Brazil: Government to sue BHP and Vale over dam disaster that caused deaths & environmental destruction
On 5 November 2015, a dam burst at an iron ore mine in Brazil, operated by Samarco, a joint venture between BHP Billiton and Vale. A state prosecutor claimed it was the worst ever environmental disaster in Minas Gerais state. It has caused deaths, people are still missing, the city closest to the mine was destroyed by muddy waters, and the mud tide has spread for nearly 500 km from the site, newspapers said. More than 2000 people and several rivers are believed to be affected by the disaster, as pointed out by Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens-MAB (Movement of people affected by dams). It includes comments from Samarco and BHP Billiton.
To read news about the case in Portuguese, click here.
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Brazil: President of Samarco & 6 others charged with homicide for mining disaster that killed 19 people, flooded villages & damaged river
Author: Daniel Gallas, BBC
“Seven charged over Samarco dam disaster”,23 February 2016
Brazil: UN Working Group to examine human rights abuses by companies & visit cities affected by dam collapse & megaprojects
Author: United Nations Working Group on business and human rights
“Brazil: UN expert group to assess impact of business activities on human rights”, 7 December 2015
…The United Nations Working Group on business and human rights has…started its first official visit to Brazil to examine the adverse impact of business activities on human rights. The visit, from 7 to 16 December, takes place against the backdrop of a serious environmental disaster, caused by the collapse on 5 November of a mining tailing dam in Mariana…and of a range of ongoing and planned large-scale development projects, including those related to the Rio 2016 Olympics. “As the seventh largest economy in the world, Brazil is playing a leading role both in the region and globally, and we look forward to learning about the steps taken in the country to prevent and address business-related human rights harm,” said human rights expert Pavel Sulyandziga, one of the members of the two-strong delegation. The experts are looking at how the Government and businesses are implementing their respective human rights obligations and responsibilities, in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights…“…[W]e will [also]…talk with civil society organizations, trade unions and other stakeholders…” said Dante Pesce, the other Working Group member taking part in the visit…
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Brazil: Vale admits that part of dam that burst causing deaths & destruction was built using waste from one of its mines
Author: Folha de São Paulo (Brazil)
“Dam that Broke in Mariana Contained Waste Material Belonging to Vale”, 25 November 2015
The dam that broke in Mariana…causing an unprecedented environmental disaster affecting as far away as the Espírito Santo coastline, also contained mining rejects belonging to Vale…One of Samarco's shareholders (on the side of…BHP Billiton) responsible for the dam, Vale used the area to store waste from iron ore production. Vale confirmed that it had a contract with Samarco, permitting it to use the dam for its waste materials, but said that its waste amounted to less than 5% of the total…[U]ntil now Vale has accepted no share of responsibility for the disaster. This is the first time it has admitted storing waste materials in the dam…Vale confirmed…on…[23 November]…that it used the Fundão dam to deposit iron ore waste from the treatment plants at the Alegria mine, in Mariana. It said that it sent to the Fundão dam "less than 5% of the total waste" deposited there. "The relationship was governed by a contract between the companies, which designated Samarco as responsible for the management, control and operation of the dam," it added…
Brazil: Government will sue BHP and Vale for $US5.2bn over dam disaster that caused deaths & social and environmental destruction
Author: Australian Associated Press and The Guardian (UK)
“Brazil to sue mining companies BHP and Vale for $5bn over dam disaster-The collapse of a wastewater dam at an iron-ore mine left more than 13 dead and has triggered an environmental crisis in the River Doce basin”, 28 November 2015
Brazil’s government has announced it will sue...BHP Billiton and Vale for $US5.2bn after the deadly collapse of a dam at an iron ore mine sent 60 million cubic meters of mud and mine waste cascading into the Atlantic ocean and left more than 13 people dead. Environment minister Izabella Teixeira said a lawsuit would be filed demanding that the companies and the mine operator Samarco, which they co-own, create a fund of 20 billion reais to pay for environmental recovery and compensation for victims...“...It is a disaster prompted by economic activity, but of a magnitude equivalent to those disasters created by forces of nature.”...11...[people]...remain missing...[There are]...claims of major contamination, although the mining companies insist there is no serious pollution...BHP...has seen its shares fall sharply...Teixeira described the environmental impact as devastating and difficult to repair. Earlier on Friday Vale announced a compensation fund...Executives also sounded a defiant note, rejecting allegations that the Doce had been badly polluted. Vania Somaville, director of human resources, health and safety at Vale, told a press conference that lead, arsenic, nickel and chrome had been detected at some points along the river...[but]...that the potentially dangerous contaminants were not carried there by the wastewater from the mine. That was in stark contrast to a report by two UN experts, which accused the corporations and the Brazilian government of failing to respond to a toxic disaster...
