MAC: Mines and Communities

Call to 1st International Meeting for Those Affected by Vale

Published by MAC on 2010-01-25
Source: Campanha Justiça nos Trilhos

Social, environmental and labour movements and organizations in Brazil call on the social, environmental and labour movements in Canada, Chile, Argentina, Guatemala, Peru, Mozambique, Australia, Norway, New Caledonia, South Africa and Indonesia to the 1st Meeting of People, Communities and Workers affected by the aggressive and predatory activities of the company, Vale, from 12th to 15th of April 2010 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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We who are active in the social, environmental and labour movements and organizations in Brazil call on the social, environmental and labour movements in Canada, Chile, Argentina, Guatemala, Peru, Mozambique, Australia, Norway, New Caledonia, South Africa and Indonesia to join us in the 1st Meeting of People, Communities and Workers affected by the aggressive and predatory activities of the company, Vale, from 12th to 15th of April 2010 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Vale, a company which owns almost all of the iron in the sub-soil of Brazil, is today a transnational operating on five continents.  It is the l4th largest company in the world in market value, exploiting natural resources, water resources and land, and creating precarious working conditions for people throughout the world.  It was a state company until 1997 when it was privatized in a fraudulent manner by the Fernando Henrique Cardoso government. It was sold for a much under-estimated value of R$ 3.14 billion U.S. dollars. Since then it has generated profits of 49 billion U.S. dollars and distributed 13 billion U.S. dollars to its shareholders.  These profits are gained at the cost of massive exploitation of natural resources, waters and land and creating precarious conditions of work for the Vale labour force in all the countries where it operates.

Vale’s publicity machine reminds us daily that Vale is Brazilian, that it works with “passion” to promote “sustainable development” in Brazil and to guarantee a future for our children.  Its publicity campaigns use images of prestigious Brazilians and famous artists.  In 2008, Vale spent R$ 178.8 million (Brazilian Reais) in PR (Ibope Monitor).   These fine images hide the less palatable face of the company, constructing in the mind of the common Brazilian the image of Vale as patriotic and paternal.  This is not how those who live in the territories where Vale has its operations think of it, whether in Brazil or in the other countries where the company has a presence.  The workers and communities affected by Vale, however, have neither the power nor the money that Vale has to get space in Brazilian and international media where they can publicize their opinions and give their reports about the impact of Vale on their lives.

Mining exploration and others activities in the steel chain have had serious impacts on the environment and on people’s lives.  The pollution of water by chemical products, the direct intervention causing damages to aquifers, the production of enormous quantities of tailings in their mining activities (657 million tons per year), the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the rechannelling of rivers that used to serve whole communities for company use only, widespread deforestation, the destruction of natural monuments, mining in areas important for public water supply, lowering of the water table, the association of Vale with industrial and energy projects that have contributed to the destruction of the Brazilian Amazon and Cerrado regions, the elimination of train service in Minas Gerais, the accidents and fatalities in the mines themselves and involving company trains, whose victims and families are given no compensation by the company – all of these things that Vale PR says nothing about, are the strongest marks of Vale in the territories where it is active.  The wanton extraction of natural resources, the destruction of the cultural patrimony of the country and the damages caused to the environment are, in some cases, irreparable and cause permanent damage to life.

Visible damages notwithstanding, Vale continues with its activities, many of them linked to very lucrative investments and partnerships.  In Rio de Janeiro for example, Vale’s association with Thyssen Krupp through TKCSA, will result in a 12-fold increase in carbon dioxide emissions in the city of Rio (O Globo, Nov/2009).  In addition, Vale is one of the companies that consumes the largest quantities of energy yet pays almost nothing for it.  The company pays less than R$ 5 (Brazilian Reais) per 100 kilowatt hours, while the general public and the small and medium sized retailers and industries pay more than R$ 45 for the same amount.

Vale’s workers suffer from the company’s ability to lay them off without due cause. Many workers, faced with no measures in place for job security and other pressures of a diverse nature, resort to suicide.  Two out of every hundred workers were laid off because of workplace accidents in 2008 and there were nine fatalities.  The city of Itabira in Minas Gerais state where Vale began its operations has the highest index of suicides in Brazil.  Vale also has many contract workers, a strategy that allows the company to avoid long-term responsibility for its workers and creates precarious terms of employment.  Vale has 146,000 workers of whom 83,000 are contractors rather than permanent employees.

Vale has used the global economic crisis to pressure its workers throughout the world, reducing salaries, increasing the hours of work, laying workers off, reducing rights previously won by its workers through years of struggle.  The strike launched by Vale’s Canadian workers in June 2009 provides an important example of struggle and resistance to the arrogance and intransigence of the company.  It also provides an example of the construction of our international unity.  The Vale workers on strike in Canada count on support and active solidarity from all of us to guarantee a victory.

Vale uses the same tactics with communities throughout the world.  It pressures, threatens, co-opts public officials and even reaches the point of using local militias and military forces to guarantee its “investments”. In many places, Vale finances electoral campaigns, ecological zoning, and municipal planning, all of this turning on its head the basic principles of public management and government sovereignty over what is in the public interest of the society.

Ordinary citizens are also affected, since the public funds created by their taxes are passed on to Vale by BNDES, the National Bank for Socio-Economic Development, and other state agencies.  While taxes are very high for common citizens and also for small and medium industries, big companies like Vale receive years and years of tax exemptions.  The public services which should have benefited from corporate taxes on companies like Vale such as hospitals and schools continue to function in dreadful conditions. Thus Vale’s actions deepen the financial, ecological and social debt owed to the affected populations.  Every cent of public money which goes to Vale could have been invested in creating sources of employment which do not prejudice the life of the planet.

