Brazil: At least 58 dead & hundreds missing after Vale tailings dam breaks, fresh warnings of a second dam failure

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21 February 2019

Swedish pension fund cuts Vale from portfolio after Council on Ethics recommended exclusion following dam collapse

Author: Rachel Fixsen and Nick Reeve, Investment & Pensions Europe

Swedish state pension buffer fund AP1 has begun selling SEK407m (€38.6m) worth of equities and bonds of Brazilian mining company Vale, after the AP Funds’ Council on Ethics recommended the exclusion the company from the AP funds’ portfolios.

The recommendation follows the fatal collapse of a tailings dam at one of its mining facilities in Brumadinho, Brazil, last month...

[T]he council said: “It would appear that the company did not act sufficiently quickly on reported deficiencies regarding the safety of the tailings dam in Corrego do Feijao.

"The consequences of the company’s actions have had devastating and tragic consequences… for the local population, company employees and the environment..."

At the start of this month, institutional investors led by the Church of England called for a global independent public classification system to monitor the safety risk of tailings dams, in the wake of the Brumadinho collapse that killed more than 100 people.

In a statement published on 19 February, fellow mining company BHP Billiton said it planned to meet investors and other interested bodies later this month to help speed up its work to improve the safety of its own dams. It also voiced support for an independent oversight body...

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6 February 2019

Brazil court tells Vale to halt its largest Minas Gerais mine

Author: Reuters

"Brazil court tells Vale to halt its largest Minas Gerais mine", 4 February 2019

A Brazilian court ordered miner Vale SA to suspend production at its Brucutu mine in Minas Gerais, which has an annual capacity of 30 million tonnes of iron ore, according to O Globo newspaper's website...

...Brucutu is Vale’s largest mine in Minas Gerais state.

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6 February 2019

Solidarity message to Brazilian mining-affected communities following dam collapse in Brumadinho

Author: Alternative Mining Indaba

"Solidary message to Brazilian mining-affected communities on the occasion of a mining disaster in Brumaindho, South East Brazil" 5 February 2019

The Secretariat, Steering Committee and stakeholders of the Alternative Mining Indaba (AMI) would like to offer their deepest condolences to the families of the Brazilians who lost their lives after the collapse of a tailings dam holding back mine waste of the Vale Mining Company...

...This scale of disaster should have never happened if mining companies were generally concerned about the triple bottom line, namely the environment, communities and profit...This demonstrates a lack of care and caution by mining companies and often criminal collusion by authorities who do not effectively legislate, regulate and inspect the adherence of mines to health, safety and environmental standards. Perhaps the time of voluntary self-regulation should be replaced by effective government control of mine health and safety and environmental adherence...

...We note with sadness and disbelief that the recently elected far-right leader of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, campaigned on promises of deregulating mining and other industries, among other outright neo-liberal, tone-deaf, regressive policies that will isolate, further marginalise and exacerbate the misery of the poor and lead to environmental destruction and climate change in Brazil...

...We know for a fact that this latest spill underscores a deliberate weakening of health, safety and environmental regulations in mining in Brazil and indeed in most countries in the Third World where such disasters have become common-place. We have no doubt, as confirmed by our Comrades in Brazil, that this latest spill is a sad consequence of the lessons not learned by the Brazilian government and the mining companies responsible for an earlier tragedy when a dam administered by Vale and Australian mining company BHP Billiton collapsed in 2015 in the city of Mariana in Minas Gerais state, resulting in 19 deaths and forcing hundreds from their homes...

...We demand all governments to suspend and revoke mining licenses with immediate effect of mining companies that fail to adhere to global best practice, international and national laws and regulations and protocols environmental, health and safety regulations which have resulted in avoidable loss of irreplaceable lives.

