Into the Vale of Death and DestructionPublished by MAC on 2012-05-01
Source: Inter Press Service, statements
Thirty social movements from several countries have accused the world's second largest mining company of causing serious environmental and social damage.
Their damning report was released on 19th April at the 2012 annual general meeting of Vale in Brazil.
Trade unionists also joined other demonstrators, to protest against the companys' egregious gas emissions and its unacceptably high worker fatality rate.
The report is available for download at: http://amazonwatch.org/assets/files/2011-vale-unsustainability-report.pdf (Portuguese language).
EXTERNAL LINK: http://www.justicanostrilhos.org
Brazilian Mining Giant under Fire for Deaths, Environmental Damage
By Fabíola Ortiz
Inter Press Service (IPS)
24 April 2012
RIO DE JANEIRO - Social movements from several countries accused Brazil's Vale, the world's second largest mining company, of causing serious environmental and social damage, as well as the deaths of 15 workers in labour accidents between 2010 and 2012.
|Clouds of iron dust hang over Piquiá de Baixo. Source: IPS.|
The accusations are laid out in the ‘Report on Vale's Unsustainability - 2012', released April 18 in Rio de Janeiro by the International Network of People Affected by Vale, which brings together 30 social movements from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile and Mozambique, some of the countries where the company operates.
According to estimates by the social organisations, the Brazilian company, which was privatised in 1997, caused damage in 2010 on a total of 742 square kilometres.
The international network, a United Steelworkers partner organisation, points out that the company emitted 89 million tons of carbon dioxide - one of the main greenhouse gases - in 2010, and 6,600 tons of particulate matter (such as smoke, soot or dust) - 29 percent more than in 2009.
In addition, nitrogen oxide emissions totaled 110,000 tons in 2010, 30 percent up from the year before, while sulphur dioxide emissions amounted to 403,000 tons, 25 percent more than in 2009.
The statistics on emissions were included by Vale in its latest Sustainability Report, from 2010.
The executive director of the Brazilian NGO Global Justice, Andressa Caldas, told IPS that the report by the international network is a "shadow" document that follows the mould of Vale's Sustainability Reports.
"Vale has a huge impact, and has violated human rights not only in Brazil but in 37 other countries where it operates," Caldas said.
With regard to the international network's report, she particularly mentioned the information on how working conditions have declined for Vale's workers.
"There are cases, like in Canada, where Vale has radically changed relations between workers and the unions, which prompted the longest strikes in the history of Canada," Caldas said.
The strikes she was referring to lasted 11 months in 2009 and 2010 in Sudbury and Port Colborne in the east-central province of Ontario, and 18 months in Voisey's Bay in the eastern province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
"The global crisis was used to justify wage cuts, longer workdays, massive layoffs and cuts in benefits and other acquired rights," the report says.
In 2012, four workers died in Vale's operations in Canada.
On Jan. 30, the unit in Sudbury suspended activity in five mines after the death of two workers who were buried in an avalanche of wet rocks, gravel and sand which occurred because there was too much water in the muck in the tunnel where they were working.
Trade unionist Myles Sullivan said the investigation carried out by the United Steelworkers union concluded that Vale had ignored safety issues that caused the workers' deaths.
Sullivan said in Rio de Janeiro that "unfortunately four workers have died, two of them in the same accident." He added that the company was aware that safety conditions were inadequate and did nothing to correct the situation. "We are pressing the Canadian government to take legal action against Vale for these accidents," he said.
The report by the international network also underscores the violation of environmental laws in Rio de Janeiro, by ThyssenKrupp Companhia Siderúrgica do Atlântico (TKCSA), a joint venture between Vale and ThyssenKrupp Steel, Germany's biggest steel-maker.
The people who live in the area around the TKCSA steel mill have suffered a 600 percent increase in iron ore particles in the air, according to the Rio de Janeiro prosecution service, which had already accused the company and two of the members of its board of directors of environmental crimes.
