MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Tailings - a global "ticking time bomb"!

Published by MAC on 2020-01-29
Source: Earthworks

For previous similar statement, please go to: MWC makes tailings call 

Communities & Civil Society Call for Action to Prevent More Mine Waste
Disasters on First Anniversary of Deadly Brazilian Spill

Earthworks & MiningWatch Canada press release

23 January 2020

Washington, DC -- Communities and civil society groups are marking the
first anniversary of one of the world’s deadliest mine waste disasters
by highlighting the dangerous practices of the mining industry, and
calling for stricter oversight.

On January 25th, 2019, the Córrego do Feijão iron mine tailings dam in
Brazil collapsed, killing 270 people, obliterating the community of
Brumadinho, and inundating the Paraopeba River watershed with 12 million
cubic meters of mining waste. The mine is owned by Vale, the third
largest mining company in the world, and a member of the mining industry
trade association, the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM).

Sadly, this was not an isolated event. The World Mine Tailings Failures
Database documents the increasing number and severity of tailings dam
disasters since 1915. Brumadinho was the third major collapse since
2014, including the catastrophic Samarco failure in Brazil, also owned
by Vale.

Maria Teresa Corujo, an activist from the mineral rich Minas Gerais
region of Brazil and member of the #JaneiroMarrom (#BrownJanuary)
campaign said, “We in Minas Gerais are facing hundreds of ticking ‘time
bombs,’ the tailings dams that are not being properly dealt with by
those who have the power and responsibility to do so. The ‘solutions’
we’ve been given are unacceptable, such as training thousands of people
to ‘self-rescue’ while mining companies continue to operate unsafe waste
dams and expand their operations."

Seven Vale executives and six safety auditors have been charged with
covering up reports the Brumadinho structure was unsafe. This week,
Brazilian prosecutors filed homicide charges against the former CEO of
Vale and 15 other employees and auditors.

“In Brazil, society is still waiting for a proper response from
regulatory agencies and Congress to increase accountability for mining
companies. Social movements demand that the government fix legal
loopholes, such as the lack of financial assurance for compensation and
reclamation, and allowing mining companies to choose their own auditing
firms”, said Bruno Milanez, Associate Professor at Juiz de Fora Federal
University (Minas Gerais), and member of the National Committee in
Defense of Territories Against Mining in Brazil.

Industry and government have failed to take meaningful steps to prevent
tailings disasters. In April 2019, investors controlling $10 trillion
demanded that global mining companies disclose their tailings dam
failure risks – the first time investors have demanded accountability of
the mining industry on this scale. Investor intervention led to the
creation of the Global Tailings Review, co-convened by the United
Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Principles for Responsible
Investment (PRI) and ICMM. Several civil society organizations have been
critical of its limited scope and the recommendations presented in the
draft standard.

“We’ve learned from Mount Polley, Brumadinho, and the many tailings
disasters before them to know that tinkering on the margins isn’t going
to prevent future catastrophes,” said Payal Sampat, Earthworks’ Mining
Program Director. “Safety must be the primary priority for mining
operations around the world, and the rules for safer mining cannot be
written or self-policed by mining companies.”

“If we’ve learned anything from this tragedy, it’s that there must be
rigorous technical standards, enforced by an independent global body.
The Global Tailings Review must lead to the establishment of such a
body, and it must require top-level corporate accountability for
disasters, whistleblower protections, independent oversight and safer
practices such as dry storage of mine waste and a ban on upstream dams,”
said Jamie Kneen of MiningWatch Canada.

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CONTACT: Alan Septoff, +1.202.271.2355, aseptoff@earthworks.org

***
Earthworks is dedicated to protecting communities and the environment
from the adverse impacts of mineral and energy development while seeking
sustainable solutions.

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