MAC: Mines and Communities

IUCN, Renova Foundation and Brazil's mining catastrophe

Published by MAC on 2017-04-12
Source: IUCN, BHP Billiton, Reuters, others

Social organizations launch Public Notice of Repudiation to Vale and BHP Billiton

In 2016, Samarco reached an agreement with the Federal government according to which Samarco/Vale/BHP Billiton would create the Renova Foundation, to be designated responsible for the Mariana mining disaster remediation and compensation initiatives.

This is Renova´s website, and Here is an English version of this first agreement. Many organisations were against it. There were some initiatives to try to stop it, but federal government did not pay attention. (1) In turn, the agreement was not ratified by the courts, because it did not leave any space for public participation.

In order to "solve" the issue, a second agreement was signed between the companies and the Federal Public Prosecutor' Office (Ministério Público Federal, MPF). In this new agreement, the "solution" was choosing three different “independent” consulting companies to monitor the programmes developed by Renova. Unfortunately, the MPF was not as critical as some expected and did not question the fact that all the power was being given to the Renova Foundation. The choice was consensual between the MPF and the companies.

- Evaluation of socioenvironmental impacts - Lactec

- Evaluation of socioeconomic impacts and support to impacted people - Integratio

- Monitoring of Renova programmes - Ramboll

Here is a note from BHP on the issue, and here the Agreement in Portuguese.

Social organizations questioned the fact that Integratio and Lactec had previous contracts with Samarco and Vale. Then, the prosecutor responsible for monitoring the socioeconomic issues considered the claims, decided to change this part of the agreement. He said he would not hire Integratio, and created a Working Group (involving social movements and some research groups who were closer to the impacted people) to develop principles that would guide the MPF in hiring someone to substitute Integratio.

Three weeks later, Samarco denounced this Working Group arguing that it was only consultative and its recommendations were non-binding. In fact, the scope of the working group was very limited: it was only debating principles to define how to hire an organisation to monitor part of the first agreement.

See also on MAC:

2016-07-22 Back to tragedy: more news of the BHP Billiton/Vale tailings dam collapse in Brazil

2016-03-20 Brazil: Civil Society Repudiates Samarco Deal

2015-11-21 Samarco disaster: are we hearing the peoples' voices?

(1) See: Considerações sobre o Termo de Transação e de Ajustamento de Conduta firmado entre Governo Federal, Governo do Estado de Minas Gerais, Governo do Estado do Espírito Santo, Samarco Mineração S.A., Vale S. A. e BHP Billiton Brasil LTDA, Poemas, april 2016.

Hit by the Samarco dam, social movements and international organizations launch a Public Notice of repudiation of Samarco / Vale / BHP-Billiton

Researchers, entities and affected by the dismantling of the tailings dam in Mariana, MG, Brazil, repudiate treatment given to victims by SAMARCO / VALE / BHP-BILLITON.

April 4, 2017

On April 04, 2017, a letter of 371 signatures was handed out to the Federal Public Prosecutor's Office, including 85 people affected, 120 national organizations, 22 international organizations and more than 150 supporters (national and foreign professors, doctors and researchers). To express its repudiation of Samarco / Vale / BHP's attempts to take full control of the reparation of the damages caused by Brazil's greatest socio-environmental catastrophe.

The signatories fear that the companies responsible for the disaster will try to reduce the costs of repairs due, further damaging those who have lost relatives, housing, plantations, animals, sources of livelihood, and livelihoods. For this reason, they claim that the proposals made by the Working Group that advised the Public Prosecutor's Office in the preparation of the Term of Reference for the Socioeconomic Axis of Reparations are incorporated by the Task Force and guaranteed by the court.

Companies Samarco, Vale and BHP challenge this initiative and the validity of the Working Group, as well as the efforts to establish a transparent and truly participatory process on the decisions on damage assessment. As a result, the following note follows:

BHP BILLITON, VALE AND SAMARCO act to prevent just reparation of damages caused by the Rio Doce criminal disaster, Brazil

The control of the rests on the reparations process places the Brazilian State in Sheikh

On 05/11/2015, the Fundão dam owned by mining company Samarco (Vale and BHP Billiton) broke down by dumping about 50 million cubic meters of mineral waste on the Rio Doce, causing one of the biggest environmental disasters of mining in Worldwide. Almost 17 months later, the tragedy is aggravated by the stance of companies that boycott the construction of participatory instruments to repair the damage caused by the disaster.