Vale is a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact, the International Council on Mining and Metals ICMM), and the São Paulo Stock Exchange Corporate Sustainability Index (ISE), all of which establish corporate social and environmental responsibility principles.
But in January 2012 it was named the "Worst Company in the World" by the Public Eye Awards, which every year name and shame the companies that have shown the worst social or environmental irresponsibility.
Vale even beat out Japan's Tepco, the firm that operates the nuclear reactors in Fukushima, which melted down after the March 2011 tsunami.
The International Network of People Affected by Vale plans to send its report to international bodies like the ICMM and the Global Reporting Initiative, to urge them to pressure the company to modify its conduct.
Vale posted earnings of 21.7 billion dollars in 2010 and 22.2 billion dollars in 2011.
The company declined to comment to IPS about the allegations. Its press office issued a communiqué stating that it "respectfully receives all suggestions and complaints referring to its operations."
In its statement, the company also said it was aware that mining activity had an impact, and that it was working in association with communities and governments to find solutions that guarantee people's safety, as well as harmonious and healthy coexistence.
With respect to the deaths in Canada, Vale said it made a huge effort to avoid such incidents, adopting measures that put top priority on the health and safety of workers.
In its latest Sustainability Report, the company acknowledged 11 accident-related fatalities in 2010, and said it would reinforce its strategy aimed at reaching the target of zero deaths. (END)
Protestors Target Mining Giant Vale in Brazil
Activists attend Rio shareholder meeting, call out company's severe labor, human rights and environmental violations.
Amazon Watch, International Rivers, Justiça Global Press Release
20 April 2012
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - On Wednesday over 150 demonstrators from communities and workers affected by the operations of Brazilian multinational giant Vale staged a protest at its corporate headquarters in downtown Rio de Janeiro, coinciding with an annual shareholders meeting.
Using megaphones to denounce the social and environmental consequences of Vale's mining and hydropower projects from the Brazilian Amazon to Canada, protesters laid out a trail of red paint along the sidewalk at the building's entrance, symbolizing over 100 victims of accidents along Vale's Carajás Railway in Northern Brazil and other fatalities related to the company's notoriously unsafe working conditions.
Following protests and the shareholder meeting, social movements and NGOs linked to the International Network of People Affected by Vale launched an alternative 2011 "Unsustainability Report" at a press conference, presented as a "shadow document" to the company's official sustainability report.
Vale has grown to become one of the most powerful players in the global mining industry and has come under increasing scrutiny from an international network of human rights, labor and environmental activists. Last January, Vale won the Public Eye Award, known as the "Nobel Prize of Shame" in the corporate world, for the company's record of environmental destruction, social impacts, and labor violations, surpassing contenders such as Tepco, responsible for the nuclear disaster in Fukushima.
While a street demonstration ensued outside Vale's headquarters, six directors of civil society groups participated in the annual shareholders meeting, drawing attention to the gap between corporate discourse on social and environmental responsibility and violations of labor regulations, human rights and environmental legislation. Andressa Caldas, director of the NGO Global Justice, criticized the expropriation and compulsory displacement of over 1,300 families in Moatize, Mozambique as a result of Vale's mammoth Moma mining project, contrasting the company's actions to its discourse regarding so-called "promotion of community development."
Brent Millikan of International Rivers called for the immediate divestment of Vale's 9% stake in Norte Energia, the consortium responsible for the highly controversial Belo Monte hydroelectric dam in the Brazilian Amazon, due to the enormous economic, legal and reputational risks involved.
Danilo Chammas, a lawyer from Justiça nos Trilhos, a network of communities affected by Vale's Carajás mines in northern Brazil, called attention to the rising number of deaths and serious injuries related to mining and railroad operations in the region. Gerson Castellano, director of the Petrochemical Workers' Association in Paraná state, presented data on the growing number of work-related accidents and conflicts with unions and employee representatives. Also present at the shareholders meeting, Carolina Campos of the NGO 4 Cantos called on Vale to abandon plans to develop a huge mining project in Minas Gerais state, in one of the last pristine areas of Brazil's Atlantic Forest, Serra Gandarela, where a proposal to create a national park is under consideration by the federal government.
