MAC: Mines and Communities

How much are human rights worth in Brazil's mining industry?

Published by MAC on 2011-05-30
Source: Statement (2011-05-18)

International Federation demands Vale halt its pollution

The International Federation for Human Rights (Justiça Global and Justiça nos Trilhos) has published a Human Rights Impact Assessment Report which cites the voices of communities impacted by the world's largest mining company, Vale of Brazil.

The organisation calls on the company and its business partners in the steel industry, to stop the environmental pollution of communities in the State of Maranhão, Brazil.

Report summary in English - (PDF - 443 kb)

ESPAÑOL

How much are human rights worth in the Brazilian mining and steel industry?

FIDH Press Release

18 May 2011

The International Federation for Human Rights, Justiça Global and Justiça nos Trilhos, has published a Human Rights Impact Assessment Report recounting affected communities' voices and calling on the world's largest mining company  Vale (according to Forbes' latest ranking) and its business partners in the steel industry, to stop environmental pollution of communities in the State of Maranhão, Brazil.

How much are human rights worth in the Brazilian mining and steel industry?

For over 26 years now , the communities of Piquía de Baixo and the California settlement in Açailândia, in the Brazilian State of Maranhão, have been suffering from pollution generated by the pig iron and coal-burning industries operating in their backyard. Community members report numerous health problems, including serious respiratory and eye-sight problems.

In addition to the pig iron and coal-burning companies directly causing harm in the cases investigated, the former State-owned company, Vale, acts as a crucial player in the process. The main protagonist of the Grande Carajas project (set up when Vale was still a public company), Vale extracts iron in Carajas, transports it over hundreds of kilometers via the Carajas railway to the State of Maranhão, and sells part of it to the pig iron companies, prior to subsequently transporting the transformed iron for export.

The report analyses the impacts of the steel and mining industry on the communities' health and environment, shedding light on another side of development projects. Indeed, while many inhabitants moved to the area a few years back in the hope of a better life, they are now disanchanted, as they suffer daily from the surrounding pollution. In addition, the report's findings highlight difficulties in accessing information regarding environmental impact assessments, obtaining reparation before the courts as well as the moral and judicial harassment faced by human rights defenders denouncing negative human rights impacts linked to Vale's activities.

A week before Mr. Murilo Ferreira takes on his new functions as Vale's CEO, the authors of the report are calling on Vale and its business partners to provide immediate reparation for affected communities, including resettlement where needed. The report includes a number of recommendations to business entreprises as well as to governemental authorities, investors and buyers with a view to preventing any future abuses, as talks on the expansion of the  Carajas railway (involving more than 5 billion dollars investments) are moving forward.

On the occasion of an international advocacy mission, organised in Brazil between May 16 and May 23, FIDH, Justiça Global and Justiça nos Trilhos, along with representatives of affected communities, will present the report and discuss its recommendations with the authorities and industry representatives.

While the responsibility of corporations to respect human rights is now recognised at the international level, FIDH, Justiça Global and Justiça nos Trilhos urge all concerned actors to take concrete and immediate steps to guarantee full enjoyment of human rights by communities affected by this industry.

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