From the MST webpage
On the morning of Friday the 5th, about 500 landless workers, together with the Popular Youth Movement and the Movement for Popular Sovereignty in Mining (MAM), occupied the entrance of Samarco Mining in Mariana, in the Central Region near the Fazendão mine, which belongs to Vale. With the slogan Profit Is Not Worth A Life, the action aims to denounce this model of mining death implemented in the country, whose impunity has been the hallmark of crimes committed by companies such as Samarco, Vale, and BHP in the state of Minas Gerais.
It’s been 6 years since the fateful November 5, 2015, when we faced the collapse of the Fundão dam, the biggest environmental crime in the history of Brazil, which claimed the lives of 19 people and condemned the Rio Doce to mud from its source to its mouth.
According to Silvio Netto, from the MST’s National Directorate, Samarco’s crime in Mariana exposed the weaknesses of the mining model in the state of Minas Gerais, which continues to result in serious problems such as the rupture of the dam in Brumadinho, which occurred in January 2019, killing 272 workers.
“It is important to emphasize that this mining model creates environmental and social problems, generates low income for municipalities, creates dependency and jobs that pose a risk to the entire population of Minas Gerais. Meanwhile, all the exploited wealth benefits foreign capital, materialized in companies such as Samarco, Vale, and BHP”, denounces Silvio.
Impunity manifests itself in several instances in this case, from the structural helplessness of the affected communities in the region of Vale do Rio Doce to Regência in the state of Espiritu Santo, such as the lack of housing, non-recognition as affected people and the lack of full reparations, to the possible denial that a crime occurred, when it should be self-evident. Not to mention the absence of participation by the community in the entire process, all in the absence of the affected people and society.
The victims of ongoing crimes at Samarco, Vale, and BHP are experiencing underlying legal uncertainty. This October marks the 5th anniversary of the Transaction and Conduct Adjustment Agreement (TTAC), signed in March 2016, which provides for the repair of environmental damage and compensation for losses and damages caused by the crime. However, in the extrajudicial negotiation phase (FNE/PIM), the process occurs slowly, unequally and unfairly.
For Esther Hoffmann, from the MST’s National Directorate, in a continuing crime like this, the financial compensation is insufficient, the trail of destruction of cities, removal of communities, deaths of people, disappearance of animals, impact on the environment, including permanent conservation areas, are large and dynamic.
“When we (the social movements) propose a popular mining project, regulated by social need, with the participation of communities, in addition to more effective inspection instruments and disaster prevention, we are setting life above profit, we are defending sovereignty of our country and our rights to a dignified life with housing, healthy food, health, among others”, she stresses.
Since the crime in 2015 until now, the ongoing mourning in memory of the dead, social struggles for the rights to compensation of those affected and the construction of popular alternatives for the recovery of the basin by the MST are some of the actions taken in the attempt to give life back to Rio Doce.
Samarco = Vale and BHP Billiton
Along with Vale, BHP shares control of Samarco, responsible for the crime in Mariana. Both, Brazil’s and Anglo-Australian BHP, are the world’s largest mining companies and are acting to reimburse tens of billions of reais they should have paid to repair what is considered Brazil’s biggest environmental disaster. The reparation process drags on in court and those affected are being forced to sign a full discharge of their rights.
The mining industry is a major contributor to the world’s drastic climate change, causing 20% of global carbon emissions and forcing already vulnerable communities to be displaced in the process.
Even at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, the UN Secretary General, Antônio Guterres, told world leaders that “we are digging our own grave” and that the world must take immediate action against climate change and processes that cause it. “No more treating nature like a toilet, no more burning and drilling and digging our way deep. We’re digging our own graves.”
Therefore, in the wake of the violation of human and environmental rights, BHP Billiton with its negligence caused the rupture of two dams in the Mariana region. While pretending to solve the climate crisis, its neocolonial mega-mining projects affect communities around the world, mainly in Latin America. Every day, peoples are threatened by state-sanctioned corporate violence and its aggressive corporate strategies that seek to capitalize on the climate crisis.
Check out the action (Photos: Agatha Azevedo):
*Edited by Fernanda Alcântara