Brazil to sue mining giants for dam failure

Brazil's Minster of Natural Environment said Nov. 27 that the country's government plans to sue BHP Billiton Ltd., Vale SA, and Samarco Mineração SA for $5.24 billion for damages caused by a dam collapse at an iron ore site the two co-own. The iron ore site, Samarco Mineração SA, is a joint mining venture between the two companies. BHP Billiton Ltd. is the largest mining company, and Vale SA is the biggest ore miner in the world. The dam contained and released 60 million cubic meters of mine waste and mud that killed at least 13 people, left approximately 11 people missing, and devastated an entire village when it collapsed earlier this month. Brazilian Minister Izabella Teixeira announced that the government would seek to create a fund to compensate victims and to pay for the environmental recovery of the effected areas. The fund would be created gradually as a percentage of the companies' profits. The Special Rapporteurs sent by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported  that the "steps taken by the Brazilian government, Vale and BHP Billiton to prevent harm were clearly insufficient" and that "this disaster serves as yet another tragic example of the failure of businesses to adequately conduct human rights due diligence to prevent human rights abuses." 

From Jurist, Nov. 29. Used with permission.

  1. Brazil: native people impacted by mine disaster demand new lands

    The Krenak riverine indigenous people, impacted by the pollution of the Rio Doce from the Samarco disaster, is demanding that Brazil's government expand their demarcated territory into 12,000 adjacent hectares. The new lands, also a part of their traditional territory, are mostly within the Sete Salões state park, run by the Minas Gerais government. At present, the demarcated Krenak territory covers 4,700 hectares. "The existing area no longer provides conditions for survival. Something must be done," Eduardo Cerqueira of the Indigenist Missionary Council (CIMI) told Adital news service. 

  2. Mine sludge inundates rural Brazil —again

    A dam collapse at an iron-ore mine in southeast Brazil has left at least seven people dead and some 150 others missing. The break caused a sea of muddy sludge to spread across rural areas of Brumadinho, in Minas Gerais state, burying buildings and vehicles. Emergency teams rescued scores of trapped people by helicopter. (BBC News)