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30 January 2019

Brazil: After dam collapse, United Nations human rights experts ask for appropriate investigation, preventive measures and for Vale’s cooperation

Author: United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

“Brazil: UN experts call for probe into deadly dam collapse”, 30 January 2019

GENEVA (30 January 2019) - UN human rights experts* have called for a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation into the collapse of a tailing dam in Minas Gerais, Brazil, on 25 January 2019, the second such incident involving the same company in the past three years…[“T]he tragedy demands accountability and calls into question preventive measures taken subsequent to the Samarco mining disaster in Minas Gerais just over three years ago...[W]e urge the Government to act decisively on its commitment to do everything in its power to prevent more such tragedies and to bring to justice those responsible for this disaster,” the experts said…[U]N Special Rapporteur on Toxics Baskut Tuncak made a specific call for a transparent, impartial, rapid and competent investigation into the toxicity of the waste, with full accessibility of information for the general public, and urged for necessary precautionary measures to be taken immediately. The experts also called on the mining company Vale to act in accordance with its responsibility to identify, prevent and mitigate adverse human rights impacts; to cooperate fully with authorities investigating into the disaster; and to provide for or cooperate in the remediation of harm caused through legitimate processes…

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30 January 2019

Brazil: Vale announces decommissioning of all its upstream tailings dams

Author: RTT News/Nasdaq (US)

"Vale Announces Decommissioning Of All Its Upstream Tailings Dams", 29 January 2019

...Vale...said it would dismantle 10 dams that are similar to the one that collapsed on Friday, killing at least 84 people, after police arrested five people in connection with the disaster earlier Tuesday…[I]t has presented to the Brazilian authorities its plan to decommission all its dams built by the upstream method…[which]...aims to de-characterize these structures as tailings dams in order to reintegrate them into the environment. Vale currently has 10 dams built by the upstream method, all of which are currently inactive. All of Vale's dams present stability reports issued by external, independent and internationally respected companies. Vale estimates that investments of around R$ 5 billion will be necessary to decommission its upstream dams and estimates that the decommissioning process will occur over the next 3 years. In order to carry out the decommissioning of the upstream dams safely and quickly, Vale will temporarily halt the production of the units where the structures are located...The operation of the halted units will be resumed as the decommissioning works are completed...Vale said it expects to reallocate all its collaborators currently located in the operations that will be halted...Vale said that the Public Ministry of Labor filed a Public Civil Action and a preliminary injunction was granted, determining a freezing of R$ 800 million to secure the indemnification of direct and third-party employees that worked in the Corrego de Feijao mine at the time of the dam breach; maintenance of the wage payments to the relatives of direct and third-party employees that are still missing while the status of fatality is unconfirmed; payment of funeral expenses, transfer of body, burial of all direct and third-party employees; and, among other administrative measures. Futhermore, on January 28th, 2019, a putative securities class action complaint was filed against Vale, its CEO Fabio Schvartsman, and CFO Luciano Siani Pires, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The complaint, putatively brought on behalf of certain purchasers of Vale securities, alleges violations of rules. The complaint alleged that the Company made false and misleading statements, and omitted to make disclosures, concerning the risks and potential damage of a breach of the dam in the Corrego de Feijaomine in Brumadinho, Brazil. The complaint seeks an unspecified amount of damages…

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29 January 2019

Brazil: Vale workers arrested after dam collapse

Author: Tom DiChristopher, CNBC

"Vale workers arrested as death toll climbs after dam collapse at Brazil mine", 29 January 2019

Mining giant Vale on Tuesday confirmed the arrest of several employees as the death toll continued to climb after a dam collapsed at a company-owned mine in southeastern Brazil.

The Brazilian company is facing criminal charges and pressure to overhaul its management following the deadly dam breach at its Corrego do Feijao mine near the city of Brumadinho. The number of confirmed dead now stands at 65, and authorities fear the casualties could climb above 300...

...Three Vale employees and two contractors have now been arrested, according to Reuters, which saw the court order. Investigators in Minas Gerais state, where the incident occurred, have issued arrest and search warrants on suspicion of murder, falsification of documents and environmental crimes...