Brazil: UN rights experts call on the Govt. and relevant businesses to protect the environment and communities impacted by dam collapse
Author: United Nations independent experts on environment and toxic waste
“Brazilian mine disaster: “This is not the time for defensive posturing” – UN rights experts”, 25 November 2015
…Two United Nations independent experts on environment and toxic waste…called on the Government of Brazil and relevant businesses to take immediate action to protect the environment and health of communities at risk of exposure to toxic chemicals in the wake of the catastrophic collapse of a tailing dam on 5 November 2015…“The steps taken by the Brazilian government, Vale and BHP Billiton to prevent harm were clearly insufficient…[They]…should be doing everything within their power to prevent further harm, including exposure to heavy metals and other toxic chemicals,” they stressed…[T]he collapse of a tailing dam belonging to a joint venture of Vale and BHP Billiton (Samarco Mining S.A.)…contained high levels of toxic heavy metals and other toxic chemicals in the river Doce. Hospitals…have received several patients. “The scale of the environmental damage is the equivalent of 20,000 Olympic swimming pools of toxic mud waste contaminating the soil, rivers and water system of an area covering over 850 kilometers,” Mr. Knox…[ Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations related to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment]…warned. He noted that the Doce River…“is now considered…dead and the toxic sludge is slowly working its way downstream towards the Abrolhos National Marine Park…“The Brazilian authorities should assess whether Brazil’s laws for mining are consistent with international human rights standards, including the right to information,” said Mr. Tuncak…[Special Rapporteur human rights and hazardous substances and wastes]…The Special Rapporteurs stated that “this disaster serves as yet another tragic example of the failure of businesses to adequately conduct human rights due diligence to prevent human rights abuses.”…“Prevention of harm must be at the center of the approach of business whose activities involve hazardous substances and wastes.”…
Author: Greenpeace Brasil
“Dam collapse creates environmental disaster in Brazil”, 18 November 2015
On November 5, 2015, two dams holding millions of cubic meters of mining waste gave way – launching one of the worst environmental disasters in Brazilian history. Mud – full of dangerous metals – quickly overtook the nearby mining community of Mariana in Minas Gerais state. At least seventeen people were killed. Hundreds more have been displaced by the wall of sludge released in the dam collapse.
Brazil: Samarco signs agreement of US$260 million for preventive, emergency, mitigation & compensatory measures related to the bursts of its dams
“REPORT 34 - 16/Nov - 2015-Samarco signs a Preliminary Term of Commitment in MG”, 16 November 2015
Samarco, the Public Prosecution Service of the State of Minas Gerais and of the Federal Government, with regard to the State of Minas Gerais, signed on...November 16th a Preliminary Term of Commitment which provides for the allocation of R$ 1 billion to assure the funding of preventive, emergency, mitigation, remedial or compensatory measures, whether environmental or socioenvironmental, related to the accident which occurred with its Fundão and Santarém dams on November 5th, in the municipality of Mariana, Minas Gerais. The resources shall be applied under the oversight of the Public Prosecution Service. Within ten days, Samarco shall deposit 50% of this amount...The Company will submit, within 30 days, the guarantees for the remainder of the total amount. The Company will use these resources in the execution of preventive, emergency, mitigating, remedying or compensation measures, and the expenditures shall be audited by an independent audit company determined by the Public Prosecution Office.