According to NGO participants in the shareholder meeting, there were signs that Vale is willing to establish a dialogue on social and environmental responsibility. However, many questions remained unanswered, such as the criteria used by Vale to justify its decision to purchase a major stake in Belo Monte. According to Caldas, the lack of robust analysis of social and environmental risk has led in involvement in boondoggles such as the TKCSA mining project in Rio de Janeiro.
In answer to questions about the project, Vale General Counsel Clovis Torres stated that Vale disagrees with the policies of TKSCA, have has no power over management, since it is a minority shareholder. When asked why Vale didn't simply divest, Torres claimed "nobody wants to buy our shares."
While maintaining the same basic structure as the Vale's official sustainability official report, that follows the guidelines of the Global Reporting Initiative of the UN Global Compact, the "Unsustainability Report" presents facts and figures regarding such issues as labor relations, occupational health, communities, emissions and waste management. Regarding environmental issues, the report highlights a significant increase in deforestation related to Vale's operations in the Amazon, as well as an increase in greenhouse gas emissions of 70% between 2007 and 2010; during the same period, 76 million tons of liquid effluents and 446,000 tons of solid waste were generated.
In relation to worker and public safety in Vale's mining operations, the report notes 11 deaths and 124 serious accidents along the Carajás Railroad. The report also argues that reductions in investments in worker safety were directly related to accidents that killed two Canadian workers last year at Vale's Sudbury mine.
For more information, contact:
Brent Millikan, +55 61 8153 7009
Christian Poirier, +1 (415) 487-9600
Andressa Caldas, +55 (21) 8187-0794
Steelworkers and Global Partners Call Out Vale Shareholders
USW Media release
18 April 2012
RIO DE JANEIRO - Steelworkers joined 300 labour, environmental and human rights activists today in Rio de Janeiro to disrupt the annual shareholders meeting of mining giant Vale.
Outside and inside the shareholders' meeting, Vale shareholders were presented with an unflattering portrait of the corporation's labour, social and environmental record in many regions of the world.
A ‘Report on Vale's Unsustainability - 2012' was delivered by People Affected by Vale, an international network and United Steelworkers partner organization. The report raises many disturbing issues that are not reflected in the glowing "sustainability report" produced annually by Vale.
"This shadow report shows why Vale was selected the worst company in the world," said Steelworkers staff representative Myles Sullivan, who was part of the USW delegation participating in the Rio de Janeiro demonstration.
Earlier this year, in a vote by more than 88,000 people around the world, Vale received the international Public Eye Award as the global corporation demonstrating the worst case of contempt for the environment and human rights.
On Wednesday a formal certificate was circulated to Vale shareholders in recognition of the Public Eye Award.
Inside the shareholders meeting, USW representative Carolyn Kazdin raised serious concerns related to Vale's Canadian mines, including the deaths of four workers in a seven-month.
Vale's executive officer for human relations Vania Somavilla responded that the company "humbly regretted" the deaths and committed to work with the USW to prevent accidents.
Vale and its managers refused to co-operate with the USW's investigation into the deaths of two miners last year in Sudbury, Ont.
"Labour, community and environmental organizations continue to denounce Vale's practices, in Brazil and around the world, that disregard workers, local communities and the environment," Kazdin said following the shareholders meeting.
While the shareholders' meeting unfolded, about 300 demonstrators protest outside - a significant increase from previous demonstrations, Sullivan noted.
"We call upon Vale to work with us around the world as a democratic and transparent company that respects worker and community rights," Kazdin said.
Wiping the Iron Dust Off Their Feet in Small Brazilian Town
Inter Press Service (IPS)
26 April 2012
The 380 families living in Piquiá de Baixo, a small town in the northeastern Brazilian state of Maranhão, are fed up with having to endure high levels of pollution from nearby steelworks in their water, air and soil.
