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

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[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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Company response
5 April 2019

BHP response

Author: BHP (Australia)

"5 April 2019"

...Thank you for the opportunity to respond. As you point out, a part of the letter addresses the Fundão dam failure of 2015 and we would like to share an update from Fundação Renova relating to this. As you know, Fundação Renova is a not-for-profit, private foundation, established by BHP Billiton Brasil Limitada (BHP Billiton Brasil), Vale S.A. (Vale) and Samarco Mineração S.A. (Samarco) to develop and execute environmental and socio-economic programs to remediate and provide compensation for damage caused by the Samarco dam failure. The Fundão tailings dam was operated by Samarco, a non-operated joint venture owned by BHP Billiton Brasil and Vale, with each having a 50 per cent shareholding. This link to the Renova website (https://www.fundacaorenova.org/en/the-foundation/) provides detail on the reparation and compensation work that has been done up to the beginning of 2019. We hope this helps to demonstrate that some progress has been made to restore the environment, re-establish communities and compensate the people affected by the dam failure in a challenging and complex operating context. Please refer to the Samarco section of BHP’s Annual Report 2018 (pp. 41-43) at bhp.com for further detail about BHP’s response and support for Fundação Renova’s operations...

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Company response
2 April 2019

HSBC Group Response

Author: HSBC Group

"2 April 2019"

...Thank you for your letter of 19th February 2019 to HSBC Group…[F]or reasons of client confidentiality, HSBC does not and cannot discuss individual customers, nor do we confirm whether an individual or business is or has been a customer. I am therefore unable to discuss any of the specific companies named in the letter…[H]SBC takes human rights issues seriously and our Mining and Metals policy has made reference to human rights impacts since 2007…[W]e always investigate any allegations of companies operating in breach of our policies that are brought to our attention.  In mining we prefer to use our influence and work with clients who meet our sustainability standards – including those relating to human rights – and clients who are making credible progress towards meeting them.  Where clients are unwilling or unable to meet our standards, we end the banking relationship as soon as contractually possible. Thank you again for giving us the opportunity to comment...

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Company non-response
1 April 2019

Samarco non-response

Author: Samarco (Brazil)

[Samarco responded in Portuguese to the Centre's email explaining that it would not respond alleging that the Córrego do Feijão Mine belongs to Vale, and for this reason, the company would not be able to respond to the questions sent]

1st April 2019

Em resposta ao e-mail abaixo, esclarecemos que a Mina Córrego do Feijão pertence à empresa Vale e, por este motivo, a Samarco não poderá responder aos questionamentos enviados.

Company non-response
26 March 2019

Tüv Süd non response

Author: Tüv Süd

[Tüv Süd responded in Portuguese to the Centre's email explaining that "after the dam breach in Brumadinho, TÜV SÜD started an independent investigation into the case and offered its full cooperation to the authorities to clarify the circumstances of the collapse of the structure. In respect to these investigations, at the moment the company is not providing comments on the case" (our translation)]

26 March 2019

...Imediatamente após o rompimento da barragem em Brumadinho, a TÜV SÜD iniciou uma investigação independente sobre o caso e ofereceu sua total cooperação às autoridades para o esclarecimento das circunstâncias do colapso da estrutura. Em respeito a essas investigações, no momento a empresa não está se pronunciando sobre o caso...

Company response
25 March 2019

Arcelor Mittal response

Author: Arcelor Mittal (UK)

Response to the “Joint letter by Civil Society Groups to Companies linked to the supply Chain of Vale”. 

…Thank you for the letter you sent to ArcelorMittal and other companies regarding the incident at Vale's Feijão iron ore mine in Brumadinho. ArcelorMittal shares your concerns and we do expect Vale to address them appropriately…[T]his incident emphasises the importance of having greater transparency in the supply chain, and more robust, independent systems in place to check that the required safety, environmental and social standards are applied across all industrial operations we buy from. That is why, for over three years, we have been active participants in the Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) initiative established by the Mining Association of Canada (MAC) and the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA)…[T]his aligns with ArcelorMittal's human rights policy, and human rights due diligence system. In addition, we follow the OECD supply chain due diligence guidelines for raw material suppliers. Supply chain is one of five pillars of our board level SD and CR oversight committee…[I]…hope you and the other signatories in your letter would consider becoming involved. In terms of immediate strategy, we are collecting facts and awaiting results of ongoing investigations. We know mining companies are reviewing possible actions, for example decommissioning of upstream tailings storage facilities and non-wet disposal methods...

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Company response
25 March 2019

BNP Paribas response

Author: BNP Paribas (France)

"Paris, 25th March, 2019"

We have received your letter dated February 19th, 2019 and we take your request with the highest consideration. We would like first to express our sympathy to all the people impacted by this tragic accident and we profoundly deplore the environmental and human damage…[A]s soon as we have been aware of the Mina do Feijao dam disaster on 25 January 2019, in Brumadinho, we have started an open dialogue with our client Vale and we will share with them the requests you mention in your letter. We will also closely monitor the updates and progress made regarding the remediation of social and environmental impacts of the Brumadinho accident, as well as the decommissioning process of the remaining upstream dams. We will keep you informed of any major development...

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Company response
22 March 2019

Allianz response

Author: Allianz

"Allianz SE, 22.03.2019"

The disaster at  the Mina do Feijao dam on 25 January 2019, was a catastrophe resulting in the horrible loss of life for both workers and the community. In response, Allianz is taking immediate action by calling for more strict and transparent global standards for tailings dams. We believe that the most effective way to leverage our position at the scale that is required is through collaboration with others in our industry. The most prominent collaborative initiative, for which we are a part of, is led by The Church of England funds to engage with the International Council on Mining and Metals on the formation of improved tailing standards. Some early information is available in The Church of England’s Media Centre and can be found through the following links:
 
https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/news/call-new-independ... https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/news/church-england-ca...

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Company response
22 March 2019

ING response

Author: ING (Netherlands)

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Company response
1 March 2019

thyssenKrupp response

Author: thyssenKrupp (Germany)

 

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