty of due diligence, in order to identify, prevent, mitigate and respond to the negative consequences of their activities on human rights and the environment...

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Article
8 April 2019

Brazil: Joint letter by civil society groups to companies linked to the activities of Vale

Author: 86 NGOs from across the world, including, Accion Ecologica, Articulação Internacional dos Atingidos pela Vale, Friends of the Earth Germany, Center for Constitutional Rights, Center for International Environmental Law, Centro de Ecología y Pueblos Andinos, Conectas, Confederación Campesina del Perú, ContraMINAcción, Rede contra a Minaría Destrutiva na Galiza, CORE Coalition, Democracy Center, DITSHWANELO - The Botswana Centre for Human Rights, Dreikönigsaktion Hilfswerk der Katholischen Jungschar, Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF), ESCR-Net - International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Ethical Shareholders Germany, FIAN Germany, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Justiça Global, Justiça nos Trilhos, London Mining Network

"Joint Letter by Civil Society Groups to Companies Linked to the Activities of Vale S.A”, 21 February, 2019

...Letter addressed to: Allianz...BNP Paribas...Crédit Agricole...Deutsche Bank...DZ Bank...HSBC...ING...Tüv Süd AG...According to publicly available information, your company is or has been directly or indirectly linked to the activities of Vale...The...organizations express their deepest concerns about the events that occurred on January 25 after the breakdown of the tailings dam I of the Córrego do Feijão mine in Brumadinho. We call upon companies directly or indirectly linked to Vale...activities to take actions towards ensuring that Vale...provides reparation to the victims and guarantees of non-repetition. Vale...currently has 168 dams throughout the Brazilian territory,[1]among which 1 out of 3 present a high "potential associated damage"equivalent to the Mariana and Brumadinho dams...In December 2018, the expansion of the activities of the Paraopeba complex, which includes the Corrego do Feijão mine where the tailings dam is located, was authorized in an express procedure and underestimated the potential damage of the dam...At the meeting in which the granting of the environmental license was approved civil society members and a representative of the federal environmental agency, the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources(IBAMA), alerted about the dangers linked to the tailings dam...The International Articulation of People Affected by Vale has been denouncing the danger of reducing operational costs and expenses in Vale's operations at the company's shareholder meetings, arguing the company was expanding the risks of incidents such as the one that occurred in Mariana in November 2015 and now in Brumadinho. Vale ...did not take the necessary preventive measures to resolve the growing risk of rupture…[T]he people affected by the breakdown of the Fundão dam, owned by Samarco, a joint-venture between Vale and BHP Billiton, continue without fair compensation and the companies involved remain unpunished...The negligence of Vale..., not only engages its own responsibility, but also the responsibility of its business partners. By virtue of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and in some cases of binding national and regional legislation...,... companies bear a duty of due diligence, in order to identify, prevent, mitigate and respond to the negative consequences of their activities on human rights and the environment…          

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Company non-response
8 April 2019

General Motors non-response

Author: General Motors (US)

[General Motors responded to the Centre's email saying that it was not able to respond]

8 April 2019

...We are not able to comment on the Vale Mining or the issues that are being investigated...

Company response
8 April 2019

Vale response

Author: Vale (Brazil)

Rio de Janeiro, April 8th, 2019

…[W]e deeply regret the event. We ensure you efforts are not being measured in order to adequately assist the families of the victims and the affected communities as well as to ensure the safety of our operations and the non-repetition of this event…Vale adopted a set of measures after the Fundao dam break in Mariana, in 2015, aiming to prevent the occurrence of a similar event in its direct operations. Even though Fundao was operated by SAMARCO – a joint-venture of Vale itself and BHP Billiton – Vale could observe and learn lessons with the event and about the tragedy...Vale has revised its structured dam management system which encompasses technical and governance measures…[I]nvestments were made for the improvement of processes seeking...the best operational techniques and technologies in order to ensure the stability of the structures…[F]rom 2015 to 2019 Vale has applied around 5 billion Brazilian reais in dam maintenance and health and safety…Fundacao Renova was created under the observance of a public agreement among SAMARCO, Vale, BHP and public bodies…[It]...has...spent 745 million Brazilian reais in the Mediated Indemnifications Program and other 845 mi on Emergency Financial Support...Regarding the humanitarian immediate assistance and the integral reparation to the persons affected in Brumadinho Vale has set up...a wide response….[T]he use of water of the…[Paraopeba]...river was contraindicated from Brumadinho to Retiro Baixo Hydroelectric Power Plan Dam...Vale has been offering potable water…[and]...has provided – apart from any future indemnification – donations to the families ...[and]...transportation and accommodation...[T]wo Extraordinary Independent Consulting Committees were created to report directly to the Board of Directors to be “external independent members, with unblemished reputation and with experience in the subjects of their respective occupations”...Vale has widely collaborated with all investigations...Vale is in constant dialog and open to contributions and inquiries from any shareholders and stakeholders including NGOs and social movements…[and]...invites all interested parties to follow the updates on the...website…[and]...future publications of reports in the investigations conducted by the independent committees…[I[t remains committed to the safety of the operational structures, focused in the care and support to the affected families and open to investigations and requests of information...

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