Category Archives: Extractive Industries

Brazil dam disaster: firm knew of potential impact months in advance

Unreported documents show mining company was aware of threat before country’s worst environmental disaster but took no action, prosecutors allege

by Dom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro and Davilson Brasileiro in Ponte Nova.
Photographs: Nicoló Lanfranchi
The Guardian (World) Thu 1 March 2018

Brizil dam disaster-firm knew

Six months before a dam containing millions of litres of mining waste collapsed, killing 19 people in Brazil’s worst environmental disaster, the company operating the mine accurately predicted the potential impact of such a disaster in a worst-case risk assessment.

But federal prosecutors claim the company – a joint venture between the Brazilian mining giant Vale and the Anglo-Australian multinational BHP Billiton – failed to take actions that they say could have prevented the disaster. The prosecutors instead claim the company focused on cutting costs and increasing production.

“They prioritized profits and left safety in second place,” said José Adércio Sampaio, coordinator of a taskforce of federal prosecutors, summarising the criminal case against the joint venture and its parent companies.”

When the Fundão tailings dam failed on 5 November 2015, it unleashed about 40m litres of water and sediment from iron ore extraction in a wave that polluted the water supply for hundreds of thousands of people, decimated wildlife and spewed a rust-red plume of mud down the Doce river.

Yet more than two years later, nobody has accepted responsibility.

Previously unreported internal documents from the joint venture Samarco show that six months before the collapse, the company carried out a worst-case assessment of the dam, near Mariana in Minas Gerais state.

The Fundao dam -Nicolo Lanfranchi
The Fundão dam had a catastrophic failure in 2015, causing flooding and at least 17 deaths. Photograph: Nicoló Lanfranchi

The document – one of hundreds submitted to the court by prosecutors – warned that a maximum possible loss from a “liquification break” could mean up to 20 deaths, cause serious impacts to land, water resources and biodiversity over 20 years, and cost $3.4bn.

The prosecutors’ complaint also includes harrowing accounts by survivors from Bento Rodrigues, a small community obliterated by the mud released in the disaster.

Wesley Izabel managed to save his two-year-old son, Nicolas, but his daughter, Emanuelle, five, slipped from his fingers to her death.

When the mud engulfed her house, Darcy Santos heard her grandson Thiago, seven, cry “help me, Jesus!” before he was suffocated.

Until the disaster, Samarco was a Brazilian success story. In 2014, despite falling international iron prices, it declared a net profit of $1.3bn.

But prosecutors allege that its directors encouraged the company to keep cutting costs.

Read this article from The Guardian Online edition.



REFLECTION: Mining conference in Rome reveals indifference, exploitation

Pax Christi USA
Rev. John Rausch, glmy
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

extract3I was invited to attend a gathering in Rome, “In Union With God We Hear a Plea,” to discuss mining practices with representatives of communities affected by mining activities around the world. The meeting was sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (PCJP) from July 17-19, 2015.

In 2013 certain mine executives asked to meet with PCJP for a dialogue about mining practices, principally because Catholic groups and international organizations were raising questions about the treatment of workers, dangers to local communities and threats to the earth itself. They offered to discuss with priests the positive contributions of mining, because the world needs metals. Two meetings, one in London and one in Rome, started the dialogue with a third scheduled again in Rome for September, 2015. Vowed religious groups of men and women, especially Franciscans, urged the PCJP to convene a meeting also of grass roots folks to complement the meetings with business executives. That was the meeting I attended, July 17-19. Continue reading REFLECTION: Mining conference in Rome reveals indifference, exploitation

Vatican conference on damaging impact of mining

Independent Catholic News
CIDSE-logo-blueThe Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace recieved an open letter on Thursday from CIDSE, (an alliance of 18 Catholic aid and development agencies) which was written by communities in Latin America affected by mining operations. The affected communities recently participated in a meeting called ‘In union with God we hear a plea’, organized by CIDSE and the Latin American network, Iglesias y Mineria (Churches and Mining).

