Vale accused of rights abuses
Social movements challenge Brazilian mining giant´s sustainability claims.
Brazilian mining company Vale is the second largest in the world, with a presence in 38 countries and often lauded in the business world for its aggressive and audacious bets that have paid off. But local and international social groups accuse the giant of severe social and environmental damage, including a failure to respect human rights.
International Network of People Affected by Vale, an umbrella group of 30 social movements from countries where Vale operates, including Argentina, Colombia and Chile, presented the Report on Vale’s Unsustainability, which outlines these accusations. The document is a response to the company’s latest Sustainability Report.
The report points to impacts in 2010, including 11 worker deaths in work related accidents, carbon emissions of 90 million tons, as well as the emission of 520,000 metric tons of other pollutants, including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter. The company has affected 742 square kilometers (286 square miles) of land, including in the Amazon jungle.
“Vale says it has acted with social-economic and environmental responsibility, leaving a positive legacy, according to global sustainability standards, [but] the reality is quite different,” said the report. “In many cases, the areas where they have found mineral deposits are areas that are for permanent protection, such as native forests and water sources. Conservation areas that should be protected are transformed by Vale in millions of tons of minerals for export.”
The report points to the iron-ore project Carajás Serra Sul, an open-pit mine in the center of the Carajás National Forest in the northern Amazon state of Para, and the Salobo project in the same state, which have contaminated rivers and streams and forced the deforestation of 300 chestnut trees.
“Vale also says that it contributes to improving living conditions of the [local] population with large investments,” said the report. But in the southeastern Espírito Santo state, Vale, in its Ubu steel project intends ocuppy lands of the indigenous Tupiniquim community.
One of the most controversial projects in which Vale is involved is the Belo Monte Dam on the Xingú River, which will flood thousands of hectares of Amazon forest and displace 40,000 people, some of them members of indigenous communities who live in voluntary isolation.
In January, Vale was given the Public Eye Award, an anti-prize awarded by Greenpeace Switzerland and the Bern Declaration, for its alleged human rights and environmental violations. —Latinamerica Press.