On 03/16/2017, a preliminary agreement (Preliminary Adjustment Agreement) between Public Prosecution and the companies responsible was partially approved in court, sealing the negotiations for a socio-environmental diagnosis on the effects of the disaster. However, there was no agreement on the organizations that would make this diagnosis, as well as the assistance to those affected. Entities and social movements have contested the appointment of INTEGRATIO Social Mediation and Sustainability for such important actions with the communities. The company provides regular consultancies to the companies causing the disaster, being economically linked to them. Aiming at the construction of participatory diagnoses, guided by the autonomy and independence of the technical staff in relation to companies,

Companies Samarco, Vale and BHP challenge this initiative and the validity of the Working Group, as well as the efforts to establish a transparent and truly participatory process on the decisions on damage assessment. By means of a letter issued on 03/31/2017, the companies emphasize that "the participation of entities from the third sector and the WG [...] should be merely orientative", thus seeking to disempower and delegitimize this instrument created by the MP, therefore , The organ itself. In addition, the rés companies understand the need for autonomy, trust and credibility of the experts with the victims as a "clear economic bias", because it prevents the hiring of consultancies related to them.

In this way, Samarco, Vale and BHP act in such a way as to limit not only the participation of those affected in the construction of decisions that have as their object their own lives, but defend a supposedly "technical" conduct of the whole process under their control, Social control carried out by the victims themselves and by civil society. This is the most absurd inversion of roles in which the rests dictate the rules, seeking the maximum reduction of the costs of reparations and the way in which they wish to be treated by the Brazilian State! We strongly reject this restrictive stance of the companies and denounce their attempt to monopolize the conditions for the definition of reparations and the conditions for assessing damages. It is evident the resentment of the rés in the recognition of the fundamental rights of the people affected, among them, The right to information and participation in decision-making processes, placing in check the integral, full and just compensation of victims. It is unacceptable for the Brazilian State to place itself as a hostage to the restive companies, thus agreeing to the continuation of serious violations of human rights and the Brazilian Constitution in Mariana and the entire extension of the Rio Doce Basin.

For the construction of reparative processes for the victims without any interference from the companies who are victims of the criminal disaster in the Rio Doce Basin, Brazil!

New independent scientific panel to advise on Rio Doce recovery

4 April 2017

In an effort to support the recovery of the Rio Doce Basin and the affected communities following the failure of the Fundao Dam in 2015, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) will establish an Independent Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (ISTAP).

IUCN is one of the world’s leading scientific and conservation organisations. It has significant experience in forming and managing technical panels that provide objective, independent advice on major social and environmental challenges. The ISTAP in Brazil will advise the Renova Foundation, the organisation formed by Samarco and its shareholders BHP Billiton Brasil and Vale, to manage the remediation and compensation programs to address impacts from the dam failure.

The ISTAP will be committed to independence, transparency, accountability, and engagement. It will include a wide range of Brazilian and international specialists, including experts in ecosystem impacts; terrestrial, riverine and coastal remediation; water and waste management; and sustainable economic practices.

The ISTAP’s advice will help the Renova Foundation develop and implement an integrated, outcomes-based strategy that deploys resources to secure the best possible social and environmental outcomes.

The creation of the ISTAP is intended to help build stakeholder confidence in the Renova Foundation’s scientific assessment and management responses. Information will be based on scientific evidence and the Panel’s reports and recommendations will be publically available. Engagement with interested and affected stakeholders will be integral to the ISTAP process.

IUCN is currently seeking input on the development and detailed design of the ISTAP from relevant stakeholders, including representatives from the local communities, NGOs, government and academia in Brazil and elsewhere. Nominations for the panel’s chair have now been opened and the ISTAP is expected to start its work in mid-2017.

Rio Doce Panel

IUCN is working with partners to establish an Independent Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel that will provide advice on the environmental and social restoration underway in the Rio Doce watershed in Brazil.

April, 2017

In November 2015, the failure of the Fundão tailings dam at the Samarco mine in the State of Minas Gerais, Brazil resulted in severe environmental, economic and social damage, as well as 19 deaths. The tailings spill ran approximately 650 km, from the mine, through the Doce River to eventually reach the Atlantic Ocean.

Since then, Samarco, which is jointly owned (each with 50% interest) by BHP Billiton and Vale, has focused on responding to the needs of the affected communities, repairing and maintaining the existing dams, assessing the environmental and socio-economic impacts from the accident and initiating substantial remediation and compensation programs. Last year, the companies created the Renova Foundation to implement this work.

In 2016, IUCN was asked by the Renova Foundation to consider creating an Independent Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (ISTAP) that could provide technical guidance for the major restoration underway in the Rio Doce watershed. IUCN is currently designing the ISTAP and expects to formally launch the panel in 2017.

IUCN is now seeking input on the development and design of the ISTAP from relevant stakeholders, including representatives from the local communities, NGOs, government and academia in Brazil and elsewhere. IUCN will also identify the specific scientific expertise required by the Panel members, including a Panel Chair, and assist with the selection for the Panel or similar.

BHP Billiton moves to terminate homicide indictments

Matthew Stevens

BHP Billiton has aggressively opened the formal legal defence of the eight present and former executives and managers charged with qualified homicide in the wake of the Samarco tailings dam disaster.