The open letter follows:

29 July 2015
Open letter of the communities affected by mining operations, received in Rome by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

On July 17-19, 2015 the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (PCJP), in collaboration with the Latin American network Churches and Mining, organized a meeting in Rome with representatives of communities affected by mining activities titled ‘In union with God, we hear a cry.’

There were participants from 18 countries: Chile, Peru, Brazil, Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Mexico, United States, Canada, Switzerland, Italy, Mozambique, Ghana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, India and the Philippines. Continue reading Vatican conference on damaging impact of mining

Churches and Mining in Latin America

Faith communities concerns for extractive in- dustry in Latin America. This short video aims to raise consciousness on the negative effects of the mining in- dustry in Latin America. It shows the necessity for faith communities to commit themselves in defense of those suffering the negative effects of extractive industry, defend land, water and nature. The video can be used for pastoral animation with local communities but also in dialogue with parties responsible in the area of mining. —Contributed by the Comboni Family

Peru declares state of emergency over mining violence

By Brian Walker

Peru declared a state of emergency in two provinces starting Saturday after protests against a mining project turned violent.

Members of the National Federation of Metallurgical, Mining, Iron and Steel industries of Peru shout slogans as they march towards the Congress in Lima on Tuesday, May 19.
Members of the National Federation of Metallurgical, Mining, Iron and Steel industries of Peru shout slogans as they march towards the Congress in Lima on Tuesday, May 19.

“The government has announced a declaration of a state of emergency in all the districts in Islay, Mollendo for 60 days,” the presidency announced Friday night.

“The government of President (Ollanta) Humala will defend the constitution firmly and forcefully for the right of all the people of Peru to live in peace,” the announcement continued.

National police and the armed forces will be called in to maintain order, it said.

Video showed at least one protester who appeared to be dead from wounds to the head at the Tia Maria copper mine project site. Others battled with police who lobbed tear gas at them. More…

Stopping the mine – Xeni Gwet’in leader wins Environmental Prize


Marilyn Baptiste, leader of the Xeni Gwet’in. © Goldman Environmental Prize
Marilyn Baptiste, leader of the Xeni Gwet’in. © Goldman Environmental Prize

Marilyn Baptiste of British Columbia, Canada has won the Goldman Environmental Prize. She stopped the Taseko Mines gold mining project.

We are very happy that Marilyn Baptiste, leader of the Xeni Gwet’in has won the Goldman Environmental Prize. This is the biggest prize in the world for environmental activism. She stopped Taseko Mines’ Prosperity gold and copper mine.

Marilyn led the successful campaign to protect her community from the Prosperity mine. The mining project would be the worst kind of mining. It would destroy the beautiful First Nations’ lands and Fish Lake (Teztan Biny), full of fish.

If this plan had succeeded, many other similar mines would have been planned. The Canadian government has a history of giving more importance to mining than indigenous rights and environmental protection.

Industry, governments and local municipalities all supported the Prosperity plan. So it was a surprise to many people that it was not allowed. This shows the power of community protest.

Marilyn Baptiste led the fight. She had just been chosen as Chief of the Xeni Gwet’in. She led the environmental, cultural and economic studies to take to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s review group. More…

Peru deploys military to area of deadly anti-mining protests

by Latin Correspondent

Peruvian soldiers: AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd
Peruvian soldiers: AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd

Peru’s government has dispatched troops to a violence-wracked southern coastal valley where protests against a copper mining project have claimed the lives of two civilians and a police officer.

Defense Minister Jakke Valakivi told reporters Sunday that the 500 troops sent to reinforce 2,000 police would guard strategic locations including bridges and gas stations.

Two civilians have been killed by police bullets since protests began in late March against the $1.4 billion Tía María project of Mexican-owned Southern Peru Copper. On Saturday, a police officer died. His skull had been fractured by a rock.

Farmers fear the project would contaminate their crops. More...