Brazil: Civil society groups appeal to UN criticizing agreement over dam burst for lack of participation & adequate remedying; Samarco, Vale and BHP Biliton respond

Bento_Rodrigues_Brazil_dam_burst_village_Credit_Senado_Federal

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Samarco, Vale and BHP Billiton to respond to new allegations of abuses related to the socioenvironmental disaster caused by the collapse of an iron ore dam in Minas Gerais in November 2015. All companies responded.

On 2 March 2016, the three companies signed an agreement with the Brazilian government to repair the social, environmental and economic damages caused by the dam burst, considered one of the worst environmental disasters in the country’s history. The main criticism of the agreement are the lack of participation and information of affected people. Critics also claim that the agreement favours the companies and that it “is incompatible with international standards for remedying human rights violations...”.

Samarco also responded specifically to allegations of human rights abuses raised in the Risco Seguro Brasil article (available in Portuguese below), and Vale also responded specifically to the shareholders article by CIDSE.

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Article
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Author: Oscar Röcker Netto, Risco Seguro Brasil (Brazil)

“A TRAGÉDIA EM NÚMEROS-Seguro cobre 8,3% dos danos de Mariana, estima Terra Brasis-Em relatório, perdas seguradas são estimadas em R$ 2,25 bi, e totais, em R$ 26,2 bi; análise indica que Samarco não tinha cobertura de risco ambiental”, 1o de junho de 2016

...[O]...desastre da Samarco, ocorrido em Mariana...em...2015, ainda traz poucas definições das coberturas e apólices efetivamente acionadas...[A]s estimativas apontam para...cobertura de 8,3% do total de danos apurados até agora. A conclusão está num relatório especial...sobre o episódio, elaborado pela resseguradora Terra Brasis...[e]...mostra que as coberturas que “provavelmente” serão acionadas são a Patrimonial, Riscos de Engenharia, Responsabilidade Civil, RC Obras, RC Empregador, D&O, E&O e Vida. A estimativa do valor segurado total chega a R$ 2,25 bilhões...[:]...R$ 2 bilhões para danos patrimoniais, R$ 250 milhões para RC e zero para danos ambientais. Já os danos totais estimados pela resseguradora devam chegar a R$ 26,2 bilhões, sendo que a maior parte...está direta ou indiretamente ligada a questões socioambientais...As apólices ambientais específicas parecem estar completamente...fora dessa cobertura. O seguro ambiental está em “estágios embrionários” no Brasil, avalia a Terra Brasis. “Acreditamos que por isso existe uma grande probabilidade da não existência de tal cobertura para o evento de Mariana”, diz a resseguradora...[P]erto de 90% das mil maiores empresas do Brasil não contratam seguro ambiental...

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Article
29 June 2016

Brazil: NGOs appeal to ONU claiming agreement between govt., Samarco, Vale and BHP Billiton lacks participation of affected people and civil society and is inadequate to remedy violations

Author: Conectas Human Rights (Brazil)

“Doce River, Agreement overlooks victims-In an appeal to the UN, NGOs claim settlement agreement is incompatible with international standards for remedying human rights violations”, 19 May 2016

The settlement agreement signed between the federal government, the states of Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo and the companies Vale, BHP Billiton and Samarco, responsible for the tailing dam that burst in the town of Mariana…last year, was the target of an urgent appeal sent…[on May 13]…to four UN special rapporteurs and the president of the Working Group on Business and Human Rights…[On…]…May 17, Brazil…Minister of the Environment, Sarney Filho, said he will propose a review of the agreement…The deal…will not be suspended…[T]he organizations claim that the extrajudicial agreement, negotiated behind closed doors and in disregard of the affected communities, contains severe limitations and weaknesses that make it inadequate to guarantee effective solutions and compensation for the victims. One of the most problematic aspects…is its governance…“…[T]he participation of civil society is extremely limited. The agreement gives the companies disproportionate powers…[and]… the public authorities have attempted to discharge themselves from their own responsibilities and omissions,” explained Caio Borges,…Conectas. Another flaw of the agreement…is the lack of socio-environmental indicators and objective timelines…The document…also criticizes the clause of the agreement that puts an end to all lawsuits…against the companies…

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Company response
29 June 2016

Brazil: Response by Samarco on insurance related to the impacts caused by the dam disaster in Mariana in 2015

Author: Samarco

“Posicionamento Samarco –Seguro”, 27 June 2016

Samarco wishes to inform that, according to its contract policy, it does not provide details of technical and/or commercial negotiations. However, it reiterates that its decisions regarding renewal and purchase of insurance are based on the best criteria and supported by world class brokers, insurers and reinsurers…