The town takes its name from the piquiá tree, a species highly valued for its wood, which has become extinct in the area where five steel plants have been operating for the past 25 years, headed by Brazilian mining giant Vale.
At present some 500,000 tonnes of pig iron, an intermediate product in the process of steel refining, are produced annually in Piquiá de Baixo. Pig iron is produced in blast furnaces by smelting iron ore, using charcoal or coke as fuel and limestone as a purifying agent.
The steel industry in the municipality of Açailândia, where the town is located, depends on supplies from Vale's iron ore mines. The pig iron is transported to Atlantic ocean ports near São Luis, the state capital, 500 km away.
Local people in the small town, who live in modest dwellings with yards bordering on the grounds of the large steel plants, are suffering health problems from pollution.
As a result of the extremely poor quality of the air they breathe and the water they drink, more than 40 percent of the residents of Piquiá de Baixo suffer from respiratory illnesses, lung diseases and skin lesions, according to a study by the Reference Centre for Infectious and Parasitic Diseases at the Federal University of Maranhão.
The local population is demanding a transfer to a clean, safe place far away from the steel plants. The majority are farmers, who now can only work land over 200 km from their homes.
Similarly dire situations are occurring in many of Brazil's mining towns, and a number of them are also organising protests.
Edvard Dantas Cardeal, 68, is the president of the Piquiá de Baixo Residents' Association, whose members are affected by the smoke, soot and residues generated by the 70 smelting furnaces in the area.
"We are in danger, because we live next to five steel mills. In addition, Vale has a railway station just 300 metres from our homes, where every day hundreds of tonnes of iron ore are transported across our town, 24 hours a day," he told IPS.
The hazardous living conditions in Piquiá de Baixo are highlighted in the Relatório de Insustentabilidade da Vale 2012 (Report on Vale's Unsustainability, 2012), launched Apr. 18 in Rio de Janeiro by the International Network of People Affected by Vale, which includes 30 social movements in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile and Mozambique, some of the countries where the mining company operates.
Andressa Caldas, head of Justiça Global (Global Justice), an NGO working for human rights, told IPS that the situation in Açailândia is emblematic, because the community which has been settled there for over 50 years "is asking to be transferred due to the degree of environmental degradation and toxic pollution it is suffering."
Danilo Chammas, the lawyer for the Piquiá de Baixo residents, concurred. He pointed out that the town already existed when the steel plants arrived 25 years ago. Now, "coexistence has become impossible, as the local people are forced to breathe iron ore dust mixed with charcoal every day," he said.
"The families should have been relocated when the steelmaking complex was built; but a move is still the only alternative, and is urgently needed," he told IPS.
Chammas said the residents are demanding "a greater commitment by Vale to the local people; and the company should contribute resources toward the building of a new settlement far away from the pollution."
According to the Report on Vale's Unsustainability, the company "refuses to make reparations for the harm caused these people, or to cover the cost of their resettlement."
Cardeal also said his community's demand is a matter of utmost urgency, as they cannot stay there any longer, because of the serious risk of further deterioration in public health.
"We cannot stand it any longer; the steel mills pollute the river that flows through the town, and all we can do is ask God to get us out of this place," he said.
IPS was able to confirm that land a good distance from the steel mills was expropriated in July 2011 by the municipal government of Açailândia to relocate the affected families. The former owner of the land appealed the decision, but the issue was resolved in favour of the expropriation on Mar. 20 by a Maranhao court.
Cardeal and Chammas travelled to Rio de Janeiro in an attempt to meet with representatives of the Vale consortium, which was privatised in 1997.
"We came in the spirit of dialogue, to give Vale the opportunity to clean up its image, tarnished by its link with the pig iron industries, many of which promote slave and child labour," Chammas said.