Apr 2 2017

BHP Billiton has aggressively opened the formal legal defence of the eight present and former executives and managers charged with qualified homicide in the wake of the Samarco tailings dam disaster.

On March 8, BHP's Brazilian lawyers started a process aimed at early dismissal of the most severe of the charges levelled in the wake of an accident that killed 19 people, by filing a petition of Habeas Corpus with the Federal Court of Appeals.

The petition effectively demands the presentation of, and judicial reflection on, the evidence that justified the criminal charges laid by Brazilian prosecutors against BHP people, who include citizens of Brazil, Australia and the United States.

The petition, which is a tactic frequently employed in the Brazilian courts, was lodged in the name of one of the three Brazilian employees of BHP who were charged by prosecutors in October last year.

Success in this one case would most likely conclude the prosecution of the other seven, and potentially close the door on similar indictments issued against executives at Samarco and the iron ore operator's other shareholder, Vale.

The application to trigger early dismissal of all of the qualified homicide claims was lodged just four days after BHP lodged defences against all the criminal charges that range from homicide to causing bodily harm and various forms of environmental damage.

The dismissal petition is said to reflect BHP's firm legal view that the indictments presented last October lack any facts that would be sufficient to sustain a murder charge. And, even if there is any level of evidence that sustains the claims, there is still nothing that has been presented that speaks to any level of intent to cause loss of life.

It has been BHP's firm proposition from the beginning that it would be effectively impossible to prove any level of intent in either the operational or individual conduct of Samarco or its management.

Through the evolution of the defence case, each of the BHP Eight have employed their own legal representation, with a host of Brazil's leading specialist criminal law firms now employed on both the individual and company campaigns.

To reduce the risk of disconcert between those necessarily individual defence teams, BHP has directed further external and internal legal expertise at the task of ensuring every one is working from essentially the same legal page.

For the record, the BHP Eight include three former executives – Marcus Randolph, Jimmy Wilson and Jeffrey Zweig – and five current employees – Tony Ottoviano, Margaret Beck, Sergio Fernandes, Andre Cardoso and Guilherme Ferreira.

The day-to-day of BHP's strategic and tactical responses is being run by head of legal Caroline Cox, who is said to be spending more than half her working weeks, months and years working in either the US or Brazil. She, in turn, has borrowed South American legal expertise from BHP's regional HQ in the Chilean capital of Santiago.

Overseeing all progress is Geoff Healy, who joined BHP from Herbert Smith Freehills in 2013. Healy, who is regarded as one of Australia's most expert litigators, arrived as chief legal counsel and has since been charged with all of the Global Australian's external affairs. 

Healy is said to be "incredibly focused" on bringing an early halt to the criminal cases against individuals and on shaping the entire legal response to the deadly calamity.

It was Healy who most openly illuminated the anger felt right around the Global Australian's world at the decision by Brazil's Federal Prosecutors Office to initiate the homicide charges on the eve of the first anniversary of a disaster triggered by the collapse of two of Samarco's three tailings dams. The tidal wave of water and waste released from the dams killed 19 people and washed away communities up and down a 600-kilometre stretch of the Rio Doce river system.

Brazil court suspends lawsuit over Samarco mine disaster: Vale

Mar 16, 2017

Brazilian iron ore miner Vale SA said on Thursday that a federal court in Minas Gerais has suspended a case brought by prosecutors seeking 155 billion reais ($49.7 billion) in damages for the 2015 Samarco mine disaster.

Vale said in a securities filing the court suspended other lawsuits to facilitate negotiation of a final deal on damages resulting from the collapse of a tailings dam at the mine - a joint venture between Vale and the world's largest mining company, BHP Billiton Ltd.

Vale said the court's decisions were aimed at unifying the lawsuits to avoid contradictions and help the parts reach a settlement.

"This is an important decision that recognizes the complexity of the case and the importance of a solution reached by consensus as the effective way of adopting the necessary step to remediate all the impacts of the dam burst," Vale said.

The government, which brought the lawsuit, was not immediately available for comment after business hours but in the past has indicated its main concern was reaching a settlement and safely restarting the mine.

The collapse killed 19 people and caused Brazil's worst ever environmental disaster when mud and waste destroyed a village and polluted the Rio Doce in two states.

Vale said the court approved the contracting within 60 days of companies to diagnose the environmental and social situation and evaluate the recovery programs agreed to in March 2016.

Vale CEO Murilo Ferreira recently said he expected Samarco to resume operations in the third quarter of this year. The resumption is considered vital for Samarco to meet its financial and reparation commitments.

BHP, Vale and Samarco agreed in January with Brazilian prosecutors on a June 30 deadline to settle billions of dollars in compensation claims stemming from the disaster.

The aim is to consolidate and settle separate claims, the biggest of which is the civil claim brought by federal prosecutors last year and suspended by the court on Thursday.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Lisa Shumaker)

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