We are organizing this international meeting of those affected by Vale with the objective of changing this situation.  We are going to demonstrate with concrete facts and case studies what is really happening to the people living in the areas where Vale carries out its operations, and to Vale’s workers.  Our objective is to hear the voices of those who suffer daily from the actions of this mining giant, whether living in nearby communities, displaced or in areas where the company is hoping to relocate them, or as workers employed by this company.

In addition to exposing the aggressive behaviour of Vale, we are also going to identify common instruments and strategies to contest the absolute power of this company and to strengthen the workers and communities affected by it.  These instruments can include common demands in the collective bargaining agreements of Vale with its workers, independent monitoring structures for environment impact or for monitoring the value chain of licenses, taxes, royalties etc. and measuring its impact on local and national development.

Building links between the people and movements in different countries where mining exploration is taking place is fundamental to strengthening our local, national and international struggles.  We need to unite to construct our strategies together, and to pressure our governments so that our rights to life, work, land, housing, health and a just and healthy environment are guaranteed.  We need to pressure Vale to maintain the highest standards in its environmental, technological and labour practices. It needs to respect existing legislation rather than weaken it. We will not allow Vale to take away rights already conquered and destroy our lives!

The natural resources of each country constitute the sovereign patrimony of its people and belong to them, and not to Vale’s national and international shareholders.

The auction to privatize Vale was illegal.  We demand that this auction be annulled, echoing what was said by about 4 million Brazilians in the Popular Plebiscite on privatization of Vale and the public debt carried out in 2007.  We defend the return to the Brazilian people of the “mining rights” not calculated in the sale price, the re-nationalization of the company and worker control of its operations!

We call people from the communities that are suffering the impact of these mining megaprojects, civil society, men and women employed by Vale, social movements and organizations, faith communities, students and professors to participate in the construction of this gathering, in the hope of building a more just and environmentally sustainable society.


Brazilian Organizations

JnT - Campanha Justiça nos Trilhos (Justice on the Rails Campaign), Pará and Maranhão
PACS – Instituto Políticas Alternativas para o Cone-Sul (Institute of Policy Alternatives for the Southern Cone of Latin America), Rio de Janeiro-RJ
Movimento pelas Serras e Águas de Minas Gerais (Movement for the protection of Mountains and Waters in Minas Gerais)
Comitê  Mineiro dos Atingidos pela Vale (Minas Gerais Committee of those Impacted by Vale)
RBJA – Rede Brasileira de Justiça Ambiental (Brazilian Environmental Justice Network)
MST – Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (Landless People’s Movement)
MAB – Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens (Movement of Dam Affected People)
CPT – Comissão Pastoral da Terra (Pastoral Land Commission)
CONLUTAS – Coordenação Nacional de Lutas (National Coordination of Struggle, a Brazilian Coordination of Workers’ Unions)
CUT – Central Única dos Trabalhadores - Maranhão
Sindicato Metabase Inconfidentes (Union Metabase Inconfidentes), Congonhas-MG
STEFEM - Sindicato dos Trabalhadores em Empresas Ferroviárias dos Estados do Maranhão, Pará e Tocantins (Trade Union of Workers in Railroad Companies of Maranhão, Pará and Tocantins)
SINDIMINA – Sindicato dos Trabalhadores nas Indústrias de Prospecção, Pesquisa e Extração de Minérios no Estado do Rio de Janeiro
Sindicato Metabase Itabira (Union Metabase Itabira), Itabira-MG
Rede Social de Justiça e Direitos Humanos (Social Network for Justice and Human Rights), São Paulo-SP
Justiça Global (Global Justice), Rio de Janeiro-RJ
IBASE - Instituto Brasileiro de Análises Sociais e Econômicas, Rio de Janeiro-RJ
Sociedade Maranhense de Direitos Humanos (Maranhão Human Rights Society)
Sociedade Paraense de Direitos Humanos (Pará Human Rights Society)
Instituto Madeira Vivo (Madeira Vivo Institute)
Movimento Articulado de Mulheres da Amazônia (Amazonian Women’s Movement)
Fórum de Mulheres da Amazônia Paraense (Amazonian Women’s Forum, Pará)
APACC - Associação Paraense de Apoio às Comunidades Carentes (Pará Association in Support of Communities in Need)
MACACA – Movimento Artístico, Cultural e Ambiental de Caeté (Artistic, Cultural and Environmental Movement of Caeté-MG)
ILAESE (Latin American Institute of Socio-economic Studies), São Paulo-SP
CEPASP – Marabá/PA (Centre for Education, Research and Support for Unions and Community Groups, Marabá-PA
Brigadas Populares (MG)
Assembléia Popular Nacional
Jubileu Sul Brasil
Grito dos Excluídos – Brasil
Grito dos Excluídos Continental
Associação de Favelas de São José dos Campos/SP
Consulta Popular
Movimento dos Trabalhadores Desempregados (MTD)
Associação de Pescadores de Pedra de Guaratiba (AAPP)
Fé  e Política – Sepetiba
Núcleo Socialista de Campo Grande (RJ)
Coletivo “A Baía de Sepetiba pede Socorro”
FASE/ Amazônia
Sindicato dos Trabalhadores em Empresas Ferroviárias dos estados do Maranhão, Pará  e Tocantins (STEFEM)
CUT Maranhão
Instituto de Estudos Socioeconômicos (INESC)

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