Vale's press office declined to comment to IPS about the matter, although later it issued a communiqué in response to the Report on Vale's Unsustainability.
"Vale respectfully receives all suggestions and complaints referring to its operations. We are aware that mining activity has an impact, and therefore we work in association with communities and governments to find solutions that guarantee people's safety, as well as harmonious and healthy coexistence," the statement says.
Coal versus Communities in Mozambique: Exposing poor practices by VALE and Rio Tinto
2 February 2012
Mozambique has attracted two of the world's largest mining companies - Brazil's Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (Vale) and the Anglo-Australian multinational Rio Tinto - to extract coal from the huge fields in Tete province. These two projects - if properly taxed - would provide Mozambique with additional revenues to fund its budget and help the country to escape the aid trap. And they could benefit the people of the area.
However, the impact of both companies' investment on local communities remains problematic and there is no guarantee that these massive coal extraction projects are going to genuinely benefit the people of Mozambique.
This paper by Dr. Claude Kabemba and Camilo Nhancale for the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW), entitled Coal versus Communities in Mozambique: Exposing poor practices by VALE and Rio Tinto, details many of the problems associated with the massive new coal mines from lack of contractual transparency to preference for expatriate workers and foreign suppliers to the unjust resettlement programme, which sparked protests in early January.
Total lack of transparency and accountability
Vale reportedly paid US$123 million dollars for the mining rights but the money has never been registered with state agents. If this is correct, Vale's presence in Mozambique - far from benefiting citizens - is undermining revenue transparency and accountability.
Furthermore, it is not easy to assess what impact these mines will have on the Mozambican economy in general and mining communities in particular since there is not much publicly available information about the companies' activities. There is no access to development agreements, while contracts between the government and mining companies are confidential. So civil society groups and citizens do not know the contractual terms agreed to by their government and the two multinationals.
This refusal to make mining contracts public exposes the lack of transparency and accountability in Mozambique's extractive sector. We hear that the Mozambican government wants to renegotiate mining contracts but it is not clear when this will happen. And even if the government does decide to go ahead with renegotiation, civil society will not be in a position to contribute since the original contracts are inaccessible.
Vertical integration is undermining local entrepreneurship
The two investments have provided a new lease of life to Tete Province. There are new economic activities opening up and an influx of people descending on the town. But beneficial links between the extractive companies and local communities do not really exist.
Firstly, only foreign companies are benefiting from the procurement of services and goods. The involvement of local entrepreneurs is non-existent. Most companies involved in providing services to these big projects come from Brazil and South Africa. According to Mozambican civil society, everything that the two companies use is imported - from food to construction materials. If this is correct, it contradicts Vale's PR spin that it is seeking to stimulate and develop local suppliers of products and services for Moatize. However, Vale is said to be carrying out a survey of small- and medium-sized companies in the Moatize district and the wider Tete province in an attempt to identify potential local partners and then capacitate them.
And secondly, civil society organisations in the capital, Maputo, and Tete Province are concerned that the few Mozambicans who do possess the necessary expertise are still not being considered for employment with these two companies, which prefer to employ expatriates.
Poor corporate social responsibility - Community complaints about the resettlement programme
These investments have also disrupted the way of life of many local communities through resettlement and by impacting on people's livelihoods and access to natural resources (land, water and flora). These issues have not been properly handled and pose a serious threat to the long term image of the two projects.
A Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW) research team visited three communities resettled by Vale and Rio Tinto - Mualadzi, a Rio Tinto resettlement compound located about 40km from the original Capanga village; Cateme village, a Vale resettlement compound with 720 families from the villages of Chipanga, Mitete, Malabue-Gombe and Bagamoyo; and 25 de Setembro, another Vale resettlement compound housing people from the same four villages. Vale deliberately divided the communities in two with employed villagers moving to 25 de Setembro since it is closer to Moatize and the mine. The unemployed were sent to Cateme, 40 km from the town.