Brazil: Samarco signs agreement to prevent and mitigate socioenvironmental abuses in Espirito Santo resulting from the burst of its dams
“REPORT 33 - 16/Nov – 2015-Samarco signs a preliminary Term in ES”, 16 november 2015
Samarco, the Public Prosecution Service of Espírito Santo, the Federal Public Prosecution Service and the Labor Prosecution Service have signed a preliminary Term of Socioenvironmental Commitment (TCSA)...to define actions and procedures to be undertaken in the municipalities of Baixo Guandu, Colatina, Linhares and Marilândia, to prevent and mitigate socioenvironmental impacts resulting from the rupture of the Fundão and Santarém dams in Mariana, Minas Gerais. This commitment includes measures to assure the supply of water to the impacted areas,...the Emergency Plan for Containment, Prevention and Mitigation of Environmental and Social Impacts, such as the immediate rescue of land and water fauna, in addition to the establishment of communication channels with the communities of the affected municipalities...Samarco representatives, with the total support of its shareholders VALE and BHP Billiton, have been in meetings with the authorities of the State of Espírito Santo with the objective of aligning and reporting the measures adopted by the Company to help with the supply of potable and mineral water to the municipalities along the Doce River...
Brazil: Shareholders in Samarco, Vale and BHP Billiton commit to help the company & affected people by their dams that burst causing deaths and destruction
Author: Vale and BHP Billiton
“Joint statement by Vale and BHP Billiton”, 11 November 2015
Together with Jimmy Wilson, BHP Billiton President Iron Ore and Peter Poppinga, Vale Executive Director, Ferrous Minerals, we spent this morning on site at the Samarco mine with CEO, Ricardo Vescovi De Aragão, and meeting with community leaders. Our immediate priority is to understand the full extent of the consequences of the tailings dam breach and how we can provide further help...We also met with the Samarco incident response teams and civil authorities who have worked tirelessly to evacuate the local community and search for missing people...[W]e offer our profound sympathies to the family, friends and loved ones of the people who died as a result of this tragic incident. We are deeply concerned for the welfare of the employees, contractors and members of the local community who are still missing...We cannot rebuild the lives of the families who have lost loved ones but we redouble our commitment to Samarco to support the response effort...[We]...pledge to support Samarco in creating an Emergency Fund for rebuilding works and to help the affected families and communities...[We]...also have health, safety, environment and geotechnical experts onsite supporting Samarco’s response...Investigations are continuing and Samarco will provide further updates...
Brazil: After collapse of Samarco dams, NGO says community had reported safety risks for years; company emergency plan required by prosecutor was never prepared
Author: Movement of People Affected by Dams/MAB-Movimento de Atingidos por Barragens (Brazil)
“Vale and BHP Billiton causes tragedy in Brazil-Negligence resulted in the disruption of two dams controlled by two global mining companies Vale and BHP Biliton in the region of Mariana, state of Minas Gerais”, 9 November 2015
…[On]…November 5th,…the dam of Fundão, owned by Samarco Mineração…broke up and released a sea of mud…[and]…The flood of mud reached another dam..., Santarém, which also broke…[. Bento Rodrigues, t]he district where 620 people lived…[was]…affected by the flood and had 90% of…[its]…homes…destroyed…The mud went down reaching more villages on the way…Authorities estimate…that 2000 people have be[en]…affected; it does not include all the municipalities that have its water supply…[and river]…contaminated,…and death of fish and other animals…There are controversial numbers regarding deaths and missing…According to the mining workers, the waste…[contains]…iron, heavy metals as mercurium and arsenic, which are highly toxic…[T]he president of Samarco said that the waste is inert and does not harm humans. The people affected…disagree…[:]...many have reported malaise, dizziness, headache, pain…The prosecutor of Minas Gerais has appointed five prosecutors to investigate the causes of the disaster and responsibility…The company is responsible for construction, maintenance and guarantee to operate safely. Therefore, any occurring is the mining's responsibility…[The mining companies]…refused to invest the minimum security necessary to prevent a catastrophe…In 2013 the State Prosecutor commissioned a study by experts who concluded that weaknesses in the dam could lead to its collapse. Therefore, the prosecution demanded Samarco..[to]…build…an emergency plan and alert. This was never done. Several people affected from Bento Rodrigues reported that for years the community had been making complaints about the insecurity of dams…For now, what can be seen is a delay to the care of those affected. There was no evacuation and contingency plan. The company was slow to take…people affected to hotels, what happened only after the Public Prosecutor's order to transfer the people…The Movement of People Affected by Dams…[is]…following the work of…authorities in the rescue and care of victims, and the organizational work of the affected families…