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Company response
29 June 2016

Brazil: Response by Samarco, BHP Biliton and Vale on the agreement with govt. related to disaster caused by dam burst in 2015

Author: Samarco, Vale and BHP Biliton

“Explanatory Note – Framework Agreement Samarco Mineração S.A.
”, 23 June 2016

The Fundão dam break…[in]…2015 was a tragic event that caused social and environmental impacts…Samarco, Vale and BHP are deeply saddened…and sincerely apologize to the…impacted…Samarco has been…engaged in ensuring the response respects the rights of impacted people and is in line with international standards and societal expectations…The protection of the fundamental rights of affected persons was a cornerstone…of the Framework Agreement...[T]he requirement for strong engagement and participation of impacted peoples in the detailed design and delivery of the…Agreement programs was enshrined in the governance arrangements for the Foundation…responsible for its implementation, maintenance and management…The…Agreement seeks to promote and foster communities’ right to be consulted and have a say in decision-making…Section 7(c)…establishes…: “transparency and engagement of communities in discussions over the measures.” The right to participate in designing and implementing the Programs is also specified in Sections 10 and 11…Sections 59 to 72 describe a Program focused on Social Communication, Engagement and Dialogue…[M]ore than 330 open public meetings were held…[, with]… 13,000-plus attendees …The…Agreement does not place any limitations on the affected persons’ right of access to judicial or extrajudicial remedy…

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Article
29 June 2016

Brazil: Shareholders members of the International Articulation of People Affected by Vale denounce human rights violations at the company’s Annual General Meeting

Author: Ingrid Ferrari, CIDSE (Brazil)

“Shareholders denounce Vale’s irresponsible social, environmental and management policies at Annual General Meeting”, 24 May 2016

On April 25, eight critical investors,...of the International Articulation of People Affected by Vale..., participated for the 6th consecutive year in the Vale Annual General Meeting in Rio de Janeiro...to point out the contradictions between the company’s discourse on social and environmental responsibility and the occurrence of serious environmental damages and human rights violations...[in its]...projects...[And]...expose the negative consequences of these violations for the...corporate image...and...its shareholders. One of the cases...discussed...was the Samarco mining company’s criminal denial of responsibility. Questioned about its report on the tailings dam breach in Mariana,...company officials indicated that the document was not yet completed...Meanwhile, Vale has already entered the licensing process for three more dams in Minas Gerais, all using the same technology used in the Mariana...dam... Another point raised...was the ambiguity in the company’s declaration in its Administrative and Financial Report that the disaster in Mariana had had no impact on the financial flows of the company...[S]hareholders were in danger of being hoodwinked by the affirmation in the Vale Administrative and Financial Report that a definitive agreement had been signed between Samarco, Vale, BHP and the Brazilian state concerning compensation for the victims...[But]...the agreement is still subject to approval by...[a]...judge...in Minas Gerais...[T]he group...presented a motion calling for all the members of the Vale Executive Board, Administrative Council and Auditing Council who held these positions on...the date of the breach of the...dam...to step down...

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Company response
29 June 2016

Brazil: Vale response to CIDSE article

Author: Vale (Brazil)

“Vale response to the allegations publicized at / Resposta da Vale às alegações publicadas em:...[CIDSE article/Artigo da CIDSE]...”, June, 2016

…Samarco opened a channel for the public aiming to clarify…all the details about the case…As a shareholder…, together with BHP Billiton, Vale has been participating actively in measures to guarantee the safety and the fundamental rights of the people affected by the accident. Since the first day, we have been providing human and material resources to aid Samarco. However , these expenses did not affect the Vale ́s 2015 results, as reported…Samarco,…Vale and…BHP Billiton…entered into a settlement agreement on March 2, 2016 with governmental authorities...”...[that]…provides for a long-term remedial and compensation framework to address the impacts of the Samarco accident. Samarco, Vale and BHP Billiton…will establish a Foundation that will develop and execute environmental and socio-economic programs to remediate and provide compensation for damage caused by the…dam failure. The funds to the Foundation will be provided primarily by Samarco…[,]…currently unable to conduct ordinary mining and processing…To the extent Samarco does not meet its funding obligations, each of Vale and BHP Billiton…is liable in proportion to its 50 per cent shareholding in Samarco. The agreement was ratified by the Federal Court of Brazil, at a conciliation hearing held on May 5th, at the Federal Regional Court of the 1st Region…

[It refers to Aliança Norte Energia Participações (Aliança Norte), a joint venture between Vale and Cemig Geração e Transmissão (Cemig GT), Eletrobrás and Norte Energia Participações]

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