Vale has also used the resettlement process to divide communities into those with formal and those with no formal work. The impression that this model gives is that uneducated and unemployed members of a community can be dumped anywhere. It also suggests that these people or their children will never need to be able to access formal work. The 25 de Setembro compound is a vivid and ongoing example of discrimination and the unjust, unfair and deeply problematic resettlement programme undertaken by Vale.
The SARW research team also visited the original Capanga village, where a queen and some members of her community are refusing to be moved to Mualadzi, where Rio Tinto is building houses. The queen said that there was so much pressure being exerted on them to move and join the 40 families that have already been resettled but she does not want her people to be moved in small groups. She wants the entire community to be moved together - but only after all the construction work has been completed and basic services such as water and electricity are in place. Resettlement should be based on mutual agreement and consultation. But clearly the community's desire for collective relocation has been ignored by the company.
Communities fear that if they continue to be relocated in small groups before all the construction work is done, their legitimate demands will never be met. As they have learned from the people who have already been resettled in Cateme and Mualadzi, the companies are reluctant to complete projects once communities have been relocated. Rio Tinto moved people to Mualadzi before it had finished building key infrastructure such as school and clinics - and they have still not been built. So children and sick people from Mualadzi have to walk 5km to the Vale resettlement compound of Cateme, where Vale has built schools (primary and secondary) and a clinic. There is also no water in Mualadzi so the community has to rely on a water truck, which distributes water twice a week. However, sometimes the truck does not come. While everyone suffers from this, the community's cattle are particularly affected due to the harsh conditions created by the lack of water.
It is worth noting that the houses built in Mualadzi by Riversdale (Rio Tinto) are much better than those built in Cateme and 25 de Setembro by Vale. Indeed both companies are investing large amounts in building houses for each displaced family. And the new houses are far better than those left behind. But this is where the good news ends.
Community members believe that the resettlement has been a scam. Vale has been accused of downgrading the quality of the houses by not sticking to the model house design that was negotiated with the government and shown to communities. The quality of the houses is also not what was promised. After just few months of occupation many houses are already cracking. Vale also promised to build a water system but this has not happened even though certain communities have already moved into their new houses. The communities also claim that many other pledges - such as paved roads, running water, ambulances, land for farming and employment - have not been fulfilled. Only the community's anger forced Vale to correct certain things.
Meanwhile, the areas are far away from town with very poor access to the main road. In fact, the inhabitants need to walk 10-15km to reach the dusty and badly-maintained, main road before catching a vehicle to town. It is also difficult for relocated families to make a living, especially in relation to the provision of services and the financing of small-scale economic projects. Without a carefully-designed approach to stimulate investment, productive economic projects and employment, it is clear that these remote communities are expected to languish in poverty.
But most importantly, the majority of the people who are being relocated to Cateme and Mualadzi are subsistence farmers. But there is insufficient land, even though it is the main guarantor of sustainability after relocation. The land which was allocated by the two companies may be sufficient for housing but it is not enough for the housing and farming needs of the communities. Each resettled family has - or should have - received land for farming, But some families have not received their promised piece of land, while the communities complain that the promised one hectare of land is not enough for effective farming, especially as it is not particularly fertile or productive land.
Furthermore, their new land has its own owners - local people who enjoy the right to use and exploit the land according to Mozambican Land Law. Whatever the two companies might think, there is no such a thing as empty, unused land in this part of Mozambique. There is already open conflict over the land between the newcomers and the original owners of the land. Needless to say, relocated families are finding it difficult to access enough fertile land to cultivate. They have been left poorer than before they were relocated. Indeed, it is unclear how they will cope.
What is clear is that the companies did not seriously consider the question of productive land in the relocated settlements, forgetting that it is imperative for the communities to continue with their agricultural activities. Indeed, access to fertile land might the biggest single challenge facing these communities.
Lack of consultation
The two companies have also been accused by the communities of failing to consult them. While Vale and Rio Tinto both claim to have consulted widely, the communities have denied that any serious consultations ever took place. The communities say that government has been doing most of the talking on behalf of the mining companies. According to the communities, the first time they heard that they were about to be resettled was when government officials came to inform them about their imminent move. As one community member put it, "There was no consultation and no agreement on the aspects of the relocation."
According to community members resettled by Vale, although a discussion on housing did take place, "it took the form of the company informing us rather than asking our views. In fact, the construction of houses started before we were even informed."
Indeed, communities have no written agreements or minutes of discussions with the companies or the government. Any consultations that did take place were oral and nothing was written down. This makes it difficult for communities to register disputes if - or when - the companies depart from the initial agreement.
In addition, there has never been a discussion on the social, economic and cultural impact of the relocation on communities. The communities claim that government always tells them that mining activities will bring development and employment for them. But one member of the community questioned the wisdom of the government when she asked "we have been moved so far from the mines, how are we going to benefit from any employment?"
Local communities are always excited when they see mining starting in their areas because they expect to be employed by the mining company. But the two companies have moved people far away - up to 40km - from the mine depriving them of any job opportunities. This kind of resettlement is intended to ensure that the communities cannot exercise their right to lay claim to some of the benefits of the mining that is taking place on their land, such as employment and other social benefits.
This is a fundamental problem with the resettlement approach used by the two companies. By moving communities - the real owners of the land - far away, the companies are undermining the legitimate claims these communities have over the land, resources and the right to participate in the benefits of mining. The investment that the companies are pouring into the resettlement areas should be regarded as a one-off. After the resettlement programme is completed, companies will turn their back on these communities.
However, the relocation of these communities will not only leave them impoverished economically. Given the manner in which the relocation was carried out, the resettlement will also undermine structures of authority and respect, and destroy the social fabric of the communities.
Government must share the blame
The problem in Mozambique is not only with mining companies. The problem is with government.
The central government controls all mining activities rather than decentralising oversight to provincial and local levels. Central government is resisting decentralisation because it believes that there is no capacity at local level and also out of fear that it will lose control over the provinces if they become financially self-sufficient. Government also lacks a clear plan for resource management from exploration to extraction to commercialisation.
For example, it is still not clear which strategy the government will adopt to move the coal from Tete - whether it will use the road to Beira and rail to Nacala or the Zambezi River. Although Vale has used the railway to transport coal from its mine to the port of Beira, experts believe that the railway is not in a good enough condition to support the heavy load. Meanwhile, if the Zambezi River is used, the potential for environmental disaster cannot be ruled out.
Indeed, the exploitation of coal poses serious environmental problems. It needs a decisive government that carefully monitors and evaluates the activities of the companies. The Mozambican government has not been decisive enough so far to enforce proper environmental standards on these companies.
In addition, big projects like these often experience serious labour problems, especially when the government - as in this case - does not enforce labour standards. According to civil society in Maputo, there is a strike every month in Vale although the media does not report it. This raises serious questions about the nature of the media in Mozambique, which either does not have capacity to cover this critical sector or has decided to side with the company considering its greater resources and influence.
Necessity to capacitate civil society
Civil society in Mozambique is very young with limited knowledge and technical capacity. It is also not properly organised to monitor the extractive industries, which have such a critical role to play in Mozambique's development. It is for this reason that SARW is training civil society in Mozambique to monitor and report on the extractive industries. SARW also intends to work with communities to help them to engage more effectively with the companies and the government on key issues.
The two companies claim that they applied the World Bank's guidelines on involuntary resettlement. However, it seems as though the companies took a few short cuts along the way. And in any case, the World Bank guidelines should be regarded as the minimum requirements - not best practices that can be replicated in every situation. SARW believes that these guidelines are neither sufficient nor just for African communities. This is why SARW is calling for mining companies to engage in an honest consultation with local communities to reach a common ground and agree on practices that may well be markedly different - and more pro-community - than the World Bank guidelines.