...Brazil’s Prosecutor General Raquel Dodge on Monday said the country intends to pursue criminal charges against Vale executives, Dow Jones reported

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Author: Michel Leclercq, Le Figaro

« Le Brésil frappé par une nouvelle tragédie minière », 28 janvier 2019

…[Le 25 janvier 2019,] la rupture d'un barrage minier dans l'État du Minas Gerais, dans le sud-est du [Brésil]…a fait près de 300 morts et disparus et provoqué des dégâts considérables sur l'environnement. 

Un drame semblable s'était produit en novembre 2015, à Mariana, dans la même région, quand un barrage minier retenant des déchets hautement toxiques avait cédé, dévastant la vallée du Rio Doce sur plus de 600 kilomètres, jusqu'à la mer. 

Celle-ci est restée à ce jour la pire catastrophe environnementale de l'histoire du Brésil. Trois ans après, les victimes attendent toujours d'être indemnisées alors que les responsables ont échappé aux poursuites…

Lundi [28 janvier], le bilan provisoire faisait état de 60 morts et 292 disparus. La plupart des victimes sont des employés de la multinationale Vale, un des leaders mondiaux de l'extraction et de l'exportation de minerai de fer, qui était aussi copropriétaire de la mine de Mariana… 

Les causes de la catastrophe ne sont pas encore connues, mais, avec une célérité inhabituelle, la justice a mis en cause Vale. Elle a ordonné la saisie de 6 milliards de reais (1,4 milliard d'euros) sur le compte de la multinationale pour financer des mesures d'urgence…

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28 January 2019

Pataxó Hã-hã-hãe future uncertain after tailings dam rupture in Brazil

Author: Intercontinental Cry

A Pataxó Hã-hã-hãe village had to be evacuated after a Vale-owned tailings dam ruptured in Brumadinho…The 25 families living in the village of Naô Xoha were taken out…to the highest part of the municipality…where the community is located. “Our village is on the banks of the river. It is essential to our livelihood. The mud is already in the center of Brumadinho and has not yet reached the village. Our area might or might not become inundated…” explains Eni Carajá, Pataxó Hã-hã-hãe. According to inquiries made by the Movement of those Affected by Dams (MAB), there were, in fact, four dams that collapsed; and there is a fifth dam holding back water that could still rupture…The tailings reached the administrative area of Vale and part of the community of Vila Ferteco, but the sea of mud continues to devastate whatever lies in its path...Three years ago, in November 2015, the Fundão dam broke, devastating the Rio Doce Valley basin and inundating the mining town of Bento Rodrigues, leaving 19 dead and hundreds evacuated...One of those responsible for the Fundão tragedy was Samarco, a company that worked in partnership with the Vale mining company...

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27 January 2019

Brumadinho: Search for survivors resumes after second Brazil dam alert

Author: BBC

Rescue teams have resumed their search for hundreds of people still missing after a dam collapsed in south-eastern Brazil on Friday, officials say.

Authorities paused the search for hours amid fears that a separate dam was at risk of giving way in the area.

About 3,000 people were then evacuated, local fire fighters told the BBC.

At least 37 people have been killed and more than 250 others are feared dead in Friday's disaster at an iron ore mine near the town of Brumadinho...

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26 January 2019

Seven bodies found and scores still missing

Author: The Guardian

Seven bodies have been found and more than a hundred people remain missing after a dam operated by the mining giant Vale collapsed in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, releasing a wave of red iron ore waste and raising fears of widespread contamination... The incident comes less than four years after another tailings dam collapsed in Minas Gerais, killing 19 people in what was Brazil’s worst environmental disaster.... Vale’s chief executive, Fabio Schvartsman, told reporters on Friday that one dam containing iron ore waste, known as tailings, had failed and another overflowed. Brazil’s environment ministry had earlier said three dams were involved in the disaster. Schvartsman said around 300 staff we were working at the plant and 100 had been rescued....


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