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Action outside BHP Billiton's AGM in London, October 2016. Photo: London Mining Network

Action outside BHP Billiton’s AGM in London, October 2016. Photo: London Mining Network

MEDIA RELEASE
17 November 2016
BHP Billiton’s AGM | Thursday 17th November at 11 am | Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre

At the BHP Billiton Limited AGM in Brisbane this Thursday, dissident shareholders will challenge the company’s board over its response to the Samarco tailings dam disaster. The AGM is being held twelve months on from the disastrous collapse of the Fundão mining waste (‘tailings’) dam at the Samarco iron ore mine in Minas Gerais, Brazil, which is 50-50 owned by BHP Billiton and Brazilian mining giant Vale.

“The dam break led to the destruction of all forms of life in the region. Mud covered everything, resulting in 20 deaths and unmeasurable environmental destruction. We have seen whole communities destroyed by BHP Billiton and Vale’s operations. They have lost everything, without receiving any real compensation. Instead of reparations for the victims, what is becoming evident is the blatant corporate capture of our government by transnational companies”, said Rodrigo de Castro Amédée Péret, of the Churches and Mining Network in Latin America who attended the BHP Billiton London AGM.

The collapsed waste dam killed twenty people [1], left 700 people homeless and polluted hundreds of kilometres of the Rio Doce river valley. Following the 5 November, 2015 disaster, MAB (People Affected by Dams), a coalition of local communities impacted by Brazil’s thousands of dam projects, made four key demands of Samarco and parent companies BHP Billiton and Vale [2].

Natalie Lowrey, of Australia’s Mineral Policy Institute, said, “BHP Billiton and its associates at Samarco are ignoring those most affected – the people whose lives and livelihoods have been devastated by last year’s tailings dam collapse. The demands being made by MAB, the social movement of people affected by dams, should be accepted. People want meaningful participation in decision-making about the clean-up and compensation, and for everyone who has been affected to be recognised – the companies shouldn’t be picking and choosing who gets help.” Read the rest of this entry »

An open letter to the International Community & Australian Parliament on the ongoing crisis in Brazil

The violence not seen: social and environmental damage, institutional fragilities and reparation duty

We, the undersigned members of Brazilian civil society, appeal to the Australian parliament to recognise the social, environmental and technological disaster caused by the collapse of BHP/Vale Samarco dam that released polluted mining tailings and destroyed townships and livelihoods in Brazil.

The disaster that occurred in Brazil on 5 November 2015 in the town of Mariana, Minas Gerais, is ongoing.

The Samarco mining company, 50% owned by Anglo-Australian BHP Billiton[1] and 50% by Brazilian Vale S.A., has been exploring iron ore in Brazil since 1977. The tailings from this exploration were stored in 3 dams, namely: Fundao, Germano and Santarem. The collapse of Fundao, which contained contaminated tailings, triggered the biggest social and environmental catastrophe ever faced by Brazilian society.

The fear of imminent dam collapse was already widespread amongst the inhabitants of the surrounding community, as shown in the 2012 doctorate thesis of the Brazilian sociologist Viana.[2]  As the fears of this community became reality, it is estimated that 62 thousand million cubic metres of polluting mining debris – the equivalent of 25 thousand Olympic sized pools – was spilled, destroying and contaminating everything in its path. [3]

This disaster transformed affected people into victims in many ways, compromising health, causing loss of life, the destruction of property and contamination of land that forms the basis of social, cultural and economic life. The damage sprawled for over 850 km, directly affecting hundreds of thousands of people. Read the rest